Several weeks ago here in the beautiful city of Kuala Lumpur, a fire had broken out in a school dormitory, claiming the lives of 21 students and 2 teachers. Here at EAP, we were deeply saddened by the news and express our sincere condolences to those affected by the blaze.
With that, we would like to take this opportunity to share some insights on fire safety and evacuation planning. Whether you live in a landed house or in a condominium, it is important to have fire safety practices and plan for evacuation in the event of a fire.
FIRE SAFETY PRACTICES
The following are several guidelines and recommendations by the American Red Cross to prevent and prepare for a fire:
- Install smoke alarms on every level of the home and in every bedroom. Do ensure that the smoke alarms are fully functioning by testing them out monthly and replacing the batteries at least once a year. Teach every person in the house to be able to recognise the sound of the smoke alarm.
- Have fire extinguishers readily available on each floor of your home and especially in high-risk areas such as the kitchen. Do ensure that all adults in the home have been trained on how to operate the fire extinguishers. Please note to maintain the fire extinguishers at all times and to regularly check the expiry dates and replace if necessary.
- Keep dangerous and flammable items out of your child’s reach. Such items would include matches, lighters, gas cylinders, and any other flammable items.
- Install covers in unused electrical outlets/sockets and ensure there are no exposed wires or loose plugs that could be potential fire hazards.
To teach your child with autism fire safety practices, we would recommend the following strategies:
1. Teach your child about the smoke alarm.
- We would recommend exposing your child to the sound of the smoke alarm. If your child has sensitivities to certain sounds, it would be important to first build your child’s tolerance to the sound of the smoke alarm.
- Teach your child what to do when he/she hears the smoke alarm. For instance, your child would need to stay with you and follow you out of the room/house. To do so, you can communicate this to your child via a social story.
2. Teach your child what is safe and what is dangerous.
- We would recommend teaching your child with autism what objects as well as actions are considered safe, and what are considered as dangerous. To do so, you can utilise pictures, videos and words (if your child is able to read).
- Emphasise to your child that it is ‘good’ to be safe. If necessary, you could also create a reward chart to reinforce your child for every time he/she practices safe actions in the home. If your child demonstrates any dangerous behaviour, it is important to not give attention to the behaviour. Instead, calmly remove the dangerous item or stop them from performing the action/behaviour.
The following are several guidelines by the American Red Cross on planning an evacuation in the event of a fire or emergency.
- Plan an escape route from each room of the house and the evacuation meeting point. Most high-rise buildings (e.g. apartment, condominium) would already have a fire escape plan. It is important that every person in the household is familiar with the escape routes and safe meeting point.
- Practise the evacuation procedures from each room of the house at least twice a year. This will help to ensure every person in the household remembers the evacuation procedures in the event of a fire or emergency.
- Have a list of important phone numbers. Do ensure that every person knows how to dial to the local fire department. Additionally, ensure every person in the household knows how to contact each other in the event of an emergency.
- Have fire extinguishers in the home and learn how to operate a fire extinguisher. The fire extinguisher may be effective in putting out small fires, but we would recommend for you to get out to safety as soon as possible and call your local fire department.
To include your child with autism in the evacuation procedures, we would recommend the following strategies that we practice here at EAP:
1. Communicate to your child with autism about the evacuation plan.
- You could utilise a social story to communicate to your child about the smoke alarm, what to do when the smoke alarm goes off, where to go when evacuating, and rules/expectations during the evacuation (i.e. stay with mummy).
2. Practice the evacuation plan with your child.
- After communicating to your child about the evacuation plan, we would recommend doing a role play and practising it with your child. By role playing the scenario, it would help your child to better make sense of the evacuation plan and build familiarity with it. We at EAP practice evacuation drills once every term to familiarise our children with the process in case of an emergency.
3. Reinforce your child with autism for demonstrating the appropriate behaviours.
- During the role play, when your child cooperates with you and follows the rules/expectations, do reward him/her for demonstrating the appropriate behaviours.
The above are some guidelines and suggestions on practising fire safety in your home. Additionally for all education and childcare services, we strongly recommend for all teachers, carers, therapists to undergo regular First Aid training and Fire Safety Training.
Do stay tuned for a sample social story on how to communicate to your child about a fire drill.
For further information on fire safety, you can check out the American Red Cross website. If you require any assistance in teaching your child with autism about fire safety or evacuation planning, please do not hesitate to contact us at 03-20940421 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Red Cross. Home Fire Safety. Retrieved from http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/fire