What do your children know about fire safety?

News 6 investigates what children grasp about fire safety and points they miss

ORLANDO, Fla. – We talk to our children about safety all the time -- don't talk to strangers, don't walk in the road -- but would your children know what to do in the case of a fire at your home?

You may think that you've had the conversation with your children before, but a News 6 investigation found that they might not be getting the message as clearly as you think.

News 6 anchor Julie Broughton realized that there was an issue when her 6-year-old daughter, Isla, came home from school and told her that they had fire drill, and when there's a fire, you hide in the closet.

She was confusing other safety drills for fire drills.

"We were talking and you told me you thought you should hide during the fire," said Broughton.

"Yeah," said Isla.

"So you were confused by some of the drills at school?" said Broughton.

"Yeah, I was," said Isla.

WEB EXTRA: More information from National Fire Protection Association 

If Isla was confused, other kids might be, as well. So News 6 gathered six children ranging in age from 5 to 8 years old, along with their mothers, to see what they knew about fire safety.

First, Broughton asked the mothers if they've ever set up a fire plan with their children.

"Not really. Not so much," said Mary Beth Figueroa.

"Probably not as in depth as we need to. Probably not," said Stacae Caldwell.

"I don't know what he'll say,. I've never asked him," said Nichelle Kameka.

We decided to find out.

"What would you do if there were a fire at home?" asked Broughton.

"I would go outside or call 911," said 7-year-old Henry.

She was confusing other safety drills for fire drills.

"I would get my siblings and carry them out to the front yard and tell my mom and dad," said 7-year-old Aniyis.

"I would go to my mom and dad's room and do what they tell me to do," said 8-year-old Leig.

"I actually thought he would say that," said Leig's mother, Chandra Davis.

There were some obvious discrepancies.

"Call out for mommy and daddy, run to the nearest door, just try to find us, I think," said Figueroa.

"Would you yell for your mom and dad?" asked Broughton.

"No," said Figueroa's 6-year-old daughter, Reese.

"No? Would you get out of your bed?" asked Broughton.

"No," said Reese.

"How would you know if there was a fire on the other side of your bedroom door if your bedroom door was closed?" asked Broughton.

"I would sense it," said 6-year-old Preston. "I would get my toys so my toys don't burn."

"You're a little surprised?" Broughton asked.

"Yeah, I am," said Kameka.

"I have a tent that is the safest place with stuffed animals and stuff," said 5-year-old Bryson.

"You're going to get in your tent so you don't lose your stuffed animals?" asked Broughton.

"Yeah, 'cause I love all of them," said Bryson.

We went to the Children's Safety Village, which has programs to teach various aspects of safety to children, including a fire safety house.

It looks like a real house, and is set up to show children fire hazards that might find in their own homes. It also offers a simulation through which children are guided by firefighters so they can understand what they should do if a fire ever breaks out in their homes. Children also get the chance to see firefighters decked out in their full gear, so they aren't afraid of them if they need their help.

“We don’t want the kids to be afraid of the emergency personnel. You know, the firefighters can look really scary with all their gear on, but they're not. They're going to help you,” said Chelby Afrifa of Children’s Safety Village.

"We're doing some fire safety drills with the students with emphasis on when to call 911," said Orlando Fire Lt. Steven Negedly.

Some of the key points that firefighters advise to stress to your children:
• Get out of the house as quickly as possible and call 911.
• If there's a lot of smoke, crawling is the best option because smoke rises.
• Touch doors with the back of a hand before opening it to see if there is fire on the other side.
• If you catch fire, stop, drop and roll away from flames.
• If you can't get out of your room or out of the house, the next best thing is to get to a window and yell for help so firefighters can see and hear you.
• Never go back inside, not even for a pet or a favorite toy.

Once you develop a plan with your child, make sure to drill the points home.

"They should practice. The schools practice fire drills once every six months (and) they should do the same thing at the house," said Negedly. "Practice it, where to meet up outside, and like I said, practice it. Practice makes perfect."

“Because it's not something that they may be faced with only a daily basis, so you want to make sure it's something they know in case of an emergency -- what to do and who to call,” said Afrifa.

We found that to be true.

After repeating the key points to the children, some of them had different answers than they did at first, showing how important that conversation can be.

"I run out of the house quick," said Bryson.

"I would run out of the house," said Reese.

"Call 199," said Preston.

"It's 911," said Kameka.

"Oh," said Preston.

Escape Plan from National Fire Protection Association

One of the things that came up with this story is that we're finding more schools doing drills for things like active shooter situations. Unfortunately, these drills can be necessary to be sure that children are safe in a variety of situations, though the schools aren't necessarily telling the children that the drills are in case of active shooters.

But the variety of drills is why Broughton's daughter ended up being confused about what to do in case of a fire, because for some drills, children are instructed to hide in closets or under their desks.

We found that in some schools, drills are referred to with a color code so children can figure out what they're supposed to do, but parents said they weren't notified about the colors mean to have a corresponding system at home. You might want to check with your child's school to see what its drill policies are so you can help clear up any confusion that your children may be having.

About the Authors:

Tara Evans is an executive producer and has been with News 6 since January 2013. She currently spearheads News 6 at Nine and specializes in stories with messages of inspiration, hope and that make a difference for people -- with a few hard-hitting investigations thrown in from time to time.

Julie Broughton's career in Central Florida has spanned more than 14 years, starting with News 6 as a meteorologist and now anchoring newscasts.