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Protecting Your Kids

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Already this year, 12 children have been killed in house fires. That's close to the total for "all" of 2005, when 15 kids died. So what can you do for your own kids?

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg says during a house fire, there were some common mistakes that can be avoided. But your plan is just the first step.

Like all plans, it works best with some practice, especially with kids. Gretchen Landers says she and her husband John started thinking about their fire plan when they moved into their house a few years ago. "Since it's a two-story house, we felt like we should have some kind of plan, because our bedroom is downstairs."

Hopefully, you can avoid fires in the first place. In the fatal Okmulgee house fire earlier this week, the fire marshal says it appears the 4-year-old victim was playing with an open-flame heater. Tulsa Fire Department’s Mike Harris: "Parents need to tell their children that matches and cigarette lighters are tools. They're not toys. They're only for adults only."

The 4-year-old girl also ran and hid another common mistake. Firefighters say it's important to practice an escape route. Gretchen Landers: "What are you supposed to do?" Derrick Landers: "I'm supposed to go in my closet, grab my fire escape ladder, open the window." That will vary from house to house. But they say to make sure every room has two exits, another problem in the Okmulgee case.

And know it well enough that you can literally do it blindfolded. Mike Harris: "In the event of a fire, if there's heavy smoke in the bedroom, the child will not be able to open their eyes."

The Landers have the advantage of a 2nd grader in Derrick, who can help his younger siblings. But regardless they say start early. Mike Harris: "Different children are going to learn at a younger age, but a parent needs to start working with that child at a very early age, 2, 3, 4 and 5 years of age."

Practicing will help control fear, which they say can cause children to even avoid the rescuers. Mike Harris: "The child needs to make noise. Let the firefighter know where they are, so we can get the child and take them out." Gretchen Landers: "So and the sound of the mask, we say it sounds like Darth Vader, but he's really a good guy, he's not a bad guy, he's here to help you so."

Something else to consider. Sleeping with the bedroom door shut can buy you as much as 30 minutes of extra time to wake up, in case of a fire. And as always, feel the door for heat before you open it.

This weekend is the fall time change, so time to change those smoke alarm batteries as well.
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