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At-Home Fire Drills – S2 E5

Are you prepared for a wildfire or house fire? With children in the home, parents should know how to prepare so that everyone can evacuate quickly and safely during an emergency. This episode tells you how to plan ahead to keep your little ones safe in the kitchen, and instructions for planning an at-home fire drill.

Host Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez speaks with former firefighter Adam Rodriguez, the manager of the Emergency Medical Services for Children Program at the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services and Trauma System at AZDHS.

Podcast Resources:
Fire Safety Fact Sheet
Video: How to Plan and Practice Home Fire Drills
Emergency Medical Services and Trauma System at the Arizona Department of Health Services
Strong Families AZ
Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez
Podcast Credits:

host Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez is the Program Director for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program at the Arizona Department of Health Services. She is married, has two young children, and loves reading (anything except parenting books!) and watching movies and TV. She loves to spend time with her kids (when they aren’t driving her crazy) and celebrating all of their little, and big, accomplishments. Jessica has been in the field of family and child development for over 20 years, working towards normalizing the hard work of parenting and making it easier to ask the hard questions.

host Guest: Adam Rodríguez, a former Firefighter and paramedic is our go-to for all things safety.


[00:00:00] Jessica Stewart Gonzalez: Welcome back to The Parenting Brief. I’m your host, Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez, an Arizona working mom and Program Director for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program at the Arizona Department of Health Services. If you have questions about parenting, this podcast is for you. With the help of parenting pros and child development

[00:00:25] experts, we have tips and tricks to help you be the best parent you can be.

[00:00:34] Thank you for joining us for another episode of The Parenting Brief. One of the safest places we can be is in our homes. It’s where our children sleep, learn, and grow. But house fires or wildfires can change everything. And if you have small children, quick decisions and a game plan can be the key to ensure your family can leave safely.

[00:00:55] That’s why today we’ll cover what you need to know about house fires, wildfires, and emergency [00:01:00] situations when you have little ones in your home.

[00:01:07] Joining me today is Adam Rodriguez. He is the Emergency Medical Services for Children Program Manager at the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services and Trauma System at the Arizona Department of Health Services. As a former firefighter and paramedic, Adam is our go-to for all things safety. Before we even get into what to do if there is a fire, could you explain or talk a little bit about what the biggest causes of home fires are?

[00:01:35] Adam Rodriguez: Something on the order of 20,000 fires a year are caused by children. And this is, when we say children, we’re saying pediatrics 17 and younger. And so the causes of why those fires might be started, might vary wildly between say five year olds who are playing with matches and say 15 year olds who are deliberately doing something they’re not supposed to be doing.

[00:01:55] And so there’s endless reasons why fires get started, but [00:02:00] there are patterns to a lot of those reasons and we can use those patterns to help us predict things that are gonna happen and, and hopefully to help prevent fires.

[00:02:09] Jessica Stewart Gonzalez: I know in my home, we have our kiddos cooking with us often in the kitchen. Can you talk about some of the challenges or risks in fires that may start in the kitchen area?

[00:02:25] Adam Rodriguez: Absolutely. Before I forget, with respect to kids in the kitchen, if everybody could just turn their handles of their pots and pans inward over the stove or over the surface of your counter. What I mean is not hanging off the edge where a child of counter height or shorter can grab onto it. That’s number one.

[00:02:42] Uh, number two is there’s a couple of different types of fires that can occur when you’re cooking. Just to get right to it, we should talk about the, the best way to control all of them, instead of getting into each one of them. The best way to control any type of fire in the home is an ABC fire extinguisher.

[00:02:58] And we’ll probably keep talking about this [00:03:00] throughout the episode, but an ABC fire extinguisher, you can buy ’em in any denomination of size. They make a little like handheld ones for your vehicles, to the standard ones you see in schools and airports and these things. Uh, it depends on how much you wanna spend as a homeowner or whoever you’re buying this for, but you would absolutely wanna look for the letters ABC.

[00:03:18] And the reason why I started out by saying this is because you could have a grease fire, which requires a different method. You can have a materials fire, a paper or wood or glass, something like that. That will require different type and, and then type ABC takes care of all of them. Uh, and so with cooking with children, I think it’s sort of along having some forethought about having a child in the kitchen.

[00:03:38] And what kind of distractions are they gonna introduce that I can mitigate now that I can take care of now before I’m in the kitchen or that I can think about like turning your pot handles inwards just as an example.

[00:03:49] Jessica Stewart Gonzalez: If a house fire does take place and families are needing to leave their home for safety, what should families do?

[00:03:55] What should they take? And when do they call 9-1-1?

[00:03:59] Adam Rodriguez: There’s a [00:04:00] lot to talk about in between, uh, the discovery of a fire and leaving. But if you discovered that there is a fire that you can’t control with, uh, your fire extinguishers, which you hopefully purchased, there’s some things that you need to have worked out prior to that.

[00:04:13] Again, there’s some patterns to things and we can have a lot of prevention. There’s a lot of, uh, preventative value in, in identifying pre-incident things that we can do. And so what I mean by that is depending on the age of your children, you would have to decide how it’s best to teach them what we call egress or getting out of the house.

[00:04:30] And so you would wanna make sure that you tell them that there’s a difference between stop, drop and roll, which it was, I was just watching TikTok earlier yesterday, I think. And I saw somebody that, it was a comical TikTok it wasn’t a medical TikTok or anything, but they saw fire and stopped drop and rolled.

[00:04:46] And they didn’t realize that that only works if you’re actively on fire. And so to me, that represents a gap in people’s understanding of what you need to do during a fire. And so if you’re not actively on fire, stop drop and roll doesn’t do [00:05:00] anything for you. And so that’s really what I mean. And that’s, you know, you would have to find a way to tell your child, this is where I want you to go, and this is where I wanna meet you in the event that this happens.

