Experience is a great learning tool

89693614_Straightened_r2As a kid growing up I remember things being much different than today. And, as I get older, I ­realize that I sound much more like my ­parents used too. I can remember ­saying to myself, I will never be like that. I think that each generation has the same goal in mind though – to live a happy successful life and see that our children are safe and can learn from our mistakes and ­experiences. Unfortunately, we have to realize that life is a ­learning process that should never stop.

I remember as a teenager, my ­parents asked my younger sister and I to watch our little brother while they were away one evening. As the evening passed, it became time to put him down for the evening and call it a night. After falling asleep I was ­awakened by the sound of our dog barking and thinking to myself my parents must be home. It was then that I began to smell burning ­plastic. I ran through the house to find my little brother had set fire to the trash can beside my father’s desk. The flames had reached a height of about four feet and seemed to be getting higher. I quickly grabbed a blanket off of my parent’s bed and was for­tunately able to smother it out.

As I looked around the room, it appeared to me that my brother must have witnessed someone ­starting a fire, because there was an array of ­candles, matches and other fire-­starting material spread across the floor. I opened a few windows to let out the smoke and clear the air just as my parents came walking through the door.

The questions started to fly. Why are the windows open in the middle of winter? What is that smell? What’s all the smoke? Oh my God, what have you done to my bed spread? All questions with very logical answers.

I explained the situation, and my mother finally calmed down. She ­realized things could have been much worse. Though we can look back and think how much simpler life was, we can also look back and say there are things we didn’t have then that we feel we can’t do without now.

For example, the house I grew up in had nothing for fire protection. We didn’t have smoke detectors or fire extinguishers, and my parents had never thought to tell us what we should do in case of an emergency. Fortunately, we had been taught some fire safety in school.

Now that I am grown and have children of my own, I am always haunted by the lessons I learned growing up and want to protect them from everything I can. Not long ago, I saw a news report that reminded me just how important it was for me to have an emergency plan with my kids. It posed the question, will a regular smoke detector wake up children in time, and do they know what to do in case of a fire?

Sadly, I had to admit that just like my parents, I had not taught my children what to do. My house is full of smoke detectors and fire extinguishers but I had failed to explain what to do if ever there was a fire or any other kind of emergency.

The report I watched used two firefighter’s families. Once the children were asleep, they set off the smoke detectors and were horrified at what came next. The children did not respond. Most slept straight through; others just ignored it and returned to sleep. This prompted me to conduct the same test at my home. My children didn’t respond either.


Jim Miles is a safety instructor and Certified Loss Control Professional for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives. He can be contacted at jmiles@aiec.coop.
Jim Miles is a safety instructor and Certified Loss Control Professional for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives. He can be contacted at jmiles@aiec.coop.

Apparently, this is because of the dif­ference in sleep patterns with ­children. The report talked about a new smoke detector that allowed a parent to record their voice, ­instructing the children to wake up because there was a fire. Amazingly it works! I have recently found them online and in some stores. It is an amazing product!

My point is not to sell a product. My hope is that we are continuing to learn from experiences. That is what allows us to be proactive and prevent harm to ourselves and the ones we love.

If you don’t have an emergency or fire plan at your home, I urge you to create one today. Many families have learned the hard way that they were not prepared. Don’t be the next one!

If you would like to watch the report I spoke of go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDzTOk8ZZB4.