Winter 2012-13
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Practice Fire Safety at Home


Each year, more than 3,500 Americans die in fires and approximately 18,300 are injured. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), one of the leading causes of residential building fire deaths and injuries for kids is playing with heat sources such as lighters and matches.

To help prevent this behavior, teach your kids at an early age about the dangers of fire:

  • Supervise young children closely. Do not leave them alone even for short periods of time.
  • Keep matches and lighters in a secured drawer or cabinet.
  • Have your children tell you when they find matches and lighters.
  • Check under beds and in closets for burned matches, evidence your child may be playing with fire.
  • Take the mystery out of fire by teaching children that it is a tool, not a toy.
  • Show children how to crawl low on the floor, below the smoke, to get out of the house and stay out in the case of fire.
  • Demonstrate how to stop, drop to the ground and roll if their clothes catch fire.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level in your home. Working smoke alarms dramatically increase your chances of surviving a fire.
  • Familiarize children with the sound of your smoke alarm.
  • Test the smoke alarm each month and replace the battery at least once a year.
  • Replace the smoke alarm every 10 years, or as recommended by the manufacturer.

Finally, when kids are in distress, they often go to a hiding place where they feel safe. Teach your kids not to hide during fires and not to hide from firefighters. Instead, USFA says kids should get out of the house quickly and call for help from another location.

Plan and Practice Your Home Fire Escape Plan

Once a fire starts, it can spread rapidly through a home, leaving as little time as two minutes to escape safely once the alarm sounds. Because of that, USFA has joined with Safe Kids Worldwide to encourage parents and kids to create a fire escape plan and to practice it with the entire family.

Safe Kids offers the following tips for planning and practicing how to escape from a home fire:

  • Make sure all windows and screens can be opened quickly.
    • Security bars should have a quick release device so you can open windows and doors in an emergency.
    • For upstairs windows, have an escape ladder that fits your windows. Make sure your children know that the escape ladder is for emergencies only and is not a toy.
  • Practice feeling the door, doorknob and cracks around the door with the back of your hand to see if it is too hot.
  • "Get low and go" if there is smoke when leaving the home.
  • Choose a safe place to meet in front of your home where you can be seen from the street.
  • Once out of the home, stay out.
  • Wait to call 911 until after you are out of the home.
  • Make sure your street number is clearly visible from the road.

Apartment buildings require extra steps:

  • Know all of your building's fire escape exits.
  • Use the stairs to get out when there is a fire, never the elevator.
  • If you don't hear the building's fire alarm, pull the nearest fire alarm "pull station" while leaving the floor.
  • If you encounter heavy smoke or flames as you leave, find another exit or return to your apartment.

If you cannot safely escape your home or apartment:

  • Stuff the cracks around the door and air vents with duct tape, towels or clothing.
  • Call 911 and tell them where you are located.
  • Open the window and signal for help with a sheet or flashlight.

Go to the Safe Kids Worldwide "Fire, Burn and Scald Prevention" web page for additional fire escape planning and practicing tips, as well as a fire escape worksheet (available in English and Spanish).

U.S. Fire Administration
Safe Kids Worldwide

Practice Fire Safety at Home

Good Health for Kids is produced by Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas.