By: Robert Cole, Ph.D.
Talking to children about fire prevention is essential. Too often parents assume children know fire is hot and won’t play with it, or that they are too young to even be aware of matches and lighters and how they work. Neither is usually true. Children are exposed to fire at a very young age – most often helping to blow out birthday candles, yet they are too young to understand the risk and potential danger. To help educate children, BIC Corporation, along with Fireproof Children, created the play safe! be safe! program. Thismultimedia fire safety education program provides educators and parents with an engaging set of tools to help teach fire safety skills to young children.
The play safe! be safe! program, available interactively at playsafebesafe.com, breaks fire safety education into four main lessons that are easy for parents to teach young children.
Lesson #1: My Friend the Firefighter
Firefighters dressed in full gear can appear scary to children who are not familiar with the clothing and equipment that firefighters wear while fighting fires. When children are afraid, they often hide, making it difficult to find them and get them out. It is essential to teach your child that firefighters are friendly helpers who are there to keep them safe. While the equipment they wear might make them look strange, they should go to the firefighter if they are ever in a fire.
Lesson #2: Stop, Drop, and Roll
This important and life-saving skill is crucial for children to know in the event that fire gets on their clothing. The three steps are:
- Stop exactly where you are
- Drop to the ground and lie flat, covering your face with your hands
- Roll from one side to the other side until all the fire is out
Lesson #3: Get Low and Go
In the event that there is a fire with smoke, children need to know how to safely get out of the house. The correct way for a young child to escape from a room with smoke is to crouch down under the smoke and go quickly to the outside into the fresh air.
While teaching your children how to get out of the house, it is a good time to review and practice your family fire escape plan. This plan should have two ways out of every room, such as windows and doors, just in case one exit is blocked by the fire. You should also have a designated meeting spot outside of the house that your child knows to go to and stay at until the fire department tells the family that it is safe to back inside. A fire can be extremely scary for young children so it is important that they know a clear action plan to get to safety.
Lesson #4: Safe for Play and Keep Away
According to a recent study done by the NFPA (National Fire Prevention Association), children playing with lighters or matches leads to 49,300 reported fires every year, forty-three percent of which were started by child under the age of 6. To reduce this statistic, children need to learn what items are safe for play and what items they should keep away from. For example, matches and lighters are adult tools, and adult tools can be dangerous if used by children. You should also teach your children that if they find matches or lighters, the correct thing to do is to keep away!from them, and to tell a grown-up to put them away.
Teaching fire safety to young children is important, so take time this Fire Prevention Month to talk to your child about fire. It could save his or her life! For additional information or to visit Hero’s World, an interactive gaming site perfect for young children, visit www.playsafebesafe.com.
Robert Cole, Ph.D. is the president of Fireproof Children and one of the nation’s leading experts in fire safety education. He is continually requested as a trainer/speaker throughout North America regarding preschool fire safety education and community intervention for juvenile firesetting. He is also an Associate Professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He has received two 3-year research grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study children’s unintentional injury. He is a co-author of Juvenile Firesetting: A Community Guide to Prevention and Intervention, and the author or co-author of numerous articles on children and fire for Fire Chief, Firehouse, Children and Families, Young Children and other national journals.