Protecting your children’s lives is a basic instinct. You don’t need to be trained to react when they’re in harm’s way. You do all that you can to be aware of the dangers that can threaten them. As a parent, you understand your responsibility to protect them from risks that they’re too young to understand or cope with by themselves.
A fire in your home is one of the hazards that your children simply can’t prepare for on their own. You should already have a family evacuation plan in place, but it’s critical to make sure that the little ones can follow it too. Fire safety for kids also includes education. Although you don’t want to frighten them, you do want to give them solid information that can help keep them safe wherever they might be.
What Should You Know?
No one has to tell you that children and fire are a very dangerous mix. Facts speak for themselves, and the statistics are sobering. The American Red Cross, the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association share a sad but real story:
• Annually, approximately 300 lives are lost and $280 million in property is damaged due to fires started by kids playing with combustible materials.
• According to a 2010 study by the U.S. Fire Administration, 49 percent of all fire injuries to children were suffered by those 4 years old or younger.
• Statistics indicate that two out of three fires started by children involve cigarette lighters or matches, and 75 percent of these fires result in death or injury.
• Other sources of home fires set by kids include candles, stove tops, electric hot plates, fireplaces, space heaters, fireworks and lit cigarettes.
• Of all the fires that children accidentally start, just over half occur in a bedroom. Bedspreads, pillows and mattresses are usually the first items ignited.
Do Your Evacuation Plans Prepare the Kids?
Surprisingly, only a quarter of all households across the country have well-developed plans for dealing with a home fire. Whether you live in a house or a high-rise, your family’s safety depends on evacuation strategies that the kids can understand before an emergency happens.
• Practice your home evacuation plan with the kids at least twice a year. Teach them how to stop, drop and roll, crawl low on the floor to avoid smoke and check doors for heat before opening.
• Make sure that children know what the smoke alarm sounds like so that they can react quickly. Explain that its loud noise means that it’s time to evacuate the home immediately.
• When possible, show the kids that there are two ways out of every room. Explain the importance of never blocking doors or windows that can be used as emergency exits.
• Develop a plan to assist children who are too young to evacuate by themselves. Discuss ahead of time who should be responsible for each child, and include that strategy in your evacuation drills.
• Designate a meeting spot outside and near the front of your home. Stress the importance of staying out of the way of firefighters and never trying to run back into the house.
How Can You Increase Kids’ Fire-Safety Awareness?
Children love to learn, so tap into their natural curiosity in a way that doesn’t frighten them about the dangers of a home fire. They enjoy being trusted with responsibility too, and that’s a trait that can help you empower them. You have to set a good example, but make sure your efforts are always kid-friendly.
• Keep matches, cigarette lighters and flame lighters in locations out of the reach of small children. Never purchase lighters that operate without child-resistant safety features.
• Explain to kids why they should always bring found matches or lighters to an adult. Be sure that they understand the importance of doing this wherever they might find combustible materials.
• Teach your kids that firefighters are their friends. A home fire is very frightening, so you want your children to trust and take direction from first responders if necessary.
• Include the kids in any fire-proofing projects that you take care of around the house. Let them help you test smoke alarms and change the batteries.
• Share kid-friendly materials and fun publications that give children a better understanding of fire safety. Stay involved in their activities and reading so that the whole family can enjoy learning together.
Helping You Plan
We know that you understand the importance of preparing your family for emergencies before disaster strikes. It’s our hope that this post helps you develop action plans that can make a real difference in the case of a fire at your home. We value your feedback, so please share your thoughts and ideas with us in our Comments Section.
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