This week is national fire prevention week. Why is fire safety an important topic for a child safety blog?
In 2014, 249 children from birth to age 14 died in fires; the fifth most common cause of fatality for 1 to 4-year-olds and the third most common for 5 to 9-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Eighty-seven percent of all fire-related deaths are because of home fires.
Home fires are most common between the months of December and February (because of heating systems) and between the hours of 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. The most common cause (46%) is cooking accidents. Home fires can spread rapidly, leaving families as little as 2 minutes to escape once an alarm sounds.
Unfortunately, many children try to hide from a fire, often in a closet, under a bed, or in a corner. And oftentimes children are frightened by firefighters in all of their gear. But they are taught basic fire facts, they will be better able to protect themselves; and if they are shown what firefighters look like in full gear with masks on, they know it is a safe person there to help.
One of the most important things to teach your kids is that fires spread quickly and most fire-related deaths are not from burns but from smoke inhalation; dangerous fumes can overpower a person, especially a child, in just a few minutes.
Fired up about fire safety
Fire safety is more than know what to do if your clothes catch on fire (stop, drop and roll by the way). Fire safety is learning what you need to know to make your home safe to hopefully prevent fire and what to do if a fire starts in your house.
When it comes to fire safety there are three important steps: tips to prevent fire, plans for just in case and practicing those plans.
Tips to help prevent fires:
- Teach kids never to play with matches and lighters. Make a habit of placing these items up and away from young children. More than 100,00 fires are caused every year from kids playing with lighters and matches.
- Use common sense in the kitchen.
- Always cook with an adult present.
- Play outside of the kitchen.
- Limit distractions when cooking.
- Stay in the room if there is a hot oven or stove.
- Keep towels or other flammables away from stove area.
- Blow out candles before you leave the room or before you go to sleep.
- Keep clothes and other flammables away from lamps, heating units and fireplaces.
- Only plug in the allowed amount into a single electrical outlet.
- Be aware of additional hazards during the holidays.
Plan for just in case:
- Smoke alarms are a critical first step in staying safe. And they have to work so make sure your smoke alarms are in working condition. Ideally, you should have smoke detectors on every level of your home and in each sleeping area. Working smoke alarms reduce the chances of dying in a fire by nearly 50 percent.
- Create a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room in case of a fire and a designated meeting place outside of the house, like a mailbox or a neighbor’s house. Download this worksheet from Safe Kids Worldwide.
- Make sure any possible escape routes are accessible by children; furniture is out of the way and windows are easy to open.
- Teach children to get low and get out of the house when they hear a smoke alarm. Previous coaching gives children a better chance at being safe.
- Teach children how to:
- cover their mouth and noses with a moist towel or piece of clothing
- crawl under smoke to safety
- touch any door (not the doorknob) to check if it’s hot
- know another way out if the door is hot
- stop, drop and roll in case their clothing catches on fire
- Always know where the nearest “Fire Exit” is if you live in or are visiting a large multiple story building.
- Have an fire-proof escape ladder if one of your exit routes is via a two-story window.
- Remember to leave all your personal belongings and to stay out once you are out.
Practicing those plans:
- Practice, practice, practice. Take the time to practice your plan if you hear the smoke alarm or see smoke.
- Time your practice; make it as fast as you can. An entire house could be engulfed in flames in 3 minutes so move, move, move.
There is a reason kids have fire drills at school and adults have them in the workplace. Fires are scary and people can panic but rehearsing different scenarios helps you and your family be ready and be able to take action automatically.
There’s a fire and I can’t get out, what do I do?
If your escape route(s) is blocked by fire or smoke and you can’t get out fast, you’ll need to yell for help. The best way to do this is through an open window if there is one or by calling 911 if you have a phone with you.
The firefighters will have a hard time finding you if you are hiding so stay out in the open room. Firefighters or other adults will be looking for you, the sooner they can find you, the sooner you can both get to safety. While you are waiting, keep the heat and smoke from getting in by blocking any cracks around the door with sheets, blankets or clothing. And place clothing or a towel over your mouth, preferably a wet cloth.
Once you’re out, stay out. Do not go back in for anything — even pets; you can tell the firefighters about any pets that were left behind and they may be able to help.
We want to know, have you ever experienced a home fire? Share your comments below.
By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004
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