Virtual Pediatric Hospital: CQQA: Fire Safety for Families
Pediatrics Common Questions, Quick Answers Fire Safety for Families
Donna D'Alessandro, M.D.Peer Review Status: Internally Reviewed
Lindsay Huth, B.A.
Creation Date: April 2002
Last Revision Date: April 2002
Why is fire safety important?
House fires can be very dangerous.
Fire is the number one cause of death at home for children age 5 or younger.
Thousands of children lose their lives in house fires each year.
Every family member must know how to escape the house.
What can we do to prevent fires in our home?Fire prevention is a very important step in fire safety. Check your house
for fire hazards and follow these safety tips:
Cords and Appliances
Don't plug too many cords into one socket. Make sure children understand
this when using video games, toys, or hair dryers and curling irons.
Don't run cords under rugs.
Make sure night-lights and lamps don't touch fabrics, such as drapes
or bed spreads.
Avoid using electrical or portable heaters. If you must use one, keep
it away from bedspreads, drapes, etc.
Throw out appliances that overheat, smoke, spark, or smell unusual.
Or, keep them out of reach of children and do not use them until they
Don't let children use the stove or other kitchen tools without supervision.
Don't leave food cooking while you are not in the kitchen.
Keep the fireplace clean. Use a screen.
Have the chimney cleaned once a year.
Only burn wood in the fireplace. Don't burn paper.
Always put out the fire in the fireplace before going to bed or leaving
the house. The ashes should be cold enough for you to put your hand in
Supervise your children if they are doing art or science projects that
involve flames or electrical tools.
Don't leave lit cigarettes around the house. Completely put them out
before walking away.
Don't smoke in bed.
Keep lighters and matches out of the reach of children. Children can
easily find them in purses, drawers, etc.
Keep candles out of children's reach. Put them in places where they
can't be bumped off from below.
Most fires happen at night.
Children should wear pajamas that are flame-resistant. Also consider
the material of Halloween costumes.
Sleep with bedroom doors closed to hold back smoke.
Rooms without windows should not be used as bedrooms.
What do we need in case of a fire?In case of fire, your family needs a few basic items to keep safe. Every
home should have:
Smoke detectors will sound an alarm to give you a warning that there
is a fire in the house.
They give your family more time to escape safely.
There should be a smoke detector in every bedroom, on every floor, and
even in the basement.
Always put smoke detectors on the ceilings (or on the wall, 6-12 inches
below the ceiling).
Avoid putting smoke detectors in kitchens and bathrooms. Steam and heat
can set off the alarm.
Put a smoke detector near the kitchen and bathroom.
If a smoke detector goes off when there is not a fire (from cooking,
smoking, etc.) do not take the battery out to shut if off. Open windows
and doors or fan it with a towel.
Test smoke detectors once a month. Use a reminder, such as every time
you pay rent or the phone bill.
Change batteries twice a year. A good time to remember is when you change
clocks in the spring and fall.
If a smoke detector beeps or chirps, it needs new batteries immediately.
Buy new detectors to replace old ones every ten years. Put the date
on the inside of the detector as a reminder.
A fire extinguisher graded "A, B, and C" provides the best protection
against all types of fires.
There should be a fire extinguisher on every floor.
Put one in the kitchen, basement, and the garage/workshop.
Keep them out of children's reach.
Never let children use it.
Adults should learn how to use it. If you don't know how to use it,
don't try putting out a fire with it. Instead, leave the house immediately
and call 911.
If your house has more than one level, or if you live above ground floor
in an apartment building, escape ladders are important.
There should be an escape ladder in every upper-level bedroom.
Make sure the ladder is the right length. It may not be long enough
if you are on a high floor.
The ladder should be made out of fireproof material. Rope will burn.
Aluminum will not. Look for an approval sticker when you buy one.
Make sure the ladder is strong enough for every member of the family
How do we prepare our family?In case of fire, your family should have a fire escape plan. Practice the
Every member of the family should be a part of the plan. Very young children
can practice simple parts.
Walk through every room of the house with the family. How could you get
out of this room? Talk about doors, windows, decks, and even big trees.
Tell children that they must never hide from a fire (in closets, under the
bed, etc.) They must get out of the house.
If you live in an apartment building, teach children how to use exit signs.
Teach them that they must only use fire exits during a fire.
Teach children that they should not use elevators during a fire.
Choose a safe spot for your family to meet after escaping the house. A tree,
mailbox, or street light a couple houses down the street may work. Do not
leave the spot and never go back in the house.
Adults should discuss how toddlers and infants could be rescued in case
of fire. Do not involve other children in the plan.
Have several different fire drills with your family. Turn the fire alarm
on with your finger so your children learn how it sounds.
Each drill, family members should start from a different room and think
about how to escape. What if that route is blocked with fire or smoke? What
other way out is there?
Never jump from windows during a drill.
Practice meeting at the family spot.
Have a plan for calling 911. Go to a trusted neighbor to use the phone.
What should we do if there is a fire?Teach your kids what to do in case of fire. Practice with them.
In a fire, stay low to the ground.
Children should be taught that smoke is dangerous. Practice crawling to
avoid smoke. (Smoke rises.) Younger children can pretend to walk like a cat
Check doors before opening them.
Look under the door and at the edges. If your child sees smoke, she should
not open the door. Instead, teach her to go to a window.
If there is no smoke, have her lightly touch the doorknob. If it is warm,
leave the door closed and go the window. If it is cool, carefully open the
If her clothes should catch on fire, teach her to stop, drop, and roll.
If your clothes are on fire, stop.
Drop to the floor.
Roll around until the flames are gone.
Leave the house immediately. Never waste time to collect pets, toys, photos,
or other items.
Do not try to put the fire out. Get out of the house.
Do not call 911. Get out of the house, then call.
Do not take time to get dressed. Get out fast.
Never go back into a burning house.
10 Tips for Kids
Never play with matches or fire.
If you hear the fire alarm, get out of the house.
Never try to put the fire out. Get out of the house.
Do not take your toys or pets with you.
Feel the door before you open it. If it is hot or if you see smoke, go to
Crawl on the floor if the air is smoky.
If your clothes catch on fire, stop, drop, and roll.
Once you are out of the house, go to the family meeting spot.
Never go back inside the house.
Have somebody call 911.
House fires can be very dangerous. Thousands of children lose their lives
in house fires each year.
Check your house for fire hazards and teach children fire safety tips.
Every house or apartment should have a fire extinguisher (on each floor)
and smoke detectors (in every bedroom). Escape ladders may be needed for upper-level
Your family should have a fire escape plan. Practice the plan.
Teach children what to do in case of fire. Teach them how to test doors
for heat and how to stop, drop, and roll.
Dowshen S. Fire Safety. KidsHealth. 1998 June (cited 2002 March 14). URL:
Massachusetts Department of Public Health. E.D.I.T.H.: Exit Drills in the
Home. Virtual Children's Hospital. (cited 2002 March 14). URL: http://www.vh.org/Patients/IHB/Peds/Safety/ExitDrill.html
Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Smoke Detectors. Virtual Children's
Hospital. (cited 2002 March 14). URL: http://www.vh.org/Patients/IHB/Peds/Safety/SmokeDetectors
Additional pediatric resources: GeneralPediatrics.com | PediatricEducation.org | SearchingPediatrics.com
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