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Family Fire Safety

House fires are frightening no matter how old you are, but children are often victims because they donít understand what to do. Instead of heading immediately outside, they often hide in closets or underneath beds, and they can be as afraid of fire fighters in full fire gear as they are of the fire itself.

Each year nearly 1,000 children under age 14 die in house fires, and more than 45,000 are injured. You can reduce the risk of fire and prepare your children to escape quickly by getting them actively involved in fire safety and awareness.

Fire Prevention
To hold childrenís interest when talking about fire safety, enlist them as part of your fire-safety patrol. Let them help you search for fire hazards in your home, such as the ones given in this section. Also ask them to tell you right away if they see any in your home, a caregiverís home, or a grandparentís home.

General Home
Keep matches and lighters out of childrenís reach. Children are intrigued by fire, so teach them that matches and lighters are tools for adults, not toys.

Never let children light candles on cakes, and supervise children until the candles are extinguished.

Rearrange heavy objects so doors and windows arenít blocked.

Plug only one heat-producing appliance into an outlet at a time. Overloading outlets or extension cords can cause fires.

Bedroom
Never smoke in bed, and stop smoking if you feel sleepy. Wet ashes before dumping them in the trash. Use large ashtrays that wonít tip; keep them out of childrenís reach.

Family Room
Never run electric cords under rugs or close to long drapes. Be sure to repair or discard worn cords.

Keep items that can burn at least three feet away from fireplaces and space heaters. Never leave children unattended near a working fireplace, wood stove, or space heater.

Have chimneys inspected once a year. Use only dry wood to prevent the buildup of creosote.

Kitchen
Establish a three-foot safety zone around the stove or other heating appliances. Do not allow children and pets to play in this area.

Your cooking area should be clear of all combustibles, such as pot holders and dish towels.

Keep appliances clean. Grease buildup catches fire easily.

Never leave the area while anything is cooking. When you leave the kitchen or the house, turn off the stove and appliances.

Turn pot handles inward. Handles that stick out can be easily bumped or grabbed by children.

Unplug toasters and other electrical appliances when they arenít in use.

If a cooking fire starts, turn off the burner and use a kitchen fire extinguisher to put out the fire (one rated 2óB:C thatís intended to fight grease and electrical fires).

10 Steps to Learning Fire Safety

Go over the following lessons and issues with your newly enlisted fire-safety patrollers:

1. Try to imagine problems that may arise in certain areas of the house or due to the specific needs of individuals. Designate family members to help infants and physically challenged people out of the house.

2. After youíve formulated a fire-escape plan (see The Ins & Outs of Windows article), draw a map of escape routes and post copies of the map and emergency numbers. Show them to caregivers and houseguests.

3. Let children hear the smoke alarm, and explain what it means. Remind them NEVER to borrow batteries from a smoke detector.

4. Sleep with bedroom doors closed. Even a hollow-core door delays the spread of fire for a short time. If you must exit the house in the event of a fire, close doors behind you.

5. Demonstrate to children how to crawl low to stay under any smoke (see ďMake like a snakeĒ in The Ins & Outs of Windows). Use a damp towel to cover their nose and mouth only if one is immediately available. Instruct them how to pull their shirt over their nose and mouth if necessary.

6. Have fire escape ladders available in all occupied upper-level rooms. Show children where the ladders are stored and how to attach them to windows. In the event of a fire, back out of the window and down the ladder, feet first. Do not go out a window first and expect children to follow; help them exit first. Remind children that escape ladders are for safety and not for play.

7. Teach children to stop, drop, and roll. Immediately after leaving a burning building, anyone whose clothes are on fire should stop, drop to the ground, and roll over and over until all flames are extinguished.

8. Make certain children understand that they canít re-enter the house to retrieve pets or keepsakes. If pets are inside, notify the fire fighters.

9. Designate an outdoor meeting place where everyone will gather once they have escaped a fire. When two people have reached this place, one should leave to call for help and the other should stay to account for the rest of the family. Once outside, stay outside.

10. Arrange a visit to the fire station so your children can see fire fighters in full gear. Teach children that fire fightersí jobs are to save children.

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