Fire Safety

  • Never eat, drink, or carry anything hot near or while holding a baby or a small child.
  • Don’t cook when your child is at your feet. Use a playpen, high chair, or crib as a safety area for small children while you are preparing food.
  • Use the rear burners on your stove, and keep the pan handles out of reach.
  • Check formula, food, and drink temperatures carefully.
  • Keep hot appliances and cords out of the reach of children.
  • Do not allow your child to use the stove, microwave, hot curlers, curling iron, or steam iron until he or she is old enough to learn how to do so safely.
  • Install and maintain smoke detectors in accordance with fire regulations in your area. If they are not wired directly into your home’s electrical system, check smoke detector monthly and replace batteries annually.
  • Provide nonflammable barriers around heating surfaces and fireplaces.
  • Teach your child to drop and roll on the ground if his clothing catches fire.
  • Have your heating system checked annually.
  • If there are one or more tobacco smokers in the family, they should not be allowed to smoke inside the home.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
  • Have a working fire extinguisher near the kitchen, but instruct your child not to play with it. However, older children and adolescents should be taught how to use it in an emergency.
  • Do not permit your child to possess or play with fireworks.

Smoke Detectors

Residential fires kill about 5,000 people every year in the United States, and the majority of these fatalities result not from burn injuries but from inhalation of smoke and toxic gases. Death usually occurs at night, when the victim is sleeping. Properly installed and maintained smoke detectors could prevent many of these deaths. Smoke detectors are considered the best and least expensive warning systems because they can alert people in a home before the fire ignites, before the concentration of smoke reaches a dangerous level, or before a fire becomes extremely intense. The risk of dying from a fire-related incident is twice as high in home without functioning smoke detectors as in a home with them.

Smoke detectors can be wire directly into a home’s electrical system, or they may be battery powered, in which case fresh batteries should be installed at least once a year. Each smoke detector should be tested regularly in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure it is operating properly.

At least one detector should be installed on each floor of a multistory home, preferably each bedroom so that sleeping residents will be given early warning in the event of a fire. Local fire regulations and/or building codes may specify that more smoke detectors must be installed for a particular home’s floor plan.

Fire and Disaster Preparation

Hopefully you will never have to deal with a major fire in your home, but some basic preparation can prevent confusion and panic should one occur. Cover the following details with your children:

  • Using 911. (Call only after you’ve left the burning building.)
  • Water and tub safety.
  • Staying low to the ground when smoke is present.
  • Avoiding opening any doors that are hot to the touch.
  • Escaping through a window (including the use of a chain ladder in a multistory home).
  • Discussing what firefighters may look like in their full gear. (Unless prepared ahead of time, children might be frightened by the bulky shapes with face masks and axes or other tools; hiding from the firefighters could be disastrous.)

Fire Escape Route

  • Getting help from neighbors.
  • Agreeing on a meeting place if family members have different escape routes.
  • Practicing family fire drills.

Make sure that your home address is clearly visible from the street. If possible, have the numbers neatly painted on the curb-side as well.

While you are talking about your family’s response to a fire, you should also go over contingency plans for any possible natural disaster (earthquake, flood, tornado, and hurricane) that might occur where you live. Include instructions as to whom you or your children might contact in case communications are disrupted. (It may be easier to get in touch with a relative across the country, who could serve as a communication center for the family.)