Monday, June 25, 2012

Do You Have a Fire Safety Plan?

I was in the middle of cleaning and I went to the hallway to throw away the garbage when I hear screaming and people running down the stairs.  I assumed it was kids being stupid.  I went back into the apartment and went about cleaning.  But the commotion was getting louder. 

I thought it was a domestic violence case or some other kind of fighting so I stood at the door, looking through the peep hole (yes, I am that neighbor).

The Husband comes to the door and I see my neighbor running out of his apartment with his family.  Frantically screaming in a language I do not understand. (My neighbors are Indian.) I go to open the door but The Husband puts his hand out.  "What the hell are you doing?  Don't open the door."  

(About 2 years, there was a shooting on are floor - so The Husband is very cautious.)

I go into our bedroom and look out the window.  And I see flashing lights and a ladder.  

"Um...Babe?  Is that a f--king fire truck?  There's a F--KING FIRE!"  I started yelling.  I went into full panic mode.  Probably not the best reaction.

I run back to our door and look out the peep hole.  I still hear people running down the staircase.

"Get the phones!"  I yell as I run back to our room.  Where I then stood in front of my closet wondering what to wear.  (In my defense, I was in the middle of cleaning.  I'm in my house chanclas (slippers), my hair is a knotty wild mess, I'm wearing a tank (with no real support, if you get my drift) underneath an old short billowy tank dress.  We had gone to the pool earlier that day - I'm ashy, sweaty and gross.  And my toe nail polish chipped.  And yes, as I write this, I realize how ridiculous my though process can be.  As for The Boy - he was rocking an old pair of size 4t shorts and a paint splattered white tank.)

"There's no time for that.  Let's go!"  The Husband yells.

I grab The Boy - who was in the middle of painting a wooden dump truck with The Husband - and said "We gotta go." 

Needless to say The Boy protests. 

We all ran out the front door to the closest staircase, where we see some smoke and water gushing down the steps.  We run to the other stair case and we are able to get out.

"Did you lock the front door?"  The Husband asks.  

"No - you were the last one out."

The Husband rolls his eyes and runs back into the building to lock the door.      

After an hour of standing around the front of our building, we are able to get back inside.  

The Fire Trucks were too much for The Boy

We were very lucky.  But the woman on the 7th floor - a woman, I don't even think I've seen before - not so much.  

It's definitely a learning experience for us.  

It made me realize just how unprepared we are for such an emergency.    

We didn't have a plan.  We just ran out with our IDs, keys and cell phones. 

I knew just enough to keep touching doors for heat.  But that's the extent of my fire safety skills.  I didn't even know what to tell The Boy.  And he didn't understand what was going on.  I tried to tell him it was like Firefighter Ted.  But I don't know how much he understood.

Since yesterday, I'm trying to think about how we can prepare if something like this ever happens again. 

I went to the National Fire Protection Association  page and they have these great tips for autistic children.  They even have a link to create a (personalized) social story - which I did.  It's really cool - simple, clear language, colorful pictures, informative.  Once you read it through on line, you can print it out. 

Below are a  few of the NFPA's fire escape planning tips:
  • Working smoke alarms save lives. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside each bedroom, and outside each sleeping area. For best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they will all sound.
  • Make sure everyone knows what your smoke alarms sound like and can hear the sound of the smoke alarms.
  • Have a fire safety plan to get out of your home quickly.
  • Practice your plan with everyone in the home at least twice a year.
  • Windows or doors with security bars, grills, or window guards should have emergency release devices so they can be used for escape.
  • Choose a meeting place a safe distance from the home where everyone should meet once they’ve escaped.
  • Contact your local fire department. Many fire departments maintain registers of persons with disabilities so that they can be located quickly in an emergency.

It never would have occurred to me to contact my local fire department and register The Boy. 

Have you practiced home emergency drills?  Would love to hear your fire safety tips and techniques. 

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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.