LESSON 1 – Fire Behavior and Home Escape Planning

It is NEVER the intention of this program or its instructors to frighten children about the nature of fire, and the information in this lesson is by NO MEANS designed to elicit a fear response. Frightened children do not escape home fires, that’s a fact. Instead, we teach strategies to escape fires. The information is intended to highlight how little time may remain for escape once a smoke detector sounds. While most adults believe that they have five minutes or more to react when they hear a smoke detector sound, the truth is that they may less than two minutes to safely escape. It’s not the fire that represents the initial danger; it’s the smoke. We discuss that danger and enforce that it is not possible to find a safe place to hide within a house fire.

The Lesson

During the first lesson, we discuss the true nature of fire in a confined space like a house. Students are shown a real-time video of a fire that starts in a wastebasket and eventually grows out of control within just a few minutes.

Sample of a home escape plan

We follow this video immediately with specific steps that the students can take to safely escape a fire in their own homes. We discuss the importance of working smoke detectors. We point out that they should pre-plan a fire in their home and that they are capable of doing so. They should identify two ways out of every room. We offer additional actions to take if they cannot safely escape, such as when a main stairway may be blocked by fire or smoke. We demonstrate that an escape ladder may be a lifesaving option for 2-3 story homes. We explain the need for a meeting place away from the house where the family knows to gather. We emphasize that someone must call the fire department and that no one should re-enter the building for any reason. We also talk to the students about their pets.

Next, students are shown how to design a fire escape plan. The plan is a simple floor plan of the student’s house showing two ways out of each room and an outside meeting place. We introduce EDITH (Exit Drills In The Home), an acronym adopted many years ago by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). After all, it is ultimately useless to have an escape plan if the family never practices it.

At the end of the lesson, students are given an assignment to draw a plan of their own home to submit the following week. The students are encouraged to seek the help of an adult in the home to work on the project. In this way, the student and the adult can work through potential problems (such as dealing with windows that do not open).

Objective 1 – Introduction

Introduce each SAFE instructor. Explain to students that fire deaths usually result from misconceptions about how fire acts and what one should do in the case of a fire in his/her home. Describe some of the activities in the coming weeks. Discuss how questions will be handled. Discuss time table for home projects.

Objective 2 – Characteristics of a Fire

Describe the characteristics and behavior of fire in the home. Use video to show speed of fire growth. Describe travel patterns in a home. Discuss dangers of invisible gases.

Objective 3 – Strategies for Escaping

Utilize 8-point checklist to outline the dangers of home fires and possible survival strategies. Explain the importance of properly operating smoke detectors. Show use of portable escape ladder. Describe the procedures of initially arriving emergency personnel.

Objective 4 – Elements of an Escape Plan

Describe the elements of a successful home escape plan. Emphasize involvement of entire family. Emphasize need to practice Escape Drills In The Home (EDITH).

Objective 5 – Make a Personal Home Escape Plan

Describe the home project goals. Emphasize involvement of an adult in the family unit. Show examples of successful home escape plans. Emphasize need to practice the plan (EDITH).

Objective 6 – Pamphlets and Home Project Materials

Summarize Lesson 1 goals and the home project for the next session. Describe Lesson 2 goals and activities. Distribute materials needed for home project, incl. permission slips for SAFE trailer.