A report from the National Fire Prevention Association shows that 49,300 fires are started each year. Most of these fires are started by children playing with fire, who knows very little or nothing about the damage it can cause.
As humans, it is easy to assume that a tragic event will never happen to us or our loved ones. But if we don’t take proactive measures to keep our homes safe and inform our kids about the various hazards in a home, we may wake up to a heartbreaking, tragic, but preventable disaster.
According to the USFA children below the age of five have a much higher risk of dying in a home fire especially when compared to kids in other age groups. The reason for this is obvious- young kids aren’t capable of exiting a home in the event of a fire or understanding the dangers posed by fire. So, parents must take precautions in their homes and teach their kids all there is to know about fire safety.
In this article, we are going to be taking a close look at some important fire safety tips for kids, fun ways parents can teach their kids about fire safety and how parents can make their home fireproof.
Introducing fire safety to your kids
As you know, kids don’t know how to react in an emergency situation and aren’t really aware of the repercussion of their actions. If you are a parent, you have to do all you can to keep your child safe. One way you can do this is by teaching him or her about fire safety and steps to take when there is a fire.
Understanding the danger
Generally, kids aren’t really sure how to react to fires and may even hide from them instead of fleeing to safety. But if you are able to teach them about some basic fire safety facts and tell them in a fun way the exact steps to take or things to do to be safe, they will be able to protect themselves, even when you are not around.
Below are some facts you need to keep in mind;
- Boys are more likely to start a fire or be injured by it than girls. And this is because boys are more inclined to engage in risky activities.
- More than 50% of fire-related deaths happen to kids below 4 years old.
- Fire injuries increase in early teens or Adolescence.
The right way to bring up the topic
While you don’t want to scare the living daylight out of your kids or sound like you are telling a horror story, you have to make sure that they clearly understand the dangers associated with fire and the damage uncontrolled fire could cause.
Instead of bombarding your kids with the intricate details about fires, start small and talk about basic fire safety. Talk about the subject often so that it will become second nature to them.
Also, teach your kids about fire-fighters and the role they play. By focusing on these child-friendly icons, you are indirectly reinforcing the general ideas about fire safety.
Make it fun
See, you don’t have to be too serious or dramatic when teaching your kids about fire safety, as doing this will scare them away. Try to make the discussion or the learning process fun. And remember that anything practiced in a play or a fun way has the power to become a habit. If for instance, if you practice safe escape routes in your home as part of a fire fighting game; your kids might actually take those routes when there is a real fire.
Next, we are going to be looking at some fire safety tips that will keep kids out of harm’s way in the event of a fire.
Fire safety tips for kids
Never play with a lighter or matches
This is definitely one of the most important fire safety tips for little kids. Take time to teach your little ones that matches and lighters aren’t toys and that they should stay away from them. Keep in mind that you may have to tell your kids about the damage a lighter or a matches can cause before it will finally sink in. if your kids are less than five, then you should always keep your lighter far from the reach of your kids.
Don’t leave candles unattended to
While this is a tip for older kids, it won’t hurt to teach them that when they are still little, leaving a candle or heat sources unattended to or exposed is a recipe for disaster. Extinguish candles and turn off your heater whenever you are leaving a room.
Before discarding extinguished matches, run water under it
As you know, children learn best by example. So when they see you run a match under water before tossing it into the bin or trash, they will do the same in the future.
Never play near stoves or fireplaces
Playing near a fire source may be fun and harmless until a piece of clothing gets caught near the open fire. Teach your kids never to play close to a stove or fireplaces. Also, don’t allow your kids to run around or play in the kitchen especially when you are cooking, as they can accidentally toss the content of your pot on themselves or on you.
Don’t overload a socket
Today, kids have more access to electronic devices than ever before. When the battery of these devices becomes low, they are definitely going to plug it in. Teach your kids not to plug too many electronic devices into a socket or an outlet. Teach your younger kids to ask you before they plug a new device into a socket.
Keep combustible materials far away from fire source
When teaching your kids how to cook, make sure they keep combustible materials like oven mitts, dishwasher towels at a good distance away from an exposed fire source. Remember that it only takes a second for these materials to catch fire and cause serious damage.
