Fires can happen anywhere, but home fires account for more than 75 percent of all fatalities. They start and spread rapidly, leaving families as little as two minutes to escape once an alarm sounds which is why parents should educate kids on fire safety as early as possible. While a working smoke alarm can reduce the chances of dying in a fire by nearly 50 percent, fire safety is about more than smoke detectors and practicing escape routes.
Preschoolers and kindergartners are not only the most likely age group to start fires, but also the most likely to die in them. Generally curious about the world around them, young children may experiment with fire not realizing the potential danger. If a fire does break out, they may not realize how critical it is to seek help; they may run or hide in fear of getting in trouble. When this happens, the risks increase as the fire spreads before being discovered. Therefore, it is important to teach kids fire safety rules, including how to prevent fires and how to react if they are involved in one.
What to Teach and Practice With Your Kids:
- Do not play with matches, lighters, and gasoline.
- In case of fire, do not hide; go outside.
- The safest way to escape during a fire is to fall and crawl. It is easier to breath in a fire if you stay low while getting out.
- Use the back of your hand to test if a door is hot before opening it. If it is hot, try to use another way out.
- If your clothes are on fire, stop, drop, and roll until the fire is out. Shout for help, but don’t run; running makes fire burn faster.
Create and Practice a Fire Escape Plan:
- Have an escape plan and practice it with your family. Find two ways out of every room in case one way is blocked by fire or smoke. Practice escaping by both routes to be sure windows are not stuck and screens can be taken out quickly. Get a stopwatch and time how fast your family can escape.
- Choose a meeting place outside, such as a big tree or the end of the driveway that is a safe distance from the house. This is important so you know that everyone has gotten out safely. NEVER go back into a burning building for any reason. If someone is missing, tell the firefighters. They have the clothing and equipment to safely rescue people.
- Know your local emergency number. Prominently display emergency numbers on the refrigerator and every telephone in the house. If there is a fire in your home, once safely outside, call the fire department from a cell phone or designate one family member to leave your meeting place and call from a neighbor’s phone.
What to do if you Can’t Safely Escape:
- Keep smoke out of the room by covering vents and cracks around the door.
- Call 911 or your fire department as quickly as possible.
- Signal for help at the window with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight.
Children do well when they clearly understand and that requires “doing”. Practicing how to react is the single most effective way to ensure your child will react safely if confronted with danger. Practice listening for the smoke detector, crawling under the smoke, stop, drop, and roll, feeling the doors, and practicing the escape plan, including the meeting place.
While educating your kids is critical, don’t forget these basic safety measures to protect your family.
- Install smoke detectors on every floor and in the sleeping areas of your home.
- Test your smoke detectors every month. Make sure everyone in your family is familiar with its sound and that the sound means they must escape quickly.
- When you change the clocks for Daylight Savings, change your smoke alarm batteries.
- Smoke alarms expire after 10 years. So if your alarm is more than 10 years old, you should install a new one.
Fireplace and Wood-Burning Stove Safety:
- Place a sturdy screen in front of your fireplace; glass screens can take a long time to cool down.
- Burn only seasoned hardwood such as oak, ash or maple.
- Use a safety gate around your fireplace or wood stove to protect small children
Simple, yet often Forgotten Ways Safety Measures:
- Make a habit of placing matches, lighters, and candles up and away from young children.
- Use common sense in the kitchen. Limit distractions when cooking and don’t leave a hot oven or stove top unattended; same for grilling.
- Have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen in case of emergency. Know how it works; surprisingly many people don’t know how to use one.
- Keep anything that can catch fire, such as dish towels away from your stove top.
- If burning candles, never leave unattended. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and always blow them out when you leave the room or before you go to sleep.
- Remember to keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn, and always closely supervise children and pets when the heater is turned on.
- Make sure you turn space heaters off when you leave the room.
- Store gasoline in a locked location where children cannot access it.
- Avoid plugging several appliance cords into the same electrical socket.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.