Fire is one of the most common types of disasters, with more than 2,500 people killed and 12,600 injured in home fires in the United States each year. Fires can spread quickly and are dangerous—not only because of the flames, but also the heat, smoke and poisonous gases emitted. Fires and burns are also among the leading causes of death for children under 15. Young children have difficulty escaping from building fires because they lack the motor skills and mental capabilities needed, or may be unable to awake from a sound sleep.
Fortunately, most home fires are preventable. With Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 9-15) upon us, here are some simple steps families can take to help keep children safe:
- Teach fire safety. Teach children how to prevent and survive a fire. Explain why fire safety is important and demonstrate safe behaviors when using fire, fire tools and other heat sources. Be very clear that fire is a tool, not a toy.
- Install smoke alarms. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, in each bedroom and on each level of your home. Use the test button to check the smoke alarms every month, and replace all of the batteries at least once a year. Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do if they hear them. The National Fire Protection Association provides more information on smoke alarm safety through its “Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years” campaign.
- Introduce children to firefighters. The sight of a firefighter wearing a fire suit and oxygen mask can be scary for children at first, so it’s important to teach them what firefighters look and sound like with their protective gear on. Take your little ones to your local fire station so they can meet firefighters and learn more about fire safety.
- Store matches and lighters in a safe place. Keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach and sight, preferably in a locked cabinet. Teach young children not to pick up matches or lighters, and to inform an adult if they find one. Also, make an effort to only use lighters with child-lock features.
- Keep children away from flames and heat sources. Never leave children unattended near operating stoves or burning candles, even for a short time.
- Teach children 9-1-1 (or a local emergency number). Help children understand how and when to call 9-1-1 for help in emergencies. In the event of a home fire, children should evacuate before calling 9-1-1, and they should only call for help if an adult is not able to do so.
- Practice fire drills. Include children in planning and practicing home fire drills. Have fire drills at least twice a year so children can practice their primary and secondary escape routes. As fires can happen at any time, plan a fire drill at night when the children are sleeping, but warn the children ahead of time so they don’t panic.
- Demonstrate how to escape. Show children how they would evacuate from a room filled with smoke by crawling along the floor to the nearest exit.
- Get out and stay out. If there is a fire at home, get everyone out of the building. Then, stay out and call for help—make sure children know that they shouldn’t go back into the home to gather belongings.
- Stop, drop and roll if on fire. Teach children how to stop, drop and roll if their clothes are on fire. If this situation occurs, your child should stop, drop to the ground and cover his face with his hands, then roll back and forth until the fire is out.
For more information, learn about the ways Primrose teaches safety to young children and check out these helpful resources:
- American Red Cross: Home Fire Safety
- Department of Homeland Security: Home Fires
- National Fire Protection Association (NFPA): Safety Information for Consumers
- Department of Homeland Security: Ready Kids: Home Fires
- National Fire Protection Association: Sparky