It’s summer — the season when building a good fire and roasting hot dogs or marshmallows is a given. We have quite a few fires in our backyard during the summer months. As my kids get older, it is definitely becoming more enjoyable because young kids and accidents seem to find each other on the regular.
Fire safety is something we all need to practice, whether we are indoors or outside and especially when we have curious children whose eyes are always on us. When our kids are around, it’s more important than ever to practice fire safety.
Here are five ways we can keep our family safe and prevent fire accidents:
1. Keep flammable or smoking materials out of reach.
There are items all over our homes that are flammable and dangerous whether we realize it or not. They’re not just the obvious things like lighters and matches. Anything that gets hot can be a threat, like a flat iron or space heater. Children should be at least 3 feet away from these items at all times, and when not in use, items should be stored out of their reach or in a locked drawer or cabinet. And if you are a candle lover like me, flameless candles are a great alternative to the real thing.
2. Have a family escape plan.
The U.S. Fire Administration says the best plan is knowing two ways out of every room in your home in case the door is not accessible. Make a map of your home, marking all of the designated escape routes, and practice with your family.
If you have very young children or babies, they will need to be woken up and carried out of the house if there is a fire at night. If you have more than one child, you should plan accordingly (for example, single parents should consider the most efficient way to get all children to safety, and when two parents are present, each parent should plan to rescue specific children).
The more solid the plan is, the less you will panic if there is a fire. You should also designate a meeting place where everyone goes as soon as they are safely outside so you don’t end up frantically searching. Remember to stress to your children how important it is to get out as soon as possible and to never re-enter a building when there is a fire.
If you live in a two-story home, you should have fire escape ladders, which can be hung in the windows. Another option (although ladders are highly preferable) is to tie two sheets together, then tie them to something heavy such as your bed, and lower yourself out of the building using the sheets.
3. Educate Your Kids.
It can be scary to talk about a plan of action if there is a fire, but we should prepare our children just the same; they need to know their address, how to call 911, and they should get out as soon as possible and run and get help from a neighbor. If they are the one to discover the fire first, by smelling smoke or hearing a smoke alarm they need to get to a trusted adult, fast.
4. Make sure you have smoke alarms and check the batteries twice a year.
If you don’t have smoke alarms in your home, your local fire department may offer them for free or at a reduced cost. You should have one on each level of your home as well as one outside of each bedroom. Make sure to check batteries once every six months.
5. Talk about fire safety often.
Just as we talk to our kids about other dangers, they need reminders about staying safe and having a plan in the event of a fire. Teach them to stop, drop, and roll. Talk about the dangers of open flames, and remind them that things like lighters and matches are not toys and can have serious consequences. Run through safety drills so everyone will feel confident and empowered to handle a scary situation. Have fire extinguishers in your home, and make sure that everyone knows where to find them and how to operate them in an emergency (but that they are not a toy).
6. Set some ground rules when you do have an outdoor fire.
Fires are super-exciting for little kids. They want to learn how things work and have no idea about the very real dangers of fire. The best thing to do is have a talk with kids before and during a fire. Explain how it can hurt them and its intended purpose, like roasting marshmallows or just relaxing and enjoying the spectacle from a safe distance. Setting up a barrier they cannot cross, such as a line of rocks, can help them stay within safe limits. Of course, constant adult supervision is also must. We all know how fast a toddler or young child can move, and scary things can happen in an instant.
Even if you have talked with your kids and childproofed your home, or think they are old enough to practice sound safety, that doesn’t mean fire prevention shouldn’t be taken seriously — because accidents can still happen. And as always, adult supervision is key.