Focus on fire safety: children

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Did you know that 50 percent of child fire deaths affect those under the age of 5? Escaping from a fire can be difficult for very young children because they generally lack the motor skills and mental capabilities needed to quickly escape a burning building.

The U.S. Fire Administration provides fire prevention information to teach children and their caregivers about the dangers of fire. Protect your kids: install and maintain smoke alarms and residential sprinklers and practice home fire escape plans to ensure your children will be safe if a fire were to start in your home.

Children and fire: Life saving tips

Young children are not able to sense danger in the same way as adults. They have a very limited ability to react quickly and properly in an emergency situation as well as little control over their environment. This increases their risk of death and injury in a fire.

• Keep matches, lighters and other items used for ignition in a secured drawer or cabinet out of the reach of children.

• Teach your children to tell you when they find matches and lighters.

• Always dress children in pajamas that meet federal flammability standards. Avoid dressing children for sleep in loose-fitting, 100 percent cotton garments, such as oversized T-shirts.

• Teach children not to hide from firefighters but to get out quickly and call for help from another location.

• Show children how to crawl low on the floor, below the smoke, to get out of the house and stay out.

• Demonstrate how to stop, drop to the ground, and roll if clothes catch fire.

• Develop and practice a home fire escape plan and designate a meeting place outside. Get out and stay out.

• Familiarize children with the sound of your smoke alarm.

• Replace mattresses made prior to the 2007 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard.

• Check under beds and in closets for burnt matches, evidence your child may be playing with fire.

Prevention starts with you!

Ninety-six percent of homes in the United States have at least one smoke alarm. However, only three-quarters of all homes have at least one working smoke alarm.

What can you do?

• Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home, including the basement and both inside and outside of sleeping areas.

• Install both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms or dual sensor smoke alarms, which contain both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors.

• Test smoke alarm batteries every month, and change them at least once a year.

• Replace smoke alarms that are more than 10 years old.

• Consider installing a 10-year lithium battery-powered smoke alarm, which is sealed so it cannot be tampered with or opened.

Cut your family’s chances of

dying in a house fire in half by having a working smoke alarm. Practicing fire-safe behaviors and knowing what to do in an emergency can give your family extra seconds to escape.

Michael Heath is president of the St. John Professional Firefighters Association.