During 2010 one of my six sisters and her family suffered a catastrophic house fire. This tragedy rocked our family - my personal family and our extended family. We sent up prayers, those who could - helped out financially, those who couldn't - sent up more prayers. Thankfully my sister is overwhelmingly loved in the small town in which she lives and the outpouring of generosity and help from her community was beautiful.
"So, what's funny about that?" you ask. Well, on the surface - nothing. But scratch just below the surface (to where my family lives) and you will find plenty.
There is nothing like a devastating fire in your family to light the proverbial fire under your arse to verify that you and your family are prepared in the event of a fire in your house.
About four weeks after my sister's fire I was happily working at my desk and my husband was surfing the net when he started commenting and asking questions. It went something like this:
"Babe, I've decided we need to finally make sure all of our smoke detectors are working."
Me - Yeah, I think that's good. (while I casually glance up at all the cords that hang sadly from our ceiling)
Him - Okay, well I am here on Amazon and I am going to order some.
Me - Yeah, okay.
Him - Well, while I'm at it, I thought we should get some fire extinguishers.
Me - Okay great.
Him - So, what do you think of one of those second story escape ladders, too?
Me - Oh, I always wanted one of those as a kid. How much do they cost?
At this point he'd been surfing for about TWO HOURS, and usually when that happens I get a bill about 4-6 weeks later for a million dollars.
Him - Not sure. I'll check.
Me - Okay. But our kids are pretty agile and good jumpers.
Him - Look at this, babe. They have an ax, too. I think we need that because what about the baby? She can't get on the ladder alone and I might need to save her.
Me - An ax? Really? Well, I hadn't thought about that.
Him - Well, I think we need to think about it. There's also this hazmat suit. I might need that when I am rescuing the kids. I can get that for...................hmm..........................well, that's actually kind of pricey.
The conversation proceeded like this till about midnight when he finally submitted an order for new smoke detectors, an ax, four fire extinguishers, and a second story escape ladder. Total bill - under three hundred..........barely.
He didn't talk about fire safety again........................until we got our shipment from Amazon.
Then, of course, we had to install all of the new equipment and.............................practice by having actual fire drills. Because what else do you do with fire safety equipment that you have ordered in case of an actual fire?
The kids were, as you would suspect, happy beyond belief that we were so concerned about fire safety because public education also loves fire safety and our family had never had a fire safety plan (except your basic - GET THE HELL OUT!). They drew up maps, pulled out whistles they hadn't used in years, found their flashlights, got out hats, and basically entertained themselves with this for days.
So, it's about six weeks after the real fire in my sister's home and I drive home from the grocery store to find a ladder hanging precariously from the front of the house, my nine year old swinging down from the ladder like a monkey holding my two year old, my husband with a makeshift hazmat outfit on (okay, that's not true - but if he'd have thought of it he would have SOOOOO done it), and a stopwatch in his hand. He was screaming at the kids, "OKAY, THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE. YOU ARE NOT GOING FAST ENOUGH. COME ON. YOU CAN BEAT YOUR TIME. BUBBA - HOLD THE BABY!!! WE DON'T WANT AN ACCIDENT HERE. YOU CAN DO IT." Wild screaming is erupting from my girls as they watch bubba and baby safely from down below. Baby is laughing and carrying on (completely oblivious to the fact that this is a serious fire drill drill not to mention the fact that she is suspended in midair by a NINE YEAR OLD) and having a great time and bubba has a look on his face likes he's in the army. As I get out of the Yukon the girls surround me, screaming, "WE HAVE A FIRE PLAN, MOMMA. WE KNOW WHAT TO DO!!! DO YOU WANT TO PRACTICE WITH US??? DO YOU WANT TO KNOW THE PLAN??? DO YOU WANT TO TEST US, MOMMA??? DO YOU WANT TO GO DOWN THE LADDER MOMMA??? DADDY HAS AN AX THAT HE WILL USE TO GET THE BABY, BUT WE ARE NOT GOING TO PRACTICE THAT PART BECAUSE THAT WOULD ACTUALLY DAMAGE THE HOUSE. DON'T YOU LOVE IT, MOMMA???"
I am pretty sure I laughed about this for a good two weeks, and my kids made me practice my part over and over. We have not had any follow-up drills, but just to make sure they learned something I asked them last night, "What do we do if there is a fire in the night?" They responded with what we had practiced and added the "no ax practice part because we like the house like it is."
My husband always says, "He who fails to plan, plans to fail." So, thank God we are prepared and thank God we don't have to practice the ax part because I am fairly happy with the way the house looks now, too.