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Nobody told me before I became a parent that I would be subject to an ever-present and often irrational fear that my child will somehow be harmed. Someone posts something on social media about a child missing and as a parent you can’t help but think of your own little one and sometimes, somewhere in the anxiety centers of your brain, a little feeling of panic emerges. Oh crap, where is my kid? Is he alright? Is someone plotting to kidnap her? Everything is fine of course. Your kid may even be safely playing in your own home, and irrational as it may be, the anxiety is real.
Sometimes, however, it is rational. It’s a good idea to remind the grandparents to lock the door leading to the pool area and we should give babysitters a list of emergency numbers— including 911 (in the U.S.) even though there probably isn’t anyone that doesn’t know it.
Recently, for me it was fire. I became obsessed with the possibility that my house would catch fire and my wife and son would be burned or worse. I laid awake at night, wondering if I should go sleep on the floor of my son’s room until I’ve had a chance to make sure things in the house were safe—my family prepared and my house inspected for meeting fire codes.
It was a news story that caused this anxiety to run rampant in my head. An Oakland, California warehouse had caught fire during a dance party and at least 36 people were killed. To make matters worse, reports state that this tragedy could have been prevented or at least mitigated. The city hadn’t signed off on a permit for the event. There was no sprinkler system in place. There were people living in the structure but it was only approved as a warehouse and not as a residence. There was a staircase made of pallets leading to the second floor where the party took place, a reportedly dangerous structure that the city had received a complaint on but hadn’t yet completed an investigation. Reports say this structure along with egress issues may have posed a fire hazard that led to many people’s deaths.
My wife and I bought our home just a few months ago and like most people purchasing a home, we had a whole-house inspection prior to handing over a check. While there wasn’t anything found on that inspection that was comparable to the issues at the Oakland warehouse that caught fire, there were things that were pointed out that needed to be addressed like the exposed paper covering on some of the insulation in the garage.
I couldn’t help but think of these things, the exposed paper on the insulation and a loose electrical outlet in the hallway—they became implanted in my mind, and just wouldn’t leave until I took some fire safety precautions. Besides those issues themselves, we didn’t have fire extinguisher in the house and while there were plenty of smoke detectors, we hadn’t checked them, and I wasn’t sure if the home inspector had.
But I also began thinking about how many issues must be present in houses that may not have been inspected for years. My family is actually in a great position to know exactly what issues are present and how to take care of them, but for a family that has been living in their home for years—decades even—they may have no idea what kind of fire hazards are present in their home.
As expected, there are countless fire safety resources online—both on how to educate children about the dangers of fire, and how to prepare your home and protect your family.
Do you have fire extinguishers in your home—on each floor, plus one in the garage and kitchen? Do you have outlet covers on all the outlets not in use? Does little Johnny use the microwave by himself? He probably shouldn’t. Did you take the battery out of that smoke detector when someone burned a pizza in the oven? Did you put it back?
Take a couple hours to educate yourself on fire prevention and go through your home to make sure you’re prepared—especially with the easy stuff like testing smoke detectors.
Here are a few other resources to make sure you know how to prevent a fire, and your kids know how not to start one—is that the same thing?
Featured image: Ashim D’Silva via unsplash.com
Other: : Yevgeniy Gradov via unsplash.com