The first and most important step that parents can take to protect their child from a home fire is to be there.
That’