With so many Americans staying inside during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s more important than ever to review fire safety with your kids. There’s one house fire in the U.S. every 86 seconds, and officials say there’s an increased risk of fires with families in lockdown.
“What we are considering with COVID-19 is, because there’s an increase of population being at home now, [there is] a high risk for calls,” said Jesse Baughman, a fire safety educator. “[There’s] a high risk of more kitchen fires or smoking incidents because people are home. They’re working out of their home now, the kids are home now, things are being used more during the day.”
To help families stay safe in their homes and prevent house fires, here are some essential fire prevention tips.
Teach your kids about smoke detectors
Working smoke detectors are crucial for protecting your family and your home, especially considering 85% of houses in the U.S. were built prior to 1980 and may be more susceptible to electrical fires. Show your kids what the smoke detectors look like, how they work, and what they sound like.
When the smoke detector goes off, it’s important your kids know what that means. Make sure to change the batteries in your smoke detector regularly. Firefighters typically recommend changing the batteries twice a year when you turn your clocks forward or behind for Daylight Savings.
Be sure your smoke detectors are located in the right places, too. According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoke alarms ought to be installed inside each bedroom and outside each sleeping area on every level of the house. This includes the basement. If there are levels in your home without bedrooms, install smoke detectors in your living room or near the stairway to the next floor of the house.
Create a fire escape plan
Oftentimes, it’s a child’s first instinct to hide when there’s a fire because they’re afraid. Creating a fire escape plan will help your kids stay safe in the event of a fire in your home. To make a fire escape plan, draw a map of your home on a piece of paper.
With your kids, figure out at least two ways out of every room in the house. Set up a meeting place outside and away from the home where your kids will know to wait for you. Practice your fire escape plan regularly so your kids always know what to do if a fire breaks out. Remember to stay low to the ground even during practice runs.
Practice checking doors
It’s important not to open a door without checking it first during your fire escape. This is because fire is fueled by oxygen. If there’s fire on the other side of the door, it could spread faster if that door is opened.
Instruct your kids on how to check and see if the door is hot. You can do this by pressing the back of your hand to the door. If the door is hot, show you kids how to find another way out of the house.
Practice opening windows
Make sure that every window in your house can be easily opened when unlocked. If you have older children, teach them how to safely open the windows and carefully remove the screens. If there are security bars, teach your kids how to open them.
Teach your kids how to avoid burns
An additional tip to teach your kids during your fire escape plan is to use a towel for handling, grabbing, or touching items. This will help them to avoid burns. Stainless steel items and appliances can withstand temperatures of 1,700 degrees and can be incredibly dangerous when hot. Towels can also be used to help cover your child’s face and mouth while they’re moving through smoke.
Fire safety is an essential tool for your kids. By creating a fire escape plan, reviewing it, and practicing it regularly with your family, you can feel confident that your family is prepared in the event of a fire emergency.