The curiosity of children is a wonder to behold. But children’s curiosity with fire and electricity is one childhood interest that needs to be closely managed. A lack of supervision or containment when children are free to explore flammable materials around the house could be a matter of life and death.
For kids, there’s no more dangerous game than Playing With Fire.
The American Red Cross reports children under the age of five are twice as likely to die in a home fire than the rest of the U.S. population. Child-playing fires are the leading cause of fire deaths among preschoolers.
“Don’t think it can’t happen to you,” Jodie Protesto Freels, co-owner and president of 911 C.A.S.P.E.R. Systems, told Safety.com.
Sadly, the ARC reports 300 unsuspecting people are killed and $280 million in property is destroyed annually in fires attributed to children playing with fire. Experts say parents need to teach their children home fire safety and not rely on school teaching kids all the dangers of fire.
“Do not rely on the fire training kids receive at school for your home,” fire captain Brent Faulkner of Safety.com said. “This is the No. 1 tip I can share to keep kids safe from home fires.”
The location of more than half of child-playing home fires is a bedroom. Bedding material is often the first item ignited as inquisitive kids play with matches, lighters and flammable materials. Two out of every three child-playing fires and three out of every four associated deaths and injuries involve matches or lighters. Children also start fires by playing with candles, fireworks, stoves and cigarettes.
“Teach children fire safety and prevention,” former National Fire Prevention Association official Lance Luke said. “Discuss the downside to playing with matches and lighters.”
The ARC’s most alarming child home fire statistic: Only 26 percent of American families have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.
“Children receive excellent training at school regarding fire safety,” Faulker said. “However, this training does not necessarily mean children are able to evacuate their own homes during a fire. Most school settings are very different from the home. There are no lines painted on the ground or maps posted on the walls telling them where to go. A fire at school would be during the day, and the children are usually in groups, but at home it could be dark and the child might need to evacuate alone.
“It is therefore very important that families have their own fire training sessions, focused on their home.”
And taking home fire prevention measures is essential to extinguishing the threat of child-playing home fires.
- Keep matches, lighters and other ignitable substances in a secured location out of the reach of children, and only use lighters with child-resistant features.
- Practice your home fire escape plan with your children several times a year. Also practice stop, drop and roll and low crawling.
- Familiarize children with the sound of your smoke alarm and what to do when they hear it.
- Teach your children to tell you or a responsible adult when they find matches or lighters at home or school.
- Teach your kids that smoke alarms save lives. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year. Having a working smoke alarm reduces the risk of dying in a home fire by nearly half.“Take all measures to eliminate the risk of a fire starting in your home,” Safety.com Fire Expert Keli Wilson said.
The conversations parents have with their children on home fire safety are some of the most important conversations families can have. But one of the most important lessons parents can teach their children has life-saving power, says Juanita Allen Kingsley of Century Health Systems.
“Don’t play with any source of fire: matches, lighters, stoves, grills, candles … EVER.”