In the winter there is nothing nicer than sitting around a cheery fire on a cold day or cuddling under a blanket warm from the dryer. But did you know that about half of all residential fires are reported between December and February every year? Fire safety is an important topic for children of all ages, especially those who live in a home with a fireplace or a clothes dryer. It is never too early or too late to start talking to your kids about fire prevention and what to do in the event of a fire. In this article we will outline the basics of children’s fire safety and provide tips on how you can help protect and empower your family.
Why Is This Important?
If your home contains a fireplace, the risk for a house fire may be obvious. However, residential fires are often started from seemingly innocuous places such as appliances, holiday decorations, or even the wiring running through your walls. According to the National Fire Protection Association, clothes dryers and cooking are two of the biggest causes of residential fires each year. This means your home is at risk even if you do not own a fireplace or outdoor fire pit! In the United States, a house fire occurs on average every 87 seconds, and a house fire can reach temperatures of over 1100 degrees F in less than five minutes. Don’t become a statistic – take action to make sure that every member of your family knows what to do in the event of a fire.
Fire Safety Tips: Start With Prevention
The first step that every homeowner should take to protect their homes and families is ensuring that working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are installed in every bedroom, outside of every sleeping area, and on each floor of your home. Combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are available and are a convenient option to ensure that you have early warning of either issue. After you ensure that your home has adequate smoke detector coverage, what are additional steps that you can take to teach your children fire safety? Read on for more suggestions!
Teach Fire Responsibility
All children have the capacity to learn that fire is dangerous, even if they are still toddlers. Start by teaching “hot” and “no touch” for fireplaces, stoves, matches, lighters, candles, and space heaters. In addition, ensure that younger children are kept at least three feet away from any heat source, and consider adding a physical barrier like a gate if your child is mobile. Even young children are able to recognize the sound of the smoke alarm – make sure they know that this means danger, and know what to do.
For older children, start talking with them about how house fires start and spread, and point out the risks around your household such as the stove, fireplace, and clothes dryer. There are many videos available online that have helpful visuals on how house fires spread – watch a few together and talk about what you see. Many children are not able to grasp how quickly and easily a fire can spread if they have not seen it, and videos are a great, safe place to start.
Home Fire Drills
One of the most important things you can do to help your family respond quickly and safely in the event of a house fire is to conduct fire drills in your home. That’s right; just like they do in schools! This is a tried-and-true method of increasing your chances of escaping a burning building safely. The practice is very important since in an emergency it can be difficult to remember plans and actions that you have never physically done before.
To get the kids excited about this practice, involve them in the planning! Identify a safe outdoor area as a gather point for family members who have escaped the building, and emphasize “don’t hide, go outside” to your children. You can draw a map of your home and have them trace the routes in fun colors, stir up some friendly competition in a “race to escape”, and provide some special toys or treats afterwards as a prize for completing the drill. Practice your home fire drills once a month with your children and they will be significantly more likely to remember how to escape and where to go.
Clear Action Steps
As we discussed earlier, it can be hard to remember what to do if your brain is in panic mode during an emergency. Having clear, concise action steps for your children to memorize can be a huge help in the event of a fire. We are all familiar with “stop, drop, and roll” and this is a fun one to practice with the whole family! “Don’t hide, get outside” is another easy phrase to remember, and you can create your own songs or phrases to remind them of the important things to know.
Check for Danger
Does your child know how to test a door to determine if there is a fire outside? Grabbing the knob without checking can result in nasty burns to their hands, as the doorknobs often conduct much more heat than the door itself. Practice testing doors with the back of their hand, and discuss what it means if the door feels warm or hot.
In The Dark
In a residential fire, the smoke can often be so thick that it is impossible to see your way out of a room. Though your home is your most familiar environment, it is tricky to navigate your way around without being able to see what is around you. Practice feeling your way to your exit points with your eyes closed or with a blindfold on so your children know what to expect if they cannot see to find their way.
Trust the Firemen
Even though firemen are a much-beloved childhood hero, the reality of a fireman in full gear can be much scarier. Children are often harder to find in a fire as they will naturally hide in scary situations, and they may not come out if they are frightened of the full body suit, hood, and mask. But did you know that most fire stations are fine with you dropping in with your children to learn more in-person? As long as they are not called out on an emergency, almost all firemen are happy to teach your children more about fire safety. If your child can watch a fireman put on the suit and take it off again to reveal a perfectly normal person, they will be much less frightened of them if they encounter a fireman during an emergency.
We hope that this article has helped you to feel more prepared to discuss fire safety with your children. The most important tips are to practice your home fire drills regularly, to ensure that everyone in the household has a clear plan in case of emergency, and to ensure that all of the necessary prevention steps are taken to ensure that your home is as safe as possible from the risk of any fire. Did you know that your dryer vent is one of the parts of your home that is most at risk of fire? Schedule an inspection with us today to make sure that your family is protected!