Fire Safety for Kids: 21 Fire Prevention Experts Share Their Top Tips to Keep Kids and Families Safe from Home Fires
by SSF | Last Updated Mar. 2nd, 2016
There are many things in the world today that parents work hard to protect our children from. Fortunately for many of us, our home is a place that provides a safe haven, shielding our children from many dangers. But as many parents and homeowners know, there can be real dangers within the home as well: one of the most dangerous of them all is a home fire.
According to a recent report by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 366,600 home structure fires each year between 2007-2011. Tragically, these fires caused an estimated average of 2,570 deaths and 13,210 injuries to civilians of all ages.
Since we here at Safe Sound Family pride ourselves on providing valuable home safety information for families, we wanted to learn more about the important topic of home fire safety. We specifically wanted to find some expert tips from parents and fire safety experts on what to do to ensure your child is safe in the case of a home fire. To do this, we asked 21 parents and fire safety experts to answer this question:
What’s the #1 most important tip you can share to keep kids safe from home fires?”
We’ve collected and compiled their expert advice into this comprehensive guide on home fire safety. See what our experts said below:
Meet Our Panel of Home Fire Safety Experts:
Fire Captain Brent Faulkner has 17 years experience in the fire service. During this time he has responded to numerous emergency situations including structure fires, wildland fires, hazardous materials responses, emergency medical situations, and numerous types of rescues. He has served on a Type 1 Hazardous Materials Response Team for over 10 years and is an expert in Critical Infrastructure Protection as it relates to terrorism, general security, and natural disasters. He also specializes in Emergency Preparedness for Homeowners and Businesses. He has a Masters Degree in Management, a Bachelors Degree in Occupational Studies and an Associates Degree in Hazardous Materials Response and another in Fire Science and is a Managing Partner in MBIntel, LLC, a website dedicated to providing high quality, customized information regarding home safety, security, and emergency preparedness.
The #1 most important tip I can share to keep children safe from home fires is…
Do not rely on the fire training they receive at school for your home.
Children receive excellent training at school regarding fire safety. However, this training does not necessarily mean children are able to evacuate their own homes during a fire. Most school settings are very different from the home. There are no lines painted on the ground or maps posted on the walls telling them where to go. A fire at school would be during the day, and the children are usually in groups, but at home it could be dark and the child might need to evacuate alone. It is therefore very important that families have their own fire training sessions, focused on their home.
A gradual approach to training your children is best. The first step is to plan two ways out of every room in the house. Physically walk the house as a family identifying these two exits. Then practice using these escape routes in a fun, non-threatening environment.
Once everyone knows how to get outside, a family meeting place should be identified. A tree, neighbor’s house or a mailbox are good choices. Identify a single spot where you will all meet. This is important to quickly account for all members of your home.
The smoke detectors in your home sound very different to the fire alarms at school. Let your children hear it a few times, and then practice going to the family meeting place. Once they have done this a few times, tell them you might sound it any time and they are to evacuate just like they would in a real fire. Depending on their ages, you may need to practice quite frequently. Having a practiced home fire plan is the most important thing you can do for your children regarding fire safety.
Keli Wilson is the Founder and Director of Communications for AlertID, a social network that makes public safety information universally accessible via smartphone and email. She founded the company after being separated from her three children at an amusement park in 2009 for nearly an hour, at which point she realized there had to be a better resource for parents to keep their children safe. She has a dual bachelor’s degree in pre-medicine and biology from the University of Nevada, and has received numerous awards from law enforcement, including the Drug Abuse Resistance Education, an international education program that helps children stay off drugs.
I can think of lots of tips to help keep kids safe from home fires, but my most important tip is to…
Take all measures to eliminate the risk of a fire starting in your home.
The first step is to install and test smoke alarms on each level of your residence. This simple step can reduce your chance of dying from a fire by half. The next step is to review and practice escape routes with your family – you might not be able to get to your child in the event of a home fire, and it’s imperative that they know how to escape on their own.
Next, make sure matches and lighters are stored up high and away from children, preferably in a locked cabinet.