Teach your kids about fire safety
As a parent, you have a lot to deal with. From going to the grocery store to cleaning your home, you have your plates full of important things you do on a daily basis. Regardless of how busy you are or how tight your schedule is, you have to make out time to teach your kids about fire safety and steps they can take to prevent a fire. The more they know about the damage a fire can cause, the less likely they are going to start a fire.
Keep your home fireproof
It is your responsibilities as a parent to reduce the fire hazards in your home. Use solid metal gates to keep your kids away from your stove and fireplace. As previously mentioned store matches and lighters away from the reach of your kids. Don’t allow your kids to play with candles until they are old enough and have a complete grasp of the damage it poses. On an important note, practice what you preach. So, if you don’t want your kids to play with fire, you should not play with fire as well, especially in front of your kids.
Generally, when kids are faced with a scary situation, they usually tend to run and hide. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that, but it isn’t really a smart move or the best course of action in the event of a fire. Tell your kids to never hide under the bed, a closet or anywhere at all when there is a fire, as they could easily become trapped in these areas. Instruct your kids to find a safe way to leave the house when there is a fire and call the authorities afterward.
Leave your possessions
Just like adults, kids are attached to some of their possession (toys or books). So when there is fire, they may want to quickly get these things before heading out to safety. Teach them way in advance that their precious toys, books, doll or plaything can be replaced but their lives cannot be. Tell them to leave everything behind, regardless of how attached they are to it. And assure them that you will replace anything they lost in the event of a fire. This way, it will be easier for them to leave everything behind and hurry to safety.
Don’t use the elevator
Help your kid understand that the elevator can be a very dangerous place when there is a fire. If you leave in an apartment where there is an elevator, it is important that you teach your kids how to access the stairs.
Call the authorities
Instruct your kids to run to your neighbour’s house or a safe place that is close by or call 911 when there is a fire. Buttress the importance of them getting out first before calling 911.
If a fire alarm happens to go off in your home, teach your kids to get low and leave quickly. Carefully explain the dangers of smoke and make sure that they know how to crawl to safety.
Demonstrate how to escape
Tell your children multiple ways to escape from their rooms and get out of the house as quickly as possible. Ensure that your kids can escape through a window. Place a ladder or a rope close to the windows in your home way in advance so that everybody can escape with relative ease.
Stimulate a fire situation and carefully observe how your kids respond. If you notice anything off, or they make many wrong decisions, you can easily point it out to them later on. Also, try blindfolding them and watch as they navigate their way out of the house. When there is a fire, your home is likely going to be dark. If your kids can find their way out of the house while wearing blindfolds, it will be easy for them as well to leave the house quickly and run to safety when there is a fire.
Teach them about fire alarms
The result of some studies that was conducted not too long ago shows that some kids don’t know what a fire alarm does. Ensure that your little ones know the function of a fire alarm and how to recognize the noise or sound they make. Do well to check the batteries in your alarm twice a year and have an expert test it every now and then.
Never go back into the building
Your kids may have a strong urge to run back into the building perhaps to collect their favourite toys, books or games; tell them in advance never to do this. Also, instruct them not to linger around the house, but rather run to the meeting point.
Are the doors hot?
Tell your children never to open doors if they are hot. The reason for this is because hot doors can cause a fire to spread to other areas.
Children must never touch hot doors or door handles with their hands and if they must, to use a towel. Also, they should cover their face with a towel to protect their respiratory system.
Practice fire safety monthly
Unlike adults, children tend to forget things easily. To prevent your kids from forgetting life-saving fire safety tips, you have to make them practice fire safety drills and review safety tips monthly. This way, what you have taught them will always remain fresh in their brain.
Easy ways to teach your kids about fire safety
No doubts, fire safety is important and should be taken seriously by kids and adults alike. But this doesn’t mean that you should be overly serious when talking about the topic with your kids. Remember that your goal is to teach your little ones how to escape from fire safety, not to make them scared or terrified when there is a fire outbreak.
