One day I was out in the backyard with five of my daycare kiddos, scrolling through my Facebook feed while they ran around in circles and played in the sand.
I didn’t see the black smoke billowing into the air.
It was my neighbour, running towards us yelling “Fire! Fire!” that caught my attention.
As soon as my daycare kids heard the word “Fire”, they immediately stopped what they were doing, started chanting “Evac-oo-ation”, and headed towards the front of the house.
Once I confirmed that the fire was in another house, far enough away that we were out of danger, I reassured the kids that it was okay, we didn’t need to go to do our fire drill and that we could keep playing.
Still, the kids headed toward the front door, following the procedure that I had trained them on so many times.
They were all between 2 and 3 years of age.
While it may seem unnecessary or even silly to practice fire drills with young children, it could save their lives. If you’re the only adult present and you’re unable to help them for any reason, they’ll know to head to where emergency personnel can see and rescue them.
So how do you start practicing fire drills with young children?
1. Put together an Evacuation Bag that contains Emergency Cards for each child, blankets, snacks, drinks, diapers and wipes, a first aid kit, and anything else needed.
2. Decide where your “meeting place” will be. For my home it was the front door. With a large window in it, fire fighters would be able to instantly see any children on the other side if I were unable to get them all the way outside. From the front door, I would take the kids to our van in the driveway (for shelter, containment, and transportation).
3. Decide where you would go from there if it were too dangerous to stay put — a neighbour’s house, a business close by, etc. Once you have permission to use that as your emergency location, you’ll be able to give that address to parents so that they know where to find you if needed.
4. Print out a copy of this Evacuation/Fire Drill Log or create your own.
Prepare The Kids:
1. Start by sitting them down (Circle Time is a good time for this) and explaining what you’re about to do. Something like this:
“We’re going to practice an Evacuation. If there is a fire or other emergency, we’ll need to evacuate. I’m going to make the smoke detector make a loud noise, and when we hear that, we need to evacuate. That means we’ll get up and go to the front door (or whatever your meeting place is).”
I always used the term “Evacuation” so that if they were playing somewhere else, there would be less of a chance of them running around yelling “Fire” unnecessarily.
2. Set off the smoke detector or fire alarm. This will be very loud, and it may scare a few of the children. That’s okay – it’s much safer for them to get used to it now than to be startled and freeze in an emergency.
3. Announce “Evacuation! Follow me!” and encourage the kids to get up quickly and follow you to your meeting place. You’ll need to carry any babies
4. Run through the whole thing 2 or 3 times, as long as attention spans allow.
5. Sit down with the kids again and remind them what you were doing (ie. Evacuation). Discuss why you would do an Evacuation (ie. to practice, if there’s a fire, if we need to leave quickly, etc)
6. Record on your Evacuation Drill log the date, how long your drills took, and who was present.
Prepare The Parents:
1. Give each parent a copy of your Evacuation/Fire Drill procedure. Let them know that your Emergency Cards with their contact info will be with you anytime you do a drill. Include the address of your Emergency Location.
2. Let the parents know either before or after you’ve done a drill so that they can ask their children about it that evening.
That’s all there is to it! Not only will you be keeping the children in your care safe, but you’ll be putting their parents’ minds at ease.
What are your thoughts? Do you have any other tips for teaching young children about evacuation/fire drills?