When talking about home fire safety, it is important to include everyone in your household. Children under five are twice as likely to die in a home fire than the rest of the US population, and an estimated 300 people a year are killed due to children playing with fire. Taking a few simple, but important preventative steps can help bring those numbers down.
Simply keeping lighters, matches, and candles away from children is one easy way to prevent home fires. Explain to younger kids that fire can be dangerous. Invest in lighters that have child-resistant features on them and flameless electric candles. If you must have real candles, be sure to place it in areas where children cannot reach or accidentally knock them over.
It is also important to make sure children are included in home fire escape plans. Show children what the smoke detectors in your home sound like and what to do if one goes off. Practice your two-minute escape plan with everyone in your household, including children. Make sure everyone knows the best way to get out of each room in your home, and where to meet up outside. Consider getting escape ladders for second and third floor rooms. Also think about getting quick-release devices for barred windows and doors. Make sure children know how to use all safety equipment.
For children who are too young to self-rescue designate someone in your household to make sure they get out of the house in the event of a fire. It can be beneficial to choose a person who sleeps close to the child in need of rescue in case the fire happens at night. Make sure everyone in your household knows who the designated rescue person is so that more than one person does not try and rescue the same child.
Children may be concerned about family pets or special items when it comes to home fires. It is important to emphasize that we NEVER go back into a burning building. It can be helpful to explain to kids that the firefighters will always look for people missing in a home fire first. If you go back in to rescue a pet and get trapped yourself, it may take the firefighters longer to rescue your pet.
After a disaster, children may display some common behaviors. Anxiety, regression from milestones, sleep issues, or clinginess and separation anxiety may occur. Knowing that these behaviors are normal and that your child may require some extra reassurance and comfort in this time is beneficial. As the adult in their lives, you can stay positive with words and actions, try to keep at least one routine in your day the same as before the disaster, and make sure to take care of yourself so you can be there for the children in your life.
For more information contact your local Red Cross chapter about preparedness education classes. Prepare with Pedro is designed for K-2nd grade, while the Pillowcase Project is for 3-5th grade students. You can also “Become A Preparedness Champion” online at https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/teaching-kids-about-emergency-preparedness/prep-champion.html