By tailoring lessons and fun activities around the fire safety, kids will be more inclined to learn about the subject.
Below are some fun ways to teach your kids about fire safety;
Since kids are sometimes frightened by individuals in uniforms (fire-fighters included), you should carefully plan a trip to the local fire station in your area and introduce them to the fire-fighters. Do well to call the stations and schedule an appointment way in advance, so that staff and the uniformed fire-fighter can spend some time with your kids. Keep in mind that your appointment with them could change if there happen to be an emergency or a fire somewhere.
Read books about fire safety to your kids. Tell them about the purpose of fire trucks and fire stations. There are a lot of books on the market about fire safety that you can buy for your kids to read on their own- here are a few of them; Adventures in the Roo World, No dragon for tea: fire safety for kids.
Figuring out the meeting spot
Have your kid’s brainstorm where they should meet once they leave the house in the event of a fire. A fun way to do this is to have your kids sit in a circle whisper to the first one, who will then pass it to the next one, as to the meeting place. Sound the alarm, watch as your kids race to the meeting place. Go find them after a couple of minutes.
Find the exit sign
Take a walk around your kid’s school or plan an outing with your kids and hunt for Exit signs. Keep a record of the signs found. If possible, turn the lights off in the area or building you are in and let your kids see the EXIT signs remain clearly lit and explain to them why. To reinforce this, have your kids make their own safety signs as a fun project.
Find the smoke detectors
Let your kids take a close look at smoke detectors and even touch it. Make a fun counting game and have them count the number of smoke detectors in your home. Also, tell them about the function of a smoke detector and what to do when the detector alarm is triggered.
Plan a fire drill
This is a fun indoor activity that will prepare your child for a real fire. Assign one of your kids to ring a bell and shout Fire! Fire! While he or she is doing this, the other of your kids should navigate through the roadblocks and obstacles you have set up. Keep things interesting by tapping off the easiest route out and have them figure out another way out.
Stop, drop and roll
This is a fun way to teach your kids what to do if their cloth happens to catch fire. You can also incorporate the game-“Stay Low and Go” into your fire safety plan. Start by pressing an alarm (any sound would do) and let your kids practice these invaluable skills as fast as they can. Make sure you explain why they should stay low and the right time to stop drop and roll. Tell them to cover their faces when rolling.
Protecting your home
The Federal Emergency Management Agency in conjunction with the (USFA) United States Fire Administration and the National Safe Kids Campaign, recommend 3 P’s of fire safety to kids below five years of age.
Practice: Regularly practice a home fire evacuation plan and basic fire safety practices
Prepare: Remove hazards to reduce the risk of fires in your home or building
Prevent: Take action every day to prevent the unthinkable.
In this section of this article, we are going to be looking at some important things parents should do to reduce fire threats as well as the odds of their home catching fire.
Install smoke alarms
According to the NFPA, more than 50% of fire deaths in 2010-2014 occurred in homes and buildings with no smoke alarms. While there are numerous steps you could take and things you could do to reduce fire hazards, there is very little you can do to accurately predict and prevent your home kitchen equipment or a wiring malfunction that could lead to a raging fire. With a working smoke alarm, you can be sure of being alerted when there is smoke from a socket or wiring any time of the day.
If you don’t have smoke detectors installed in your home, quickly contact your local fire department as they may offer them at a discount price or even for free. Alternatively, you can opt for wireless fire alarms that are interconnected and will sound all the alarms in the home when there is a problem in one area or other parts of the home. Those few seconds can be enough to save the precious lives of your little kids.
Below are some recommendations from the USFA to install and update smoke detectors;
- Replace some detectors every 8-10 years even if they are still working.
- Install a smoke alarm on every floor of your apartment. (Including the basement)
- Install a smoke detector outside every sleeping area in your home. (Just to be safe, install one in every sleeping area as well)
- Do well to test your smoke alarms at least twice a year. Change the batteries in them every six months to ensure that they are working properly. If you lack the skill or the technical know-how to install, inspect, and test your smoke detector, then you should hire an expert to help you out.
