Fires and burns are the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 14 and younger. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, an average of 462 children ages 14 and younger have died from residential fires each year since 1999.
Home fires account for nearly 90 percent of all fire-related fatalities. Children less than 5 are at the greatest risk from home fire death and injury. When a child less than 5 years of age dies from a residential fire, a smoke alarm is not working or not present in most of these occurrences.
Fire safety tips
The following are some fire safety tips to help make your home safe and protect your family from fires:
- Keep flammable products, such as matches, lighters and candles, locked away, and teach kids to never touch or play with such items.
- Install and maintain smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. The chances of dying in a residential fire can be cut in half when a smoke alarm is present and working.
- Test smoke alarms once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year.
- Replace smoke alarms every 10 years.
- Use an ionization alarm with a hush button or a photoelectric alarm within 20 feet of a cooking appliance.
- Don’t take batteries out of smoke alarms.
- Have your chimney cleaned and inspected every year.
- Don’t smoke in bed.
- Never leave cooking equipment unattended while in use.
- Make sure items such as clothing or blankets do not cover lamps that are turned on.
- Maintain heating equipment. Have your furnace inspected regularly and turn off and unplug supplemental heaters when sleeping.
- Burn only logs in the fireplace with a fireplace screen in place to protect against sparks.
- Develop at least two fire escape exits from each room in the house and practice them regularly with your family.
- Teach children to stop, drop to the ground and roll back and forth to put out flaming clothes.
- Teach your children to never go back into a burning building for anything, even a favorite toy or pet.
Fire escape plan
In the event of a fire, it is 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, children 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). Make sure all doors and windows to the outside open easily.
- A drawn floor plan of your home with arrows indicating escape routes.
- A fire escape plan that gets practiced at least twice a year, both day and night, with your family to familiarize yourself and your child with the escape plan.
- An agreed-upon meeting place outside of the house (like a tree, light or mailbox), at a safe distance from the home
How to escape a fire
- Fast exit. The key to escaping a home fire 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. As smoke and heat from fire rise, it is important to stay low. Crawl out of the house. Do not run or walk.
- Feel doors. Always feel the door before opening it. 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 door exit is not an option, escape through a window (use a 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!