Teaching Kids About Fire Safety

If a fire started in your home, would your kids know what to do? It's important to regularly review fire safety with kids so you will all be prepared in the event of a fire emergency. Childcare providers, teachers, and parents should work together to teach children of all ages about fire safety.


Talk Smoke Detectors

Teach children about smoke detectors: Why they are installed, how they work, and the sound that they make. Children need to be able to associate the sound with a fire. Adults should change batteries regularly to avoid having the alarm go off because its battery is low; this could frighten a child.

Firefighters recommend changing your smoke detectors' batteries every time you turn your clocks ahead or back for Daylight Saving Time.


Plan Escape Routes

Fireman talking to young children about fire safety
Blend Images - Stewart Cohen/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

With your children, determine two ways out of every room in your home, if at all possible. Usually, this means a door and a window. Some media rooms, home offices, and even bedrooms don't have windows. These rooms can create a particular fire entrapment issue. Evaluate your home and establish a plan in those instances.

Also, create a designated meeting space outside of your home (say, your mailbox if it is at the end of your sidewalk or driveway). Make sure kids know to go there and wait for you.

Often, kids' instinct is to hide when they are scared. Try using the phrase "Don't hide, go outside."


Practice Opening Windows

Make sure that windows, especially in bedrooms, are not stuck closed, that screens can be removed quickly, and that security bars can be opened. Older kids should learn how to complete these tasks on their own in the event of an emergency.


Use Escape Ladders

Place escape ladders near second-floor bedroom windows, and have children practice using them. For very young kids, you may want to practice a first-floor window exit just to give them some idea of what to expect.


Check for Heat

Instruct kids how to check doors to see if they are hot, and if so, how to find another way out. Fire safety for children includes having them find a towel to use for handling, touching or grabbing items to avoid burns and to also use the towel or cover to protect their faces and cover their mouths.

If both exits of a room are blocked, kids should get as low as possible. Lie on the ground, near the bed if possible; that's where firefighters will look for them.


Use Your Hands, Not Your Eyes

Children should practice feeling their way out of the home in the dark or with their eyes closed. Turn this into a game by blindfolding your child and asking them to feel their way to a designated area. Daycares and childcare providers can set it up as an obstacle course, and then provide cues and help so that when they reach a designated endpoint, a special treat awaits. (It could be as simple as lunch served outside.)


Sing a Song

Consider teaching a fire escape song to reinforce the need to get out of a burning building. Sing these words to the tune of "Frere Jacques": "There's a fire! There's a fire! Must get out! Must get out! Stay away from fire! Stay away from fire! It is hot. It is hot."


Stop, Drop and Roll

Teach children what to do in the event that their clothes catch fire. Make sure they understand “stop, drop, and roll.” Act it out for them and have them practice with you. Many fire-related injuries can be avoided or minimized if a child heeds this advice instead of running.


Out Means Stay Out

Teach children that once they are out of a burning house or building, they must go to the designated meeting place and never, ever venture back in. If a family member or a pet is missing, they should inform a firefighter or adult. There are too many tragedies where an individual who has gotten out safely ventures back into the home or building.


Practice Monthly

Practice your escape plan at least twice a year; monthly is even better. Just like schools, child care centers and homes should also practice fire drills.

By Robin McClure
 Robin McClure is a public school administrator and author of 6 parenting books.