Reducing fire threats
According to Ready.gov, it takes at about two minutes (or less) for a small fire to transition into a wild uncontrollable and life-threatening fire and five minutes for a fire to consume an entire home.
As you know, prevention isn’t 100% guarantee especially when it comes to residential fires, but there are a handful of precautions you can take to keep your kids safe and reduce fire hazards.
Below are some recommendations to address fire hazards and protect your family and loved ones from a residential fire;
This is especially important in the cooking area where sponges, paper towels, dish towels, and other items that can catch fire if placed close to a fire source like a stove or an electric cooker. But it is also important in other parts of the home. For instance, clothing piled up against a gadget or home appliances that emanate heat can also pose a fire hazard. To ensure safety, keep combustible materials three to five meters ways from a heat source like stove burner.
Don’t over overload wall sockets, extension cords, and electric outlets
Plugging several appliances into a single socket or extension is a recipe for disaster as it could malfunction and start a small fire.
Don’t leave candles unattended
A candle can fall for numerous reasons, lighting up curtains, carpets, and even furniture. Do you know that a candle can start a home fire if it is allowed to burn too low? Don’t let the protective glass that most scented candles come with make you overlook the risk they pose. If a candle is allowed to burn too low, its protective glass may shatter.
Inspect your heat sources regularly
Whether you are using a coal stove, an oil furnace, a wood stove or any other heat source for your cooking, it is important that you inspect and clean it regularly; this is because doing this can reduce the odds of a malfunction which may lead to a fire. Also, a cooking stove should never be a primary heating source in your home.
Don’t smoke indoors or in areas where portable oxygen is used
As you probably know, Portable oxygen is extremely flammable. In fact, it is as explosive as propane and can burn very quickly. The air we breathe contains roughly about 20% oxygen. Portable oxygen, on the other hand, contains 100% oxygen. Sadly, fires related cases started by portable oxygen have caused many fatal burns and unfortunate deaths over the last couple of years.
Using old appliances
Most people opt for old appliances because they are often sold at a cheap price. Before purchasing them, you need to keep in mind that they aren’t made to par with modern safety standards. This means that a vintage stereo or record player is a potential fire hazard. Of course, you have the freedom to purchase any vintage item you want, but please, don’t plug them in or use them.
Only use space heaters that are certified by the UL (Underwriters Laboratory)
To ensure safety, it is best that you don’t use space heaters at all. But if for some reason you have to, ensure that it is of high quality and is certified. Also, keep flammable solids and liquid at least five meters away from the appliances. Don’t forget to check in with your local authorities to find out if it is legal to use it in your area.
Regularly inspect and maintain your cloth dryer
Make it your routine to clean the lint catcher every now and then. If you ignore this, lint and other particles will slowly build up in the vent system (very close to where the heating system is located) and likely cause fires. Having your cloth dryers professionally cleaned and inspected annually will go a long way in reducing fire risks.
If your garage has a small workstation or workshop, where there are sawdust accumulation and heating appliances like a wood stove, kerosene heater, and coal stove- there is a fire risk. As you know, sawdust is combustible, so you should use a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner like this one here to remove as much of it as possible.
Replace faulty electrical outlets
Faulty electrical outlets are one of the main causes of residential fires. If a plug fall out or seems slightly loose, chances are that the blades embedded in them have loosened. Loose blades often create excessive heat which may start a fire.
Have at least one working fire extinguisher in your apartment
You should have at least one fire extinguisher in your kitchen, as fires may likely occur from cooking and other hazards in the kitchen areas.
Install arc-fault circuit interrupters in your home.
These high tech gadgets are designed to pick up electrical arcs that are usually caused by loose connection of wires or poor insulation and halt them from causing a fire.
Creating a fire safety escape plan
To increase the odds of you and your kids surviving a home fire, it is critical that you create a fire safety escape plan. While creating the plan may not really be a walk in the park, it will go a long way in protecting your family in the event of a fire emergency.
Keep the ability of your children in mind when putting the plan together. And practice it with them on a regular basis. Below are some recommendations by FEMA;
- Draw a clear diagram of your home and plan two or more escape routes.
