According to the United States Fire Administration, part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, one-third of residential fires that kill children are caused by children playing with flammable products, such as matches. In addition, a lack of working smoke alarms can significantly increase the chance of dying in a residential fire. However, by taking appropriate steps to make your home safe, you can protect your children and your family from fires:
- Keep flammable products, such as matches, lighters and candles locked and out of the reach of children.
- Install and maintain smoke alarms in your home.
- Maintain heating equipment: regularly have your furnace inspected, and turn off and unplug supplemental heaters when sleeping.
- Only burn logs in the fireplace with a fireplace screen in place to protect against sparks. Have your chimney cleaned and inspected yearly.
- Develop several fire escape plans from each room in the house and practice them regularly with your family.
- Make sure items such as clothing or blankets don't cover lamps that are turned on.
Warning regarding your child's sleepwear and fire safety
Snug-fitting sleepwear is less likely to come into contact with a flame and does not ignite as easily. Flame-resistant sleepwear is made from flame-resistant fabric or treated with flame retardants.
The family escape plan
In the event of a fire, it's important to get out of the house fast. However, small children can become frightened, disoriented, or react inappropriately when a fire occurs. By developing a family escape plan together, and practicing it repeatedly, your child will have a better chance of escaping a fire unhurt and alive. A good family escape plan should include the following:
- two escape routes from each room (in case one exit becomes blocked by the fire)
- a chain ladder for every upstairs bedroom
- a drawn floor plan of your home with arrows indicating escape routes
- repeated practice to familiarize yourself and your child with the escape plan
- an agreed-upon meeting place outside of the house
How to escape a fire
- Fast Exit - The key to escaping a fire in the home safely is to get out fast. Smoke, gas, or fire can kill within one minute. Leave valuables behind. Avoid being locked into your house, keep a key in or near any locks at night.
- Exit Low - Smoke and the heat from fire rise, so it's important to stay low. Crawl out of the house. Do not run or walk.
- Feel Doors - Always feel the door before opening a door. A hot door indicates fire on the other side. If a door is hot, place sheets or clothing under the door to prevent deadly smoke from entering the room.
- Window Exits - If the door exit is not an option, escape through a window (use the chain ladder if the window is upstairs). If the window is sealed, throw something heavy through the glass and protect yourself from the broken glass when exiting.
- Safe Meeting Place - Meet at an agreed-upon meeting place outside, such as the mailbox, to make sure everyone is out of the house.
- Call For Help - Go to a neighbor's house to call the fire department.
- Special Note - Never go back inside a burning house for any reason!
Identifying whether your child is at high risk
- If your child is five years of age or younger, he or she is at increased risk of being burned due to playing with matches, cigarette lighters, fires in fireplaces, barbecue pits and trash fires
- Children under five are also at increased risk of hurting themselves by tipping scalding liquids in the kitchen, scalding themselves in the bathtub or child abuse.
- The greatest number of pediatric burn patients are infants and toddlers younger than three years of age burned by scalding liquids.
- Boys between the ages of five and ten are at increased risk of burning themselves due to fire play and risk-taking behaviors.
- Girls between the ages of five and ten are at increased risk with most burn injuries likely to occur in the kitchen or bathroom
- Male adolescent peer-group activities involving gasoline or other flammable products increase the risk of injury and death among this youth group.
- Injury occurs most often in male adolescents involved in risk-taking behaviors and dares, such as climbing utility poles or antennas. In rural areas injury may be associated with moving irrigation pipes that touch an electrical source.