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Child Safety: Fires

Overview

Preventing household fires is one way to prevent injury or death from burns. Keep your family safe by following these safety tips.

  • Teach children that only grown-ups use fire.

    Keep lighters and matches out of children's reach.

  • Use at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home.
    • Be sure to put an alarm outside sleeping areas and inside bedrooms.
    • Test all smoke alarms monthly. Change the batteries at least once a year if they aren't lithium batteries. It may help to schedule a regular date, such as the first day of each month, to check alarms. You can change batteries on the first day of fall or the first day of spring every year. (Or do it when daylight savings time begins and ends, if you live in a state where this applies.)
    • Replace smoke alarms every 10 years.
  • Know where the nearest exit is located.

    If you live in an apartment building or group living facility such as a dorm, make sure you know the number of doors between your room and the nearest emergency exit.

  • Keep fire extinguishers in your kitchen, garage, and other areas where hazardous materials may be stored or used.

    Make sure to have multipurpose extinguishers that are labeled with "ABC."

    • "A" is for wood, paper, and trash fires.
    • "B" is for grease fires and flammable liquids.
    • "C" is for electrical fires.
  • Check and clean appliances regularly.

    Replace cords when needed.

  • Use caution with space heaters, wood stoves, and furnaces.
    • Have equipment installed properly. Get it inspected often.
    • Don't use space heaters while you are asleep or when you aren't in the room.
    • Keep all heating elements at least 3 feet away from items that can easily catch fire, such as curtains or rugs.
    • Only use electric space heaters that turn off automatically if they tip over.
    • Don't use an oven to heat a room.
  • Have your fireplace and chimney inspected yearly and cleaned as needed.
  • Be careful with lit candles.

    Always monitor their use. Keep them out of children's rooms. Use flashlights rather than candles if there's a power outage.

  • If you smoke in the bedroom, make sure you have a smoke alarm there.

    It's safest if you don't smoke and don't allow smoking in your home. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines.

Preparing your child to survive a fire

Teach your children about how to survive in a fire. Some very young children won't understand these concepts. But start discussing the issues early and repeat them often.

  • Know what to do in case of a fire.

    Everyone needs to leave the home as fast as they can when a smoke alarm sounds.

  • Plan and periodically practice escape routes.

    Make sure there are at least two escape routes from each area of your home, including upper floors and the basement.

  • Tell children not to hide from firefighters.

    Firefighters in full gear frighten some children. Explain to your child why firefighters need equipment, and show them pictures.

  • Teach your child to do these things if there is a fire.

    Stop, drop, and roll if any part of their body or clothing catches on fire.

    Crawl under smoke to get out safely.

    Use a safety ladder.

Credits

Current as of: September 20, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
John Pope MD - Pediatrics