Safeguarding Against Home Fires

By Bintu Mansaray

                   

According to the American Red Cross, children under five are twice as likely as other people to die in a home fire. Many home fires are started by children playing with dangerous household items such as matches and lighters. 

Not knowing what to do in the event of fire leads to panic, chaos, and people, especially children, getting hurt.

Talking to our children about them getting hurt can be distressing, but you will feel less worried if you are prepared.

Home fire drills

Talking about emergency exit plans in the event of a fire is good but practicing them is even better. Children as young as three years old can follow an escape plan. Keep in mind your child’s ability and tailor lessons to fit their age group.

This practice is called a drill, and it will show everyone how to react in a real fire emergency. Everyone should be taught how to quickly and safely get out of the house. Your family should practice this drill at least twice a year, during the day and at night.

A good rule during drills is to ensure your family can safely exit the house and meet at the designated meeting point within 3 minutes. The meeting point could be a tree a short distance from your home, or in front of your neighbours house.

Wherever you choose should be a short, safe distance from your house, and all your children should be able to go there safely.

Children should be told not to take anything and not to return for anything. Not their school bag or favorite toy.

Know your way out

Different families will have different plans. Some children live in apartments, some in a one-story house, and others live in tall buildings. Therefore, develop an escape plan based on your type of home.

As we put bars in our windows to keep out thieves, we have also made it impossible to use windows as an exit route. We should ensure our houses have at least two exits to the outside.

Smoke will be very thick during a fire making it difficult to see anything, so children must learn and remember the different ways out of your home.

Amie’s Safe Keeping Suggestions for Kids

  1. If you’re in a room and see smoke coming under the door, don’t open the door!
  2. If you don’t see smoke- touch the door. If the door is hot or warm- don’t open the door!
  3. If you don’t see smoke and the door is not hot, lightly touch the door handle. If the door handle is hot, do not open the door.
  4. If the door feels cool and you can’t see smoke from under the door, open the door slowly. If there is a sudden burst of smoke or heat, quickly close the door and shout for help. If there’s no smoke or heat when you open the fire, move quickly towards your escape route exit.
  5. Stay low to the ground as you make your way to the exit. Smoke rises naturally, so if you crawl on your hands and knees, you will be below the smoke. Inhaling smoke and poisonous air can hurt more people than the fire does.
  6. If you can’t get out fast enough, scream for help. Go to the nearest window, open it wide, stand in front of it, and shout for help. Do not hide under a bed, behind a piece of furniture or in the wardrobe even if you’re scared. This will make you even harder to find, and the sooner they see you, the sooner you can get out.
  7. While waiting, grab a piece of clothing or towel if you can and cover your mouth to keep from breathing in the smoke. Wet the cloth if you can, it works better. You can prevent heat and smoke from getting into the room by taking clothes, bed sheets, blankets, and block all the cracks and spaces.
  8. If your clothes catch fire, DO NOT RUN. Stop, drop to the ground, cover your face with your hands and roll. Remember, STOP, DROP, and ROLL.
  9. You can prevent fires by not playing with matches, lighters, candles, stoves, and other fire sources.  

Amie’s Safe Keeping Suggestions for Parents

  1. Create a fire escape plan.
  2. Practice with your family every few months, ideally at night, or with everyone’s eyes closed or blindfolded.
  3. Decide which adult is responsible for escaping with which toddler or baby. Hold the infant securely under your body with one arm to protect the baby if something falls on top of you and also keeps them as low as possible from smoke and poisonous gases.
  4. Buy smoke alarms and fire extinguishers.
  5. Keep flashlights in every room, and this can be used to alert rescuers to your location at night.
  6. Have a discussion around fire safety and preventing fires:

  • Do not overload electric outlets, extension cords, or wall sockets.
  • Reduce clutter: dish towels, sponges, paper towels, and other items that can easily catch fire should be at least three feet from a fire source, and never leave cooking unattended.
  • Do not leave burning candles unattended.
  • Keep matches and lighters away from the reach of children.
  • Replace faulty and loose electrical outlets
  • Know your local fire force number:

  1. Invite a firefighter to your house to help you devise the most efficient fire escape plan.
  2. By teaching your children about fire safety, creating and practicing a fire escape plan, you are doing the best you can to keep them safe from home fires.
  3. Ensure that everywhere your child spends time including schools and homes of other family members have a fire escape plan.


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