Finally, make sure your electrical wiring is checked by an electrician to ensure your home is at the lowest risk possible for a fire.
George Baker has recently retired from 32 years of service as a firefighter, paramedic and officer for the town of Mashpee Massachusetts, his last twenty years he served as Fire Chief. Chief Baker is passionate about fire prevention and has represented the Fire Chiefs of Massachusetts and the International Association of Fire Chiefs on numerous fire safety codes and standards committees. Passionate about the welfare of children, Chief Baker was a founding Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Cape Cod and active with local Scout Troops. Chief Baker now serves as a coach, mentor and consultant on leadership and disaster Management. Learn more about Chief Baker’s work at www.fireandicecoaching.net.
If I was a genie and could grant one wish for a fire safety practice or device to protect kids it would be…
Living in a home (single or multi family) protected with a fire sprinkler system.
The NFPA (national fire prevention association) has done significant research and the majority of persons whom perish in a residential fire are very young or very old.
Smoke detectors are the first line of defense for most people but the very young (infants and toddlers) do not have the motor skills or the intelligence levels to escape on their own. Depending on the location and the intensity of the fire a quick rescue by the parents or caregivers may not be possible.
A residential fire sprinkler would extinguish the fire prior to lethal levels of heat and or deadly gasses from the smoke. Most fire deaths occur in the first three minutes of a fire. The best fire departments response times are three plus minutes after the fire has been discovered.
Parents should consider fire sprinklers when constructing or purchasing a new home.
Suzanne Garber Chief Networking Officer at International SOS and a Board Member of the American Red Cross. She is also part of a Disaster Action Team for the American Red Cross, whereby every Friday night, she accompanies Philadelphia fire fighters to counsel and console victims of house fires who have been displaced with no where to go. In cases where a fatality has occurred, she along with a team of volunteers scours the surrounding neighborhood with new fire alarms and batteries.
It is estimated that while over 80% of homes in Philadelphia, where I am based, have fire alarms in them, in looking at the demographics of the zip code areas where the most fires (and fatal fires) occur, over 70% of those homes either do not have a fire alarm or the batteries have expired thus making the alarm non-functioning. So, my advice to parents is to…
Test their fire alarms and instruct their children to, in the case of a fire, get out of the house immediately whereby they can go to a neighbor’s home to call 911. Many times I have met children who have saved the lives of their siblings and elderly grandparents because they did exactly that.
Bill Driscoll is a leader in the fire protection industry. He is an accomplished speaker in a group setting and has been a guest speaker for over 1000 groups, including fire departments, civic groups, churches, schools and businesses. Bill has written numerous articles and created several videos on the subject of fire safety and continues to provide home fire safety training for countless numbers of people and organizations. In addition, Bill is a U.S. Department for Homeland Security National Fire Academy Certified “Community Safety Educator”, an Administrator of fire safety and fire code certification, and has been a member of the Educational Section of the National Fire Protection Association since 1986. He is currently the VP of Dealer Development at DeTech Firesense Technologies.
The most important tip for children surviving fire is…
Planned and practiced fire drills.
Operation E.D.I.T.H – Exit Drills In The Home:
- Draw an outline of your home.
- Now add the rooms and label them. Show important details: stairs, hallways, roofs that can be used as fire escapes.
- Choose a family meeting place and show it on the map.
- Check each room for the best way to escape.
- Test windows and doors.
- Be sure that everyone has at least two ways out.
- Escape ladders may be necessary.
- Any security devices should open easily.
- Always sleep with bedroom doors closed.
- Find a way for everyone to sound a family fire alarm. Yelling, pounding walls, whistles, etc..
- In a fire it is seconds, not minutes, that count.
- Roll out of bed but don’t stand straight up because one breath of smoke or heated gases may be enough to kill you. And don’t drop straight to the floor because some deadly gasses are heavier than air and drift down to the floor.
- Feel all doors before opening them, there may be fire on the other side. Never open a hot door! Ever!
- Once outside, go immediately to the family meeting place and stay there! Never re-enter a burning structure for any reason.
