With fire safety month fast approaching, I wanted to generate some discussion.
Typically, we teach kids to get out of thier house, but if the door is hot and they are on an upper floor, to shut it, and basically shelter in place.
It sounds like it makes sense. Hopefully, by isolating themself, they can protect their respiratory system, someone can notify us, and ideally we can arrive in time and make the grab.
I don't have any studies on this...and I don't know how one could be done. However, I do wonder, are we teaching kids the right thing to do?
If kids are in a developed area, within a couple miles of the fire station, in an area with traditionally fast responses (paid departments, and well-run volunteer stations) the strategy makes sense.
However, for kids in more rural areas, or in areas which are 5+ minutes or so from the fire station, I wonder if shelter in place is the right way to go?
Think about it this way.
3:00 AM. Kid is in his room, ideally with the door closed. Mom/dad are home. Fire breaks out.
Kid wakes up. Door hot.
Assume for the moment that kid is on his own at this point. Mom and dad are overcome, or are trapped themselves, or are unable to make access to the kid (fire in the hallway between them and the kids room, for example).
No phone in kids room.
First, someone may or may not have called 911. Either way, once 911 is contacted, figure 30 seconds to get the caller's info, and fire off the page (I'm cutting this close, I know...)
Then tack on another 5 minutes to get the fire trucks on the road. That's a very ideal number as well...firefighters need to wake up, get dressed, get to their vehicles, drive to the station, gear up, open the doors, fire up the apparatus and put them on the street. All the guys over 40 need to take a leak somewhere in that time as well, but that's another matter. It's probably closer to 7 minutes, but go with five.
Best case scenario, 5:30 has elapsed since the 911 call...and God only knows how many additional minutes have passed between the fire breaking out, and the call to 911.
The home isn't in town. Figure another 7-10 minutes to get the fire truck there.
We are now at 12:30 - 15:30 into the incident.
Now the firefighters need to get off the apparatus, grab tools, grab a line, get oriented, stretch the line, make it to the front door. It's the middle of the night, pitch black, entrapment is suspected if not confirmed, adreniline is pumping. It's going to take time to do that. Again, we'll be quick, and say another 30 seconds has elapsed.
13:00 - 16:00 into the incident.
One entry has been made, again we'll assume an ideal situation involving a rapid search and a quick find of the kid. Give that 3 minutes, and that's speedy.
We're 16 - 19 minutes from the 911 call to the rescue. Another 5-10 could easily have passed before 911 was even called. These are best-case scenario times.
In that scenario, would our fire safety training, telling him to shelter in place, cost lives?
Alternatively, what if we taught rural kids that in such a circumstance, if they are on a second floor, they open or bust out a window and jump? Add in a short bit about how to jump (hang from the window, etc.)
If it's a 2 story fall, they may come out with nothing more than scratches. Sure, some will break legs, but I'd personally rather bust my legs then take my chances for 16-19 minutes in a burning building with no SCBA, hoping someone comes in time.
I'm not advocating that we just do this on a hunch, but would like to hear your thoughts.