Practicing EDITH

Practicing EDITH

4 mins
January 25, 2021

I read an article that related an alarming fact: Most children especially the very young will more often than not sleep right through the sound of a smoke detector going off.  Therefore, it is extremely important that families with young children train their youngsters quite vigorously regarding what the smoke alarm sound means, and how to react properly to that noise.  Make sure they know to roll out of bed onto the floor and crawl out of the house to be lower than most of the smoke and toxic gases.

Members of the Fire Department and Ambulance Service usually spend an October morning at the O-W Elementary school teaching the children about fire safety.  In the afternoon the area Mennonite children come together to learn about fire safety.  One of the important messages that the students will learn is get to everyone out of the house safely in case of a fire by practicing EDITH.

Who’s EDITH?  

EDITH stands for Exit Drills in the Home.  Smoke detectors will give you a head start in escaping a fire. Statistically, you have about three minutes to escape once your smoke detector activates, but do you and your family know how to use that time to get out of your home quickly and safely? What will your children do when they hear the alarm?

We all remember the fire drills, which were conducted when we were in school. Partly these are done so children will react from practice instead of fear in the event of a real emergency. The same is true at home.

Many people make poor decisions when fire breaks out. Many factors may contribute to this: They are frightened, awakening suddenly may cause disorientation, and they may be affected by smoke. These are all good reasons why practicing fire drills at home are as important as having drills at work or school.  

You need to plan your escape by making a floor plan of your home. Include all doors, windows, possible obstacles, and outdoor features in your sketch. Identify at least two ways out of each room. Fire may block one of your exits, so realistic alternate route should be in your plans.

Each family member should know that if one exit seems dangerous, the alternate route should be used. Dense smoke, excessive heat, or a hot door signals the need to exit in another direction. Remember to “Stay Low When You Go” since the best air is near the floor. Standing up to exit a burning building can mean you may succumb to the toxic gases in smoke and end up having problems with smoke inhalation to complicate your escape.

Second Story Rooms

Second story rooms pose a different problem. If you can climb onto a roof or balcony this may be a viable alternative. Non-combustible escape ladders are commercially available and should be stored permanently near the window where they would be used.

Make certain that babysitters and visitors are familiar with your escape routes and meeting places.

Select a place away from the building as a place where all family members will meet after they have escaped from a fire. This allows for a quick head count to determine if anyone is still inside the burning building. Once you are at the meeting place, do not go back into the house for any reason until the fire department says it is safe to do so. Discourage anyone from attempting to rescue people, pets, or possessions. Keep a firm grip on small children who may be tempted to re-enter the home.

Call the fire department from a neighbor’s phone, or a cell phone, after everyone has had a chance to escape. It is important to memorize the fire department’s phone number. Clark County residents should access emergency services by dialing 911.

It's also extremely helpful to have your house number displayed in large numbers in a contrasting color, which can be seen easily from the road. If you live in town, make sure that your house number is readily visible from the street.  Person’s living in rural areas should make sure their fire number/house number is readily visible not obscured by weeds or brush, and not blocked by snow in the winter.

Teach your young children that they cannot hide from a fire and should get out of the house at the first sign of danger. It is not safe to wait until someone comes to help. Parents may be blocked from a child’s room by smoke, flames, or toxic gases, so it is best that a child know how to escape in case of fire.

Experts advise us to hold exit drills every six months. Many families appoint a monitor to organize and conduct drills at least this often. Some may be announced, but unannounced drills make a more realistic assessment of your escape plans. You can vary the drill by specifying that a certain exit is blocked, or that the place where your hypothetical fire starts is not always the same.

Since a majority of fatal home fires start while people are asleep, occasionally run a drill when family members are in their bedrooms or are actually asleep. Coaching children may be necessary at first, but remember that your goal is to teach them to escape without your help.

The more often you practice EDITH the better prepared you will be in the event of a real emergency.

This article was orginally reported by