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Protect Children from the Risk of Fire

Child Safety Week is well and truly under way (24th – 30th June 2013). When reviewing the well-being of children, fire safety is a good place to start. Young children are the age group most at risk of starting, and being injured by, a fire. According to the American Red Cross, children under the age of five are twice as likely to be fatally injured in a home fire than other members of their household.

Why are children at greater risk?

  • They are less likely to wake up if they hear a fire alarm
  • They may not know how to respond to a fire alarm or even recognise the sound
  • They are more likely to start a fire by playing with sources of ignition
  • They may forget exit routes
  • Younger children are at greater risk than older ones

The famous Melbourne study

Child Playing with Lighter A research group from Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, found that 78% of school aged children slept through a smoke alarm that had been sounding for 30 seconds. Age proved to be a shocking variable, too. Only 57% of children aged 11 – 15 slept through the alarm, compared to 87% of children aged 5 – 10 who slept through the alarm. Additionally, of the 22% of children who were roused by the din, only half correctly recognized the noise. And only half of these children knew how to respond to the alarm. Effectively, only around 5% of the children studied would have been able to safely evacuate their house alone.

Fire safety begins at home

It’s important that parents practice fire safety at home, with their children. This will help to both prevent fires from occurring and teach children how to correctly respond to them.

Install smoke detectors

You should have a working smoke detector at least on every level of your home. Better yet, you should have one in every room. Since children struggle to hear smoke detectors, the closer the alarm is to your child’s bedroom, the better. For additional safety, get a carbon monoxide detector fitted too. Each alarm should be tested weekly and their batteries should be replaced twice a year. Familiarise your children with the sound of your smoke detector, so that when they hear it, they know how to respond. Waving a tea towel around wildly to waft away the offending smoke is not the appropriate course of action.

Reassess your own approach to fire

Starting a fire that harms your children would be difficult to live with. To help you be more vigilant, here are some of the top causes of fires in the home:
  • Cooking appliances
  • Electrical appliances (click here to read more)
  • Cigarettes and smoking materials
  • Heating devices
  • Candles and lighting

Keep sources of ignition out of the reach of kids

Children are most at risk because they are more likely to play with matches, lighters and other sources of ignition. The American Red Cross reported that children playing with fire is the leading cause of all fire related deaths among pre-schoolers.

Practice an escape plan

A family that practices together escapes together. It’s not enough to simply create an escape plan. You need to be sure that everybody, especially children, have understood the plan and had the chance to rehearse it. Children are slow to respond to fires and can easily forget escape plans. By rehearsing the plan you can test their understanding and refresh their memory.

Have extinguishing devices handy

When buying a fire extinguisher, make sure you get one that’s suited to the type of fire you’re likely to encounter. For instance, in the kitchen you’ll need a wet chemical extinguisher, the only one suitable for fighting fires fuelled on cooking oils and fats. It’s also a good idea to have a fire blanket handy.

Find fun ways to teach your children

Making fire safety fun also makes it more memorable. Try using quirky character, images, rhymes and games to help children learn the facts. There are some fantastic resources available online, too: photo credit: stupidmommy via photopin cc

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