Elementary school homework saved WMC5 reporter's life - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Elementary school homework saved WMC5 reporter's life

Fire escape plan that saved the Holley family. (Source: Holley family) Fire escape plan that saved the Holley family. (Source: Holley family)
Damage from the fire at the Holleys' Texas home. (Source: Holley family) Damage from the fire at the Holleys' Texas home. (Source: Holley family)
Jessica Holley in 1998. (Source: Holley family) Jessica Holley in 1998. (Source: Holley family)
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

In the past six weeks, at least 12 Mid-Southerners have been killed in house fires.

Having an escape plan for your whole family is one of the most important things you can do. It can often be the difference in making it out alive or experiencing the worst type of tragedy.

WMC Action News 5's Jessica Holley knows that fact better than most. 

She, her brother, her mother, and her father were all asleep inside their Texas home on September 4, 1998 when her house caught fire.

"I still remember waking up that night to the sounds of popping," Holley said.

She followed that popping noise and found her mother and father throwing water on a small fire in the family's garage.

She was sent to get her two-year-old brother, who was still asleep in his crib. She picked him up and carried him out of the house as she had planned just 8 days before.

Holley's family escaped that night, thanks to a plan she'd made the previous week for a homework assignment.

"Eight days before the fire, we had a homework assignment to create an escape route just in case of a fire," Holley recalled. "For my family, the fire escape plan we created saved our lives."

Click here to see the fire escape plan homework that saved the Holleys. Use it to create your own fire escape plan.

"We turned that in thinking, 'Well it was a nice way to spend some quality family time in the evening after a long day,'" Elizabeth Holley, Jessica's mother, said.

Similar fire safety education programs exist in Shelby County, but they are not being fully utilized.

Memphis Fire Museum has a free program available to any Shelby County School, but a review of the museum's attendance records shows schools are not taking advantage of the program.

"Throughout the years, they aren't coming as often," Memphis Fire Museum general manager Penny Smith said.

A tragic house fire that killed a family of 10, including 7 children, got museum leaders to refocus their attention on school attendance.

"When we lost 10 family members, it was an indirect hit for us," Smith said. "We sat down and said what do we need to do differently?"

Smith said museum leaders kept wondering if they could have saved that family if the children had been part of the fire safety program.

To try and prevent the next tragedy, Memphis Fire Museum sent this letter to all SCS principals to remind them of the free educational program.

The family of 10 had security bars installed on the home. Those bars may have contributed to why the family could not get out of the fire. Memphis Fire Museum said it is revamping the fire safety program to include a section teaching children how to release security bars in the event of an emergency.

Thursday at 10 p.m., WMC Action News 5's Chief Consumer Investigator Andy Wise explains why fires in houses today are even more dangerous than they were in 1998.

Copyright 2016 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved. 

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