[00:05:10] Unfortunately about 10% of all fire fatalities are children 16 or younger. And the problem is, I’m glad you’re asking, well, it’s not the problem, but they seem to run away from the fire, but they run into an enclosed space, usually a closet, behind a door or under the bed, because they’re children and they’re physically trying to just get away from it.

[00:05:30] And they don’t have that sort of cognitive processing where we say, all right, let’s get, you know, get outta the house. Children will kind of scoot away, so to speak and it’s a very grim thing to say, but we have a lot of information based on where we find these victims within the home that can help us understand what to do about it.

[00:05:47] And so definitely the takeaway is having a rally point or somewhere around the outside of your house that you can get a head count so you can make sure all the members of your family are present. And so [00:06:00] this is, this is the situation, obviously that you’re leaving immediately. This is a situation where we’re not talking about needing to leave the area in terms of like wildland fire.

[00:06:09] So we have a differences in the actions between these two, as afore mentioned.

[00:06:13] Jessica Stewart Gonzalez: So do you suggest running a fire drill at home and how often?

[00:06:18] Adam Rodriguez: Yeah, absolutely run a fire drill. Absolutely. I would run a fire drill as often as it took from as many locations in your house so that your child is familiar with egress from any position in the house.

[00:06:31] Not only that, but do they know what to do when they get out there? Do they know what to do? Cause I think when you give a lot of these emergencies some expectation in terms of preparation, you take an awful lot of anxiety out of that situation, because rather than reacting sort of organically reacting to it, you’re sort of using a different part of your brain.

[00:06:51] And so to have a plan, not only mitigates the incident itself, but also takes a step further and, helps some cognitive help

[00:07:00] in remaining calm and in these types of things. Excellent question. But I don’t really have an answer for you at least once. I mean, everybody should do at least once, but do ’em really often, and we should be telling families to sleep with their doors closed.

[00:07:10] I know that’s very counterintuitive for a lot of families cause you know, you can’t really hear through these doors and you know, you’d like to be able to keep an ear on the house, so to speak if you’re sleeping and a fire protective mechanism is the doors are rated, standard construction home doors are rated to hold a fire back for a number of minutes.

[00:07:29] And when you sleep with doors open, you completely take that ability away. And so sleeping with doors closed prevents the spread of fire in your home dramatically, I’d add.

[00:07:39] Jessica Stewart Gonzalez: Oh I did not know that.

[00:07:42] Adam Rodriguez: Interesting.

[00:07:43] Jessica Stewart Gonzalez: Yeah. So in Arizona we know that house fires and wildfires are two biggest concerns. So wildfires are always a concern and especially in many of our areas where we have national forrests and parks and outdoor spaces, it [00:08:00] comes with that wildfire risk. And we have many people who live in communities that surround these areas. Can you briefly talk about how people find information about wildfires in their area and how to get information about evacuation?

[00:08:15] Adam Rodriguez: Arizona absolutely utilizes a readiness system called ready, set, go. And it’s very useful. And it’s state broadcast information that says, um, you should have your stuff ready. You should be ready to go and finally get outta the house. And so you should pay very close attention to those ready set, go, alerts, uh, when you’ll get them, if the fire’s proximal to your house, of course, you’re not getting these alerts

[00:08:37] if you’re not anywhere near a fire. So you’ll start to discover if you’re near a fire, that these alerts will begin to come up to you and that’s what you need to do there. It’s actually a very good system. And the things that you should take with you, if you need to leave the home and, and in the case of a wildland fire, you may have some warning.

[00:08:51] And definitely even if there isn’t any active fires right now, you still want to take time to think about what you would wanna leave the house with. Especially if [00:09:00] you have a child with you. And especially if for any reason you have a special needs child or any child that needs any kind of medical equipment with batteries and supplies.

[00:09:07] And so you have to have that, that kind of stuff have applied some forethought to it. And this is obviously in addition to food and water and clothes and those things, but medications, they may need, equipment, uh, any medical equipment and then any soothing items that you can get that you know, that they enjoy.

[00:09:22] Um, and then leaving the house since. This is a situation where you would likely be leaving the area, rather than just gathering on foot outside of the house fire, the wildland fire requires that you likely leave the area. So you definitely want two things in place. If you’re gonna leave, you need to be able to leave.

[00:09:37] So that’s a car with at least a half a tank of gas, and then you gotta have somewhere to go. I would, again, the idea of expecting things during an emergency is much more comforting than, than not. And so on your way out, if you already know where you’re going and you already have, perhaps I don’t know, money set aside, relatives, if it’s not a motel or something like that, it all adds to being [00:10:00] prepared for all these things.

[00:10:00] And, and, you know, hopefully the fire doesn’t make it to your house. There’s a lot you can do to the surroundings of your home to help make your home a defendable space. There’s a lot you can do. You can cut a lot of

brush away. You can essentially give your home a large gap between it and vegetation to help fend off some flames.

[00:10:16] But I digress we’re, we’re talking about leaving the home and so make sure you have the equipment that’s special to your child, gas to get where you’re going and a pre-planned place to go so that you can be found so that perhaps some agency doesn’t think that you’re missing.

[00:10:32] Jessica Stewart Gonzalez: Well, thank you so much for lending your expert advice to us today, Adam.

[00:10:35] Adam Rodriguez: Thank you. I very much appreciate y’all having me.

[00:10:46] Jessica Stewart Gonzalez: If you wanna learn more about the topics covered here today, take a look at the episode show notes. While you’re there, don’t forget to give us a follow on your favorite podcast app. And as always, make sure to pass the episode along to a caregiver, friend or family member. [00:11:00] Until next time, this is Jessica.

[00:11:02] You’ve got this.

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