- Call the fire department from a neighbor’s house. Tell the dispatcher if everyone is out or not.
- Begin with everyone in his or her bed.
- Sound the alarm. Press the smoke detector test button. Yell FIRE! Or use some other signal that your family members will recognize.
- Everyone should roll out of bed and follow their primary exit path while keeping their heads at doorknob level.
Jody Lamb is Public Relations Manager for RepairClinic.com, a company that makes fixing things easy for millions of people. Founded in 1999, it is North America’s trusted online store with replacement parts for major home appliances, outdoor power equipment and heating and cooling equipment. Free online troubleshooting and repair resources including more than 1,900+ award-winning how-to videos empower people to fix stuff on their own. To date, more than three and a half million people have saved $260 million in repair costs by using RepairClinic’s free, online repair help. Daily, RepairClinic’s how-to videos are viewed more than 60,000 times.
The most important tip to keep kids safe from home fires is…
Properly maintain your clothes dryer.
Dryers, heat and lint buildup in the venting system cause thousands of residential fires across the U.S. and Canada every year. A dryer’s entire venting system should be cleaned out from the inside of the dryer to the outside vent cap at least once per year. Professionals can be hired for this job but it’s usually a simple do-it-yourself job. A long, 20-foot cleaning brush enables homeowners to easily remove lint buildup from within the entire tube from the back of the dryer to the outside of a home.
David Barckhoff is an Expert in Emergency & Disaster Management, a 25-year veteran of the Fire Service and a Military & Public Safety Advisor. Learn more about David and his work on LinkedIn.
My most important tips to keep kids safe from home fires come down to…
1. The parents’ supervision of their children.
2. The keeping of matches, lighters and other fire starting items out of sight and out of the reach of children.
3. The possession and proper installation of home fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors.
4. Having a safety fence around a home fireplace or wood burner stove.
Tamara Habib is dedicated to helping people prepare for and recover from disasters, whether it be a house fire or a hurricane. She recently co-founded Firelily, a website designed to provide the information and funding people need to recover from disaster, where she spends her days being inspired by stories of survival.
The best thing parents can do to protect children from fires is to…
Talk to them about what to do if their smoke detectors start sounding.
Every family should have a plan that includes two different ways each person can leave the house in an emergency and where they will meet once they are outside.
Practicing this plan is so important because as the old adage says, practice makes perfect. Having a well-practiced plan dramatically increases the odds of a successful evacuation and reunification with family members.
Another great tip for parents regarding fire safety is the purchase of a voice recording smoke detector. Many people practice their plans but in the midst of the night, when woken to the sound of a beep while sleepy and disoriented, children may have trouble remembering what exactly they’re supposed to do. Instead of running outside, as they may have practiced, they may run to their parent’s bedroom instead, losing costly time to escape the house quickly.
These detectors allow parents to record their own message, providing specific directions about where to go and what to do in a familiar voice. The child hears it and not only remembers what they practiced, but also feels comforted and reassured by their parent’s voice.
Combining both a voice recording smoke detector with a well-practiced plan gives parents and children the best chance for a safe escape.
Lance Luke is a former member of the National Fire Protection Association and is an expert on home and fire safety. Mr. Luke currently works as a construction engineer and is involved in life safety issues in homes and commercial buildings as the Principal Consultant at Construction Management Inspection LLC.
The #1 tip to keep kids safe from home fires is…
Teach children fire safety and prevention. Discuss the downside to playing with matches and lighters. Then discuss what to do when there is a fire such as calling 911, knowing how to escape, stop drop and roll if on fire, get out and stay out.
Teach children about candles and a hot stove. Have home fire drills and designate a meeting place somewhere away from the home. Teach children the location of smoke alarms and what they sound like when alarmed and what to do if they hear the alarm going off.
