Speech for Civic or Parent Groups

The Numbers

Children ages five and under are twice as likely to die in fires as are older children and adults. Statistics show that for children ages 1-4, fires and burns are the leading cause of unintentional injury. Why? Many young children die in fires because they instinctively try to hide from smoke and flames. Fear often causes children to hide in a closet or under a bed in the mistaken belief that they are safe from the fire.

Fear also causes many children to escape to safety without telling anyone about the fire. They may fear blame, so they do not alert an adult to the fire. Other children left in the home often die or are injured.

How do we protect our young children?

Through a two-fold process of insuring there is a working smoke detector in every home and by encouraging parents to conduct an Exit Drill In The Home with their families.

I am________________________ with _____________________________.  I am working with the Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina, also known as IIANC, or simply the Big "I." The Big "I" is a professional trade association made up of the owners and employees of nearly 1,000 independent agencies across North Carolina. Again this year, the association is conducting a Public Service Campaign known as Operation EDITH.

Some of you may have heard of Operation EDITH, whose letters stand for Exit Drill In The Home. EDITH has been around for many years, in cities and states all over the country, trying to convince parents that practicing a home Exit Drill and having a working smoke detector can save lives.

The chances of dying in a home fire are cut in half when there is a working smoke detector and reduced even further if every member of the household knows what to do when it sounds. What many parents do not realize is how quickly a home can be overcome by fire and the life-threatening ways that young children respond to fire, smoke and alarms.

Smoke detectors can give parents up to three minutes to save themselves and their children from the effects of smoke and the devastation of a home fire.  The three-minute grace period does not however, allow for indecision or lack of preparedness. Without a planned escape route that has been practiced by the whole family, the successful escape of all family members is at risk. Precious escape time is often spent trying to find children who have panicked and hidden.

Fire is frightening - to adults and children. However, adults, parents, grandparents and other caregivers have a special responsibility. That responsibility is to teach young children the fire safety awareness and skills that may prevent a serious injury and even save a life.


How will Operation EDITH work?

Operation EDITH will focus on one day, Wednesday, October 6th and the designated statewide Exit Drill will take place at 6:00 pm. During the month of September and the week of October 3rd-9th, volunteers will distribute informational coloring books and stickers to area schools and daycares and spend time with these children talking about smoke detectors and Exit Drills. 

Even young children can learn exactly what to do if they find themselves in danger from fire. Operation EDITH will focus on three messages:

1. Have a working smoke detector

2. Practice a home Exit Drill

3. Get Low and Go - Stay under the dangerous smoke and get out of the house!

The volunteers who will go into schools and daycares will be independent insurance agents who may be accompanied by local fire and rescue personnel.As a society, we have done such a good job eliminating childhood diseases with vaccinations that now the leading killers of children are unintentional injuries such as traffic incidents, drownings, falls, choking, household poisonings, and fires and burns which are often preventable with enough public education.

The Exit Drill is easy - every family member should know two exits from every room, taking into consideration that one exit may be a window. To start the drill, the family should replace the batteries in the smoke detector and then sound the detector. All family members should Get Low and Go and exit the home immediately. Once they are safely out of the house, every family member should go immediately to the pre-determined meeting place. Having a family meeting place allows parents to know when everyone is safely out of the home. Parents need to reinforce with children that they should never return to a burning building!


What can you do?

No matter what age your children or grandchildren, practice an Exit Drill in your home on Wednesday, October 6th, at 6:00 pm. Remember to change the batteries in your smoke detector twice a year. State Fire Marshal Mike Causey suggests that an easy way to remember is to change them when the clocks spring forward and fall back for Daylight Savings Time.

Talk to children about fire safety, and practice it with them. Make sure children know to tell a grown up if they see smoke or flames, and that when they hear a smoke detector alarm, it means Get Low and Go!

Preventing childhood injuries is up to each of us, and Operation EDITH can help!

Through our involvement in Operation EDITH, we want to help you protect something even more valuable - your children and grandchildren's lives.  Thank you.