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On Dealing With a Crisis, or, Fun With Kitchen Fires

October 24, 2012

I’ve always wondered how I’d react in a crisis situation. You know, a real crisis.

Like, earthquake. Or car accident. Or…fire.

Would I be calm, hysterical, ridiculous, or would I react with Bond-like dispassion and placidity?

I was 16 when the Loma Prieta quake hit. I was driving with a permit, my mom in the passenger seat. The car started to lurch and I stopped in the middle of the four-lane road, confused. I watched the road in front of me buckle like a piece of ribbon candy, looking up to see street lights bouncing and swinging, nearly touching in the middle of the street.

Mom grabbed my wrist and shrieked:

We’re having an earthquake! Don’t panic! Don’t panic! Don’t panic! 

To this day, I’m not sure if she was talking to me, or herself.

Wise old teenager that I was, I thought she totally overreacted. Like, totally. To the  max.

Now I’m a mom, married to a dare-devil-turned-dad, and like the responsible parents we try to be, we run fire drills and emergency drills with the kids, and all the while they are commando-crawling down the hallway, I’ve wondered.

What would I really do? How would I really react if the house was on fire?

Or, even, say…the oven?

Now, I know. I’m glad I know. I think I did okay.

There was a teensy bit of screaming and running in circles, but I think I did alright.

Crisis averted.

Gonna need a little therapy, or maybe a glass of wine. Or three.

But it’s good to know, y’know?

Here’s what I learned from this delightful experience:

l. While a 5-year-old will willfully disobey just about every other request, from “Go brush your teeth” to “Go get in the car,” for some reason, kids really do discern That Tone of Voice and obey instantly. In this case, “Go to the garage and stay there until I come get you. NOW!”

2. Running in circles is one method of gathering scattered wits, as long as you remember to grab the fire extinguisher on your way around.

3. Don’t stop to think that this is your brand new oven. Use it anyway.

3. When the top of the fire extinguisher breaks off in your hands, don’t panic. Go for Plan B.

4. Plan B: Smother the fire. Good girl! Grab lid, throw on top of four-foot tall flames in oven. Brave girl! OK, maybe they were only 12 inch flames. Or six. But flames of any kind do not belong in my kitchen. Indulge me. I’ve earned this.

5. After smothering, calling husband hysterically is fine. Surprisingly, or not, he also can register The Tone when you tell him to leave the karate class and go outside where he can talk RIGHT NOW.

6. Thinking back on how husband exclaimed (and I think his voice cracked a little) “The oven is on FIRE?!” is really funny, after the fact.

7. Now I know there’s a second fire extinguisher in the garage.

8. Smothering works. Oven saved. Fire out. Dinner…total loss.

9. Sandwich night is a good thing.

10. Knowing how you will respond in a crisis, that you can actually get the job done BEFORE your hands start shaking so badly you can no longer dial the phone…priceless.

It wasn’t exactly Bond-like placidity, but I got the job done. Crisis averted. House saved. Perhaps the universe as well. They may not have brushed their teeth before bed last night because I was out cold under a blankie in the La-Z-Boy as of about 7pm, sleeping the sleep of the satisfied Super Mom.


Sadly, the photo I snapped or our poor dinner last night did not save (hands shaking – might have not hit correct button) and I have nothing to show for my troubles. Instead, why don’t you read about our previous attempts to teach safety exercises to the children:

Parenting Fail: Fire Safety


7 Comments leave one →
  1. pastordt permalink
    October 24, 2012 8:44 am

    LOVE this. Well, not that it happened, but that you wrote about it so very well. These are such scary things. When I was 16, I set our kitchen on fire by forgetting that I was making popcorn in an open frying pan with oil and a kernel or two to test the heat and then stepping OUT of the kitchen to watch TV. Came back to flames creeping up the wall. Oy vey. My mom smothered it – and then had to pay to have it repaired and cleaned. (hangs head in shame).

  2. Elaine permalink
    October 24, 2012 9:04 am

    Scary!! O_O Good job saving the day 😀 Love the post!

  3. Bethany Hall Fitelson permalink
    October 24, 2012 11:00 am

    This is great, you are such a good storyteller! Way to go for keeping your head. I love the juxtaposition of your mom shrieking “don’t panic!” and you running in circles to get your wits about you. Way to go on being a Bond-like super mom! (And I just texted Danny, “We need fire extinguishers in our house, just in case.” So thanks for that reminder!)

  4. October 24, 2012 3:36 pm

    Way to go, Adelle! I think women (moms, especially) have that internal James Bond to help them get through the crisis BEFORE they melt down. Nice superhero demonstration 🙂

  5. October 25, 2012 4:21 pm

    I think God gives us trials to show us not just our weaknesses but also our strengths… to reveal to us how HE sees us. Glad the damage wasn’t worse!

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