Juanita Allen Kingsley is Director of Business Development at Century Health Systems. A health educator, she trains more than 2,000 people in Boston’s MetroWest region annually through her First Aid, Wilderness First Aid, CPR and AED classes in addition to the variety of health and safety programs she teaches. A certified EMT since 2001, Juanita managed the Wellness Center at Hale Reservation (the nation’s largest day camp); served as health care supervisor at Horizons for Youth, Sharon, Mass.; and has served as instructor trainer and instructor with the Red Cross, American Heart Association, Medic First Aid and National Safety Council.
My number one tip for keeping kids safe from home fires is this:
Don’t play with any source of fire: matches, lighters, stoves, grills, candles… EVER.
Larry Wilder is a Fire and Life Safety Specialist and a Kentucky native who works at Rural Metro of East Tennessee, the largest emergency service provider in East Tennessee. He is both an EMT and Public Information Officer, and since 2003 he has worked with the Rural Metro Fire Department, where he performs public education and training, develops programming, writes grants and conducts public affairs duties.
Children under 5 are at higher risk for death in fires, which is why it is crucial to talk to them about fire safety in the home. My top tips are to…
- Have a working smoke detector on each floor of the home. The National Fire Protection Association and the International Association of Fire Chiefs recommend changing the battery each time that the time changes (which is coming up.) Even detectors that are connected to the home’s wiring have battery back-ups that have to be replaced occasionally.
- Replace smoke alarms that are 10 years old and older. Even if you think it still works, it may give a delayed sound.
- Have an escape plan and rehearse it. Children fall back on the familiar when confronted by danger. Those in homes that have rehearsed escape plans tend to use the escape plan. Those without a plan may attempt to hide from the danger instead of escape.
- In devising an escape plan, try to plan for two ways out of every room that are easy to use. This includes making sure windows are not painted shut and having an escape ladder for upper-story rooms.
- Make “fall and crawl” a part of the escape routine so children understand that temperatures and air quality are more survivable lower to the ground.
- Decide on a safe meeting place after escaping the home. This might be a neighbor’s house where you can call 9-1-1.
Graciela Tiscareño-Sato is an experienced parent nursery school mom of 3, including a child who is blind, and was honored by The White House as a Woman Military Veteran Leader Champion of Change in March 2014. She served as an officer in the United States Air Force and crew member on the KC 135 refueling jet and is now the award-winning author of “Good Night Captain Buenas Noches Capitán Mamá” the first bilingual (English and Spanish) children’s picture book about mothers in the military. She speaks on the topics of leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation at conferences and reads to children in classrooms too. Learn more about Graciela and her work at www.CaptainMama.com.
My three children all attended a parent participation nursery school where we learned critical information from our local firefighters….
Parents MUST practice having the smoke alarm go off in the middle of the night when all of the children are sleeping to see who, if anyone wakes up. Parents assume that their children will wake up and are completely horrified to watch video of children of all ages sleeping right through the alarm!
My tip: PRACTICE by setting off your smoke alarm at 1 o’clock in the morning when all your kids are sleeping and see what happens. Have you adequately trained them to leave the room together, stay low, touch the door to see if it’s hot, get out of the house together and assemble somewhere safely? If your kids wake up on their own, great! If they don’t wake up at all with the alarm going off, then you will know and you’ll have to formulate some kind of plan so you can ALL safely escape the house.
I will add that I also have a child who is blind and does not hear well. We have therefore trained her siblings to make sure they all get out together – a good tip for any families with multiple children. We’ve practiced the drill in the middle of the night twice already and they rocked it completely the second time.
Jess Hand volunteer is a franchise owner and President at ServiceMaster To The Rescue, the leader in fire rescue and recovery. He also serves as Assistant Chief Firefighter at the Dorothy Volunteer Fire Company in Atlantic County, NJ.
In my experience as a volunteer firefighter for over 30 years and 11 years as the owner of ServiceMaster in Vineland, New Jersey, the most important fire safety tip for kids is…
To regularly practice fire drills at home.
Most fires occur at home in the middle of the night, and most families never talk about an escape plan or route. Parents also fail to discuss or designate a meeting place outside the home, if a fire does occur. Children practice fire drills every month at school and most fire departments visit schools to present a fire prevention program, but we rarely, if ever have fires in school buildings. House fires are most common and having a plan in place is imperative.
