Don't Play with Matches: Kids and Fire Safety
Probably the most important thing our mothers repeated to us at children was the old adage: "Don't play with matches." It's almost become a joke in our culture, but the fact remains that 85% of all fire-related deaths occur at home. Teaching children about home fire safety is an important task that every parent faces. There are a couple areas to stress that will leave both you and your child feeling prepared and safe when it comes to an open flame.
1. Hot things burn.
Depending on the age of your children, it could be a great idea to print out a free coloring book produced by Sesame Street (Google it!), especially the page "Hot things burn." Identifying items like a hot stove, iron, or radiator remind kids that these items are not for play and can be dangerous. Children who know to stay away from items that are hot are less likely to be burned by thinking they are a new toy or something to play with.
2. Stop, drop, and roll.
This simple three-step method is the best way to teach your children about what to do if he or she catches fire. Safety programs in schools across the United States have been teaching it for years, and it sticks in kids' minds. Get them involved by having them act out how they would put out a fire on themselves or on their sibling.
3. When smoke alarms go off, there could be a fire nearby.
Sometimes kids are so used to seeing you disconnect the fire alarm when you accidentally burn something on the stove that they forget what it's really for. Explain that if the fire or carbon monoxide alarm goes off by itself, it means that there is smoke or a fire close by. If a smoke alarm does go off, teach your child to feel any closed doors to see if it is hot before he or she opens it. Teaching about fire alarms and showing your child what sound it makes can help them feel more prepared about what to do in case of a fire.
4. Have a fire escape plan and meeting point.
Gather your family together and create a fire plan. This plan should detail the main "fire exit" to a house, a meeting place outside the house, what to do for pets who live in the house and anything else relating, such as where the fire extinguisher and megaphone is in case you need them. For example, a family plan might be to exit via the front door and meet at the mailbox, where the older brother is responsible for bringing the family dog. In another household, the plan might be to leave through the fire escape and meet at a neighbor's house. The fire escape plan should also include an alternate exit in case the first is blocked, such as through a window or back door.
There are many online resources to help teach your child about fire safety. The US Fire Administration and KidsHealth.org are excellent places to start. If you take fire safety seriously, so will your child. Keep our kids safe!