Surviving a fire: Mock house for Indy children to practice escaping

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INDIANAPOLIS — Home is where you escape to, but what happens when it’s where you need to escape from? Does your child know what to do if smoke is pouring in from under the bedroom door?

That’s where Survive Alive comes in to play. The program educates children on fire and life safety. Children get to practice escaping from a state-of-the-art mock house.

“We’ve had a number of saves where children have left here and unfortunately have had a fire in the home, but because of what they learned here, their families got out safe and what they learned did save their lives,” said Indianapolis Fire Department Captain Aleatha Henderson.

Henderson is the director of Public Education for IFD. The Survive Alive mock house on Mass Ave is her home away from home. Nine-thousand kids come through each year on field trips or with their parents.

She teaches them how to see if doors are hot, how to stay low and get out, and to never, ever go back inside the house.

She also stresses that children need two escape routes from a bedroom.

“Some parents have been very creative,” said Henderson. “We have had parents that have made a second way through a closet that was a connecting closet.”

If a second escape route isn’t an option, she teaches the kids how to let in as little smoke as possible.

Many children she trains live in areas with bars on their windows and she teaches them to wave a flashlight around.

Her passion, along with everyone at Survive Alive, is helping kids survive fires. When news came of an entire Indianapolis family dying in a house fire over the weekend, the Survive Alive family was devastated.

“It’s really hard as an educator because part of what we do is educate the public so that we avoid this,” said Henderson. “It was a very tough weekend. This is one of the parts of our job that’s very hard. To come to a scene and to have a single fatality, let alone an entire family, is very devastating to firefighters.”

“When we have tragedies like this in our community, we reach out to the schools where the children attended and we offer them an opportunity to come and visit Survive Alive so the students can learn the skills better and they can be confident in their skills and what to do if their house catches on fire.”

Survive Alive is free and open to families. The setup is geared toward elementary kids. It’s open on weekdays at 748 Massachusetts Ave., and it’s best if you call ahead. Henderson says they hope to add a Saturday to their schedule soon in light of the recent fire fatalities.

Here are some more tips for surviving a fire:

  • Make sure windows are not stuck closed and the screen can be easily removed
  • Have your child practice feeling their way out of the home in the dark or with their eyes closed
  • Make sure your child associates the sound of the smoke alarm with a fire
  • Teach your child how to stop, drop and roll
  • Designate a family meeting place
  • Practice your family escape plan monthly
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