- Remove debris and toys from the exits
- Practice regularly
- Have a safe meeting place outside your property. It should be close enough for your kids to easily run to, but far enough from your home that your kids will be safe even if the building collapses.
- Keep the doors in your kid’s room closed. This will drastically slow down the time it will take for the smoke from other parts of your home to enter your kid’s room.
- Consider installing a fire sprinkler in your home especially if you have kids below 2 years of age. These high tech devices can quickly detect fires, trigger an alarm and activate sprinklers, which in turn will douse flames, providing a few extra seconds for you and your kids to evacuate your home.
- During your fire escape practice, use different scenarios and practice rescuing your little kids through different methods.
- Ensure that the escape windows in your home can be removed easily and aren’t stuck.
- In addition to the door, add an additional escape route in your home, find an alternative escape route like a window that leads to a safe location.
Important steps to take in the event of a fire
Do you know that smoke and heat are more dangerous than the flames in a fire? Smoke inhalation can cause serious lung damage or other respiratory conditions. People are 2 times likely to die from lung damage or asphyxiation than burns during a fire. Carbon monoxide, a toxic gas that is released during the burning process can lead to death.
The first and most important action to take when your home or property is on fire is to escape. Smoke and other poisonous gases usually accumulate close to the ceiling. So teach your kids to crawl through hallways and rooms to reduce exposure to it. If you are with a baby while you are navigating towards an exit, firmly hold the infant close to your body with one arm. This will serve as a shield for the toddler if something should fall on you as you flee to safety. Also, keep the infant as close to the floor as possible to reduce smoke and toxic gas inhalation.
If you aren’t able to evacuate your home, perhaps because the fire has engulfed all available exit routes, find a room with a window and stay there. Use cloth or tape to cover cracks to keep smoke and toxic gasses out. Equip your bedroom and that of your kids with flashlights. If you or your little one happens to be trapped, you can easily use the flashlight to alert firemen of your location through the windows in the room. Do well to teach your kids how to use flashlights to alert fire-fighters as well.
Teach your kids to lie on the floor while shining the flashlight. This will keep your kids close to the ground where there is little smoke accumulation.
If your kids’ clothing happens to catch fire and they aren’t able to drop to the ground and roll, use a towel or blanket to quench the flame. If you can, quickly treat the burns with cool water for 2 to 5 minutes and cover with a clean cloth.
How to help your kids cope after a home fire
While babies and toddlers may be too young to recall home fires, younger kids, on the other hand, are emotionally affected after the event. As a parent, you should do all you can to help your kids cope with the loss of their home, toy and prized possessions and in the worst cases, the death of a sibling or a family member.
On a general note, young kids usually have a hard time grasping the fact that toys and properties can be replaced, but people cannot. After a fire incident, your toddlers may experience, fear, insecurity, and confusion.
Below are some possible ways children will respond after a fire disaster;
- Fear of the dark, sleep disturbance and nightmares.
- Bedwetting, regression, and other atypical behaviour.
- Pains and aches
- Acting out, anger and tantrums
Even if your child wasn’t around during the fire incidence, he or she may still be affected by the event. The loss of a favourite stuffed animal or blanket may cause distress and confusion. Do all you can to help your child navigate his grief and if your child doesn’t get over the ordeal after some time, you should consult a professional psychologist.
Below are some easy but effective ways to help your kids cope after a home fire;
- Answer all their questions
- Praise and reward your kid’s positive behaviour
- Give your kid a chance to express his or her feelings.
- Establish a new routine as soon as you can
- Provide physical affection (hugs)
- Keep your kids informed of upcoming changes that you are going to make.
Home fires can have serious emotional and physical consequences and the aftermath can take a while for young kids to overcome. The best way to protect your kids is by preventing home fires in the first place. Keep in mind that no precaution is too minute or insignificant when it comes to fire safety.
Make an effort to teach your kids about fire safety and regularly practice a fire escape plan with them. Also, follow strictly the fire prevention practices discussed in this article and prepare your kids for the right actions to take in the event of a fire.