Tragically, house fires affect people all over the country and world every day. In fact, on average, seven people per day will become victims of house fires across the U.S. Three out of five of those deaths occurred in houses that did not have working smoke alarms. Imagine how many lives might have been saved if they had only changed their alarm batteries or installed a fire alarm in the first place.
We use fire, in one form or another, to heat our homes and to cook our food. In the winter, we may enjoy the comforting warmth of a controlled fire in our fireplace. However, accidents can and do happen.
A fire can quickly go from being a convenient way to heat a home or cook a meal to a devastating disaster if left unchecked. It’s important we do everything we can to keep that from happening.
You can enlist the help of your children in preventing fires by teaching them basic fire safety rules. It’s not necessary to frighten them too much, but it’s important to make them aware of how dangerous fires and anything flammable can be. Teach your children the three Ps of fire safety: prevent, plan and practice.
Keep matches, lighters and flammable liquids out of reach of children. If they are old enough to have seen you light a match or lighter, try to nip the curiosity in the bud by demonstrating how they work. Fire safety for preschoolers can never start too early.
Try not to make fire seem “fun.” Just demonstrate what a lit match does and how quickly the flame can spread. Ignite a paper towel or piece of paper outside as an example, and explain that they are never to light a match without your permission and supervision. Have a bucket of water nearby in case you need it to extinguish the flames.
If you have a fireplace, be sure it is screened to keep hot embers from popping out onto the carpeting. Make sure you have a smoke alarm. Test it every month or so and change the batteries twice per year. You could pick daylight saving time so you never have to question if you changed them or not, or choose another specific date if it will help you remember better.
Have a fire extinguisher installed in your kitchen and familiarize yourself with how to use it. Make sure it is rated for all types of fire. Grease fires, electrical fires and wood-based fires all require different means to put them out.
Walk your children through the kitchen and explain to them how the stove, oven, toaster and other appliances can cause fires. Teach them to never turn any of these items on and to never put anything in the toaster or on top of the stove.
Over 40 percent of fires start in the kitchen. If you practice cooking with your children, make sure they understand they are only to do this when you are present and able to supervise them.
Over 20 percent of fires start in the bedroom. This is mostly due to the unsafe practice of smoking in bed. Teach your kids not to smoke at all, but if smoking is part of your family, stress that the adults in the home will never smoke in bed. Explain the obvious reason why: Falling asleep in bed with a lit cigarette can quickly evolve into burning sheets and a house fire.
Devise and practice an escape plan in case of a fire. Since you don’t get to decide where a fire is going to start, have alternate routes planned throughout the house, and practice using those as well. You want to find the quickest and most direct way out of the house with the fewest obstacles as possible. Revise routes that don’t meet these criteria.
Test smoke alarms will having your children practice the escape routes. It will be loud, so it may startle and frighten them the first few times. If you have older kids, ask them to lead the younger ones. Stress fire safety for toddlers, too. Try calling your escape procedure a “fire dance” or something else child-friendly and memorable to them.
Teach them to “stay low and go.” They want to be low to the ground because smoke will fill a room and rise as the fire burns. Staying low means cleaner air and less smoke.
Half of house fires happen between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when people are sleeping. It may be completely dark when your house is on fire, so practice after the sun sets, and keep a store of flashlights at known spots around the house. You never know how much time you have to get out.
Hopefully, you will never have to face a house fire. However, small accidents can become large fires if we aren’t prepared to deal with them. Prevent, plan and practice with your family, and especially with your children.
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