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Keeping children safe is a priority should a home disaster strike

September is National Emergency Preparedness Month. Children, especially those under the age of five, are the most-vulnerable in a home fire situation according to statistics from the American Red Cross. The Red Cross also attributes $280 million-a-year in property destruction because of children playing with fire.  

Lawrence and Israel Denby

West Columbia Fire Chief Chris Smith advises all residents to have an adequate number of smoke alarms. Personnel from the WCFD installs smoke alarms in homes where the resident may not be able to get an alarm themselves. 

National Emergency Preparedness Month is a good time to check your alarms and ask if your family has a safety plan for your children should a disaster strike your home?

“We have not discussed it, but we will,” said Lawrence Denby. He was at Carraway Park in West Columbia Tuesday with his son, Israel, who is six-years-old.

“Now, I would immediately go get him and move him to safety if there was a reason to get him out of the house,” said Denby. “But as he gets older I will talk to him about what to do should there be an emergency in our home, like a fire.”

Vikki and Joe Mullady

Denby also said his home has two exits. the front door and the back door. His first instinct would be to determine which exit is the safest, or not blocked, before fleeing in an emergency situation. 

Vikki Mullady moved to West Columbia from New Your City a year ago. Her son Joseph, age 24, is a firefighter in New York. 

“Fire safety has always been a topic in our family,” Mullady said. “In New York, my husband Joe and I taught our son to find the quickest route to get outside in the event of a fire. Since we moved to West Columbia we have practiced an evacuation route. We also have a spot to meet outside so that we know each of us is safe.”  Mullady also said there are a number of alarms in her home to warn the family if there is smoke. 

Leylani and Bella Brown, Netra’s granddaughters

West Columbia’s Netra Thompson is on the staff at Northside Middle School. She has three children over the age of 18 and a 13-year-old. She said her family has always been aware of the dangers of a home fire.

“We discussed moving to the sound of the smoke alarm and getting outside as soon as possible. Feel the door. If the door is hot, go out of a window. When you get outside, go to the front of the house so we can account for everyone. That’s what I have always told them,” she said. 
Thompson also has grandchildren who stay with her sometimes. Their ages are two years and six months. 

“I would immediately acknowledge the danger if my smoke alarm sounds,” said Thompson, “and I’d go right to where the children are and get them out. As they get older, we’ll teach them the importance of fire safety just like I taught my children. Get away from danger as fast as you can. I tell them that in all circumstances.” 

American Red Cross Preparedness Tips 

  •  Keep matches, lighters and ignitable substances in a secured location out of the reach of children 
  •  Only use lighters with child-resistant features. 
  •  Practice your home fire escape plan with your children. Also practice stop, drop and roll and low crawling. 
  •  Familiarize children with the sound of your smoke alarm and what to do when they hear it. 
  •  Teach your children not to be scared of firefighters.
  • Take them to your local fire department to meet them and learn about fire safety. 
  •  Teach your children to tell you or a responsible adult when they find matches or lighters at home or school. 
  •  Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms. 
  •  Use the test button to check alarms each month. 
  •  Replace all batteries at least once a year.
  • Having a working smoke alarm reduces the risk of dying in a home fire by nearly half. 
  •  Visit for more information on children and fire safety.