Marshall Marinace is the President of the Electronic Security Association. Established in 1948, the Electronic Security Association (ESA), a non-profit 501(c) 6 trade association, has evolved into the largest professional trade association in the United States with the purpose of representing, promoting and enhancing the growth and professional development of the electronic life safety, security, and integrated systems industry. In cooperation with a federation of state associations, ESA provides government advocacy and delivers timely information, professional development tools, products and services that members use to grow and prosper their businesses.
My #1 tip to keep children safe from home fires is…
First and foremost, parents should invest in central station monitored smoke detectors that will summon the fire department if fire occurs within a home, and regularly test the detectors to ensure they are in working order.
Families should also talk about and practice fire escape routes. Map out and draw a plan that includes at least two exits from each room of your house. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the designated exits are and practice, practice, practice. Decide on a family meeting place for everyone to go to after escaping from a fire. An ideal location is one that is away from danger such as a trusted neighbor’s house across the street.
Samantha Boles is the President and COO of Automated Security IS, a full service commercial & residential security company based in Houston, TX, offering many ways to improve security efficiencies and reduce costs.
The #1 tip I have for keeping kids safe from home fires is…
“Plan for the best but prepare for the worst”.
Regardless of all the steps you take to prevent a fire, such as no matches, unplugging appliances, etc.; the reality is an accidental fire is still always a possibility as there is no way to 100% prevent it.
Children are just that, children. They usually do not have the reasoning skills or maturity to think fast in an emergency situation. They usually look to the adult for what to do and will be in panic mode.
So the best thing to do is have an emergency plan that they understand and become familiar with so they are prepared to handle an emergency fire situation in the event one happens.
Depending on the child’s age, different planning skills will be appropriate. For example, a 5 year old may need to be walked through the plan on a monthly basis and may need a children’s book or cartoon to help explain what smoke is, or what signs to look for. Whereas a high school student may just need I be told the plan once.
Your local fire department usually has free helpful tips & brochures on fire preparedness and prevention.
Justina Page is the Founder of Amos House of Faith, an organization aimed at educating families about fire safety, how to ease back into society, as well as counseling services to children injured or disfigured by fire. At 32, Justina found herself burying one of her 22-month-old twin sons from a brutal house fire. Each person of the eight-member family
sustained burns, but it was the preplanned escape plan that saved their lives. Learn more about Justina at www.JustinaPage.com.
The #1 tip I have for keeping kids safe from home fires is…
When children are old enough to follow directions, implement a fire safety plan.
Teach them how to get of the house quickly and safely and designate a meeting point. Encourage them to help younger siblings or other children and to be as calm as they can if a fire happens.
Mike Pinto is President of High’s Chimney, a full-service fireplace and chimney service company in the Washington DC area. Mike holds certifications from the Chimney Safety Institute of America and the National Fireplace Institute. He has been managing High’s for 22 years, and has been helping prevent fires for over 30 years.
When it comes to keeping children safe from home fires, there are several important things to do. You must have a fire extinguisher and enough smoke and carbon monoxide detectors ― and you need to make sure they work. You need to make sure your electrical, fireplace, and heating appliances work. You need to use common sense ― especially in the kitchen, with cigarettes, and with combustibles. But the number 1 thing you can do to keep kids safe from home fires is to…
Teach them to respect fire and drill them in matters concerning safety. Don’t assume that because you don’t do unsafe things, your kids will know not to do them.
Teach them how fire starts and what is flammable. Teach them what not to do ― like playing with fire, putting foil in the microwave, trying to cook, or leaving flammables near the fireplace, etc.
Prepare them to handle a dangerous situation. Make sure they know when to alert you of something. Make sure they will call 911 if they need to.
And make sure they really understand. When you take a fire precaution; show them. They need the connection between a safe practice and understanding that it is a safe practice.
And keep at it. Drill them until you know they know what to do, what not-to-do, and why.
