This article comes from Home Advisor.
To help homeowners and firefighters decrease the risk of fires, we have prepared a resource guide specifically for kids, seniors and pets on the necessities of fire prevention, preparedness and, when needed, recovery. Below includes sections for each group on how to prevent home fires, how to prepare for fires should they start, and steps to take after the fire is extinguished. It is also important to talk to your local firefighters if you have additional questions about fires and preparing your home or family members (including the furry ones) for them.
When it comes to fire prevention for kids, a lot of the responsibility falls on parents and teachers to set the example. Parents need to make sure the home is protected against any fires being started by children accidentally. Some possible causes include loose or frayed cords and plugs, overloaded outlets, overused extension cords, incorrect wattage bulbs, or old circuit interrupters. It only takes children touching one of these or hitting them once for a spark to go off and start a fire, so take steps or hire an electrician to prevent these from happening. Children should also be taught from a young age not to handle electrical items like home appliances, space heaters, and other items that could be used to start a fire. If you have friends over who smoke or use lighters and matches in any way, they should be asked to use them outside and keep such items away from your children as well.
Another step is teaching children the importance of fire safety through planning and drills. Ready.gov is a helpful resource for parents and educators to use when teaching kids how to prevent fires, with games and facts that are fun for kids. Sparky the Fire Dog is another popular resource that teachers use for teaching children about fire prevention and safety, with a website that includes activities, cartoons and even an app to make fire safety lessons more enjoyable for kids while being educational. Many other resources, like Fire Safe Kids, Operation Lifesaver, Club Fire Facts, Smokey the Bear, can be used by teachers and parents to help children understand why it is important to stay away from fire and what to do to prepare should one ever start in the home or at school.
To prepare kids for a fire, one of the first steps is to make a plan. With the possibility of a home fire, parents need to a make an escape plan with their children so they know what to do if one occurs. Parents should discuss and then practice the escape plan with their children a few times so their kids know exactly what to do should a fire occur in the home. This plan should follow several steps, including:
When practicing this escape plan, be sure to treat the practice as if it were the real thing. Parents should push the smoke alarm to make it go off like it would during a fire. Then everyone should touch door knobs and crawl rather than walk, like they would during a fire. This helps kids get in the habit of what they would be doing during a real fire, which helps should one actually happen. Parents can even draw the house escape plan on a grid and post it on the refrigerator if it helps children remember it.
The other two most important steps to fire preparation are the stop, drop and roll technique and calling 9-1-1 if a fire occurs. Children should learn how to stop, drop and roll for when their clothes or anything on their body catches on fire. Parents and teachers should demonstrate this technique for them and then have kids practice it a few times. Then, kids need to know how to call 9-1-1 whenever they see a fire, whether it is in the home on the stove or across the street at a neighbor’s house. It should become an automatic response to an emergency, even outside of a fire. Visiting a local firehouse is also another good way for kids to learn more about fire preparation and get answers to questions they might have from the professionals who deal with it every day.
After a fire does happen, it is important for parents and teachers to take steps toward helping children recover from the experience. Kids have been known to react differently to fires, anywhere from anxiety to nightmares and sleep disorders from the experience. Parents have to handle the crisis appropriately so children know it is something to not fret too much over and work through in a positive manner, rather than stay afraid of for a long time. Some signs that parents should be aware of after a fire in their children are:
The key in these situations is for parents to talk to children and help them work through the fear and anxiety they feel following a fire. If parents need to find new housing following a fire, do not put the children with friends or relatives. Try to keep them with you as long as possible, because it helps decrease their anxiety. Be sure to explain things as you are working to get everything back in order and try to get them to talk to you so they get their fears out in the open rather than bottled up inside.
Children’s reactions will vary by how old they are, so it is important to take steps depending on that. For example, children who are infants will react differently than children in their adolescence. Their ability, or lack thereof, to express their reactions after a fire determines how to help them cope. Regardless of their age, parents should restore feelings of security through physical contact, re-establish daily routines, and restore a state of normalcy as soon as possible so children feel safe again in their environment.
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