Do your kids know what to do if there is a fire in your home? While thinking about emergencies can be uncomfortable or scary for children, knowing how to prevent house fires and react if one occurs can make sure everyone in your family stays safe. These tips will help you start the conversation with your children about fire safety in the home.
1. Play Firefighter
If your children are very young, the concept of a fire destroying their home and threatening the lives of their loved ones can be scary and even difficult to understand. Start by teaching them about firefighters. Read books about firefighters and firetrucks, and get a play firefighter hat or coat to roleplay with. In your playing, teach them that fires are dangerous and are emergencies that can sometimes happen in homes. As part of your play, you might demonstrate house exit routes or how to act in the event of a fire.
2. Teach Children About Smoke Detectors
Teach your children what to do when they hear the smoke alarm sound. Show them where the smoke detectors are in your home, and test them to demonstrate what they sound like. High smoke detector sensitivity may mean that everyday activities such as cooking or steamy showers might set yours off even when there isn’t an emergency. Teach your children to be prepared for situations like this, but to never ignore a smoke alarm sounding and to always look for an adult if they hear it going off.
Working smoke detectors reduce the chance of house fire fatalities by 50 percent. Make sure to change your smoke detector batteries every year, and let your children help you. Install one on every floor of the house and in every bedroom.
3. Find and Practice Exit Routes
Plan an exit route from every room in the house and teach your children how to follow them. Tell children that in the event of a fire, they want to get out of the house into fresh air as quickly as possible, and tell them not to head back into the house for any reason.
Second story bedrooms should have windows that are easily opened and screens that are easily removed by adults and older children. Store a rope ladder near the window, and practice opening windows and getting down the ladder. Teach kids to feel their way through the home in the dark by turning it into a game: use blindfolds and create an obstacle course to see who can make it out of the house fastest.
4. Avoid Items that Can Start Fires
Don’t store or place matches, lighters, fireworks, or any dangerous materials where young children can reach them. Teach your kids to avoid these items and tell you if they find any.
5. Smoke Safety
Inhaling smoke can cause lung damage and reduce oxygen intake, making it harder to escape. Smoke rises to the top of a room, usually leaving clearer air underneath, so teach your kids to crawl close to the ground when escaping a house fire. They may also use a cloth or towel to cover their mouths while escaping.
6. Check Doors for Heat
Instruct children to touch doors and handles before opening. If the door is hot, find another way out. Don’t open a hot door—this could cause the fire to spread.
7. Stop, Drop, and Roll
Teach kids that if their clothing is on fire, they need to stop—not run—and then drop to the ground and roll to extinguish the fire.
Review this information regularly with your children. Teaching them over and over will help the escape routes and fire safety to sit at the top of their minds. Again, make it a part of play to avoid scaring them and help them remember everything. Preparing your children for the unthinkable will increase your family’s chances of staying safe during a house fire.