Maria Vizzi is the President of Indoor Environmental Solutions (IES), a company that helps clients maintain cleaner, safer environments by providing indoor air quality services and products to individual consumers, property and facility managers, and retail businesses. IES has serviced residential, co-op and condominium buildings, assisted living and medical properties, restaurants, office buildings, churches, synagogues, and private homes, and offers solutions to address the growing concerns about fire safety, proper ventilation, and indoor air quality.
When it comes to keeping kids safe from home fires, one tip is…
To teach your children not play with the dryer or to keep the dryer on unattended.
Some young people do the laundry and set it to dryer, then leave the house. This is extremely dangerous considering there are statistics regarding dryer fires which are staggering.
Preet Anand is the CEO of BlueLight, a technology company focused on improving personal safety and 911.
Simply put, I think the most important tip for keeping children safe from home fires is…
Educating kids about the smoke alarm and how to respond to it.
They should know what a smoke alarm sounds like, how they should best exit the room / building, and where to go. Each of these steps are critically important.
Another great thing that could benefit parents is to actually show the kids how to change the battery of the smoke alarm. It will give them appreciation of how it works and make them more familiar of its purpose.
Judie Protesto Freels is the Co-Owner and President of 911 C.A.S.P.E.R. Systems, which is an acronym for Community Awareness and Stimulus Plan for Emergency Readiness. 911 C.A.S.P.E.R. Systems’ business was created for the Patent Pending System called. C.A.S.P.E.R., which is a unique program that was put together due to all of the needs that the founders personally had been seeing within the 911 Community, and with the struggling small businesses of America.
My #1 most important tip you can share to keep kids safe from home fires is…
Don’t think it can’t happen to you – practice your emergency escape plan and know your emergency location outside your home with your family. And check your smoke detectors at least twice a year.
Our Home burnt down to the ground in 1999, and at the time our 5 children were very young – 5th Grade, 4th Grade, 3rd Grade, Kindergarten and 18 months. We had just moved from Pennsylvania to Virginia. Needless to say we were not prepared at all for a fire and thankfully no one was home at the time.
So as you can imagine, fire safety became extremely important to us from that point on to help keep our children safe. My husband joined the local fire department and rescue squad – our two sons joined when they were old enough.
We lost everything – but nothing of importance since everyone was safe.
To keep this short, we ended up turning lemons into lemonade. After our experience of being involved with the fire department and rescue squad, we saw the constant stress and struggle for them to keep donations and funding come into them to stay equipped, trained properly, and have the necessary resources to get to the scene of the emergency at hand.
Due to that we started a new aspect of our business called: 911 C.A.S.P.E.R. Systems. If you go to our Home Page and click on King Kong you can watch a video that explains our Mission with helping these Non-Profit Organizations AND it helps Communities stay safer as well with alerts and warning through FEMA’s IPAWS and our CASPER Alerts Feature.
Candice Scheets is a former pre-school teacher who currently works as a Community Outreach Manager for Foremost Promotions, a company that specializes in providing educational tools and resources for Firefighters, Law Enforcement, and Public Service agencies to help educate children and the public about important safety practices. She also contributes to the Foremost Promotions blog, where she offers readers valuable tips, free printables, and additional information on current events related to public safety.
I feel that the most important tip to keep kids safe from a home fire is…
For children to NEVER hide from a firefighter if they see one coming to get them.
Often, children are frightened of firefighters dressed in full gear with a breathing apparatus, and they will hide because they only see a large, scary figure making scary loud noises.
This is dangerous, because it makes it even more difficult for the firefighter to locate the child in a dark smoky house, which means the child is exposed to harmful smoke for a longer period of time. The best way to prevent children from wanting to hide is to introduce them to a firefighter while they are fully dressed in their gear, and explain to them that they are there to help them, not harm them.
Make sure that children are familiar with the sounds that the breathing apparatus makes, and explain to them how the parts of the gear keep the firefighter safe, such as their helmet, oxygen tank, and face shield. Children should also be told that when a firefighter calls out to them, they should respond loudly to let them know where they can be easily found.
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