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Teaching fire safety to kids is incredibly important. It can mean the difference between life and death. As parents, we need to model safety around fire, but I think kids also need direct instruction about how to act in case of fire. Teaching fire safety to kids is absolutely vital.
Fire safety can be a scary concept for some kids. It is important to only give them as much info as they can stomach at a time.
If they seem frightened when you are talking about how to prevent fires or what to do if they or the house is on fire, stop there.
Come back to the subject when they are ready for it.
Try to keep the tone light and not frightening. Knowing what to do in a scary situation can be empowering!
Teaching Fire Safety to Kids
I like to teach fire safety in three ways:
- Read kid-friendly books about fire safety. A kid-friendly book will always end with everyone okay. This is reassuring while still providing helpful information.
- Play games. Games make the scary subject a little less frightening. Kids are also more likely to remember something they have actually done.
- Practice often. Even older kids need a fire safety refresher once in a while.
Teaching Fire Safety with Books
My favorite kid-friendly fire safety books are:
Contain the Flame: Outdoor Fire Safety by Jill Urban Donahue. This is a great story to read before roasting marshmallows outside.
Going to the Firehouse by Mercer Mayer. This book pairs well with a trip to a fire station. Many fire stations will give free tours to groups if they are scheduled in advance. I highly recommend getting a few friends together and going for a field trip.
No Dragons For Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons) by Jean E. Pendziwol and Martine Gourbault. This book uses rhyming to describe what to do if you are home when a fire starts.
Fire Drill by Paul DuBois Jacobs and Jennifer Swender. This easy reader depicts what to do in a fire drill. Fires can happen anywhere, so I recommend teaching your kids what to do if the fire alarm goes off. We once had to evacuate Target due to a fire in a back room.
Stop! Drop! and Roll!
These 4 words are easy to remember, even for young kids. They also make a fun useful game. A lot of kids seem to think this skill is fun to practice.
Watch kids in an open field or on a small grassy hill.
What do they do for fun? They roll!
To turn this skill into a game you will need felt flames. I like to use red, orange, and yellow to simulate fire.
Felt generally has enough static to stick to clothing. Put the felt flames on your kids. The felt won’t stick for long so you will need to work quickly.
If you can’t get the felt to adhere to the clothing, try rubbing the felt on carpet to increase static.
Now have the kids stop, drop, and roll! Remind them to cover their faces. The flames will roll off. If your kids are competitive like mine, you can make it into a contest. Who can extinguish their flames first?
If you want to play virtual fire safety games, head to www.sparky.org!
Practice Makes Perfect
A fire plan is important. Every member of your family needs to know what to do, even the little ones. If they are old enough to be out of a crib at night, they are old enough to start learning about fire safety.
You don’t want them to be frightened by the smoke alarm and hide.
TIP: A fire alarm with a voice warning is a great idea for children’s bedrooms. Almost 80% of children sleep through traditional beeping smoke alarms! I added voice alarms to my children’s bedrooms hoping that at least one of the alarms will wake them if I can’t get to them (one of my worst fears).
Toddlers won’t be able to follow an escape route, but they can understand the basics of don’t hide from firefighters. Try reading some of the above stories and acting it out. This is a perfect time for a little firefighter dress up.
When you set up your fire plan be sure to include:
Multiple ways to exit the house
This part of the plan needs lots of practice. There are so many variables – location of the fire, where you are in the home, time of day, etc.
If you have a two-story house, I recommend purchasing a fire safety ladder in case you need to exit through a window. I need to do this myself, but I am trying to find one that can be used multiple times so we can practice with it. If you have one that you recommend, please let me know!
If you can’t leave the house, make sure your kids know not to hide from fire fighters. They can look pretty scary in their full uniform!
A meeting place
Once you are out of the house go to your meeting place. This should be away from the house so somewhere like a mailbox, light post, or sidewalk work well. Having a set meeting place lets you know exactly how many people are still in the house. The firefighters will want to know this as soon as they arrive.
Talk about calling 9-1-1
You can call 9-1-1 after you are out of the house using either your cell phone or by running to a neighbor’s house. Kids can practice this step on an old disconnected landline phone. Please teach the phone number as 9-1-1 (nine-one-one) NOT 9-11 (nine-eleven). There is no 11 on a phone and that can trip some kids up.
Think about which neighbors are usually home at various times of the day. It won’t help to run to a neighbor’s house at noon if they are work.
If your kids are old enough to be left home alone, even for short periods of time, they need to know how to use a fire extinguisher. Hopefully they will never need it, but better safe than sorry. We keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and another in the garage. I can’t imagine my kids will need it because they are not allowed to cook or have candles lit when an adult isn’t present, but better safe than sorry.
Another very important aspect of teaching fire safety to kids is teaching fire prevention.
Remind children never to use matches or lighters without your permission and supervision. Your child’s maturity level will help you gauge when they are ready to light fires (although I recommend supervising). If your 8-year-old is prone to quick impulsive behavior – he probably isn’t ready. If your 8-year-old is generally careful and thinks things through – he might be ready, as long as there is supervision.
Teach kids to not play in the kitchen when the stove is on. “No flying paper airplanes when the stove is on” is a strict rule in our house. It only takes a second for a gas flame to catch on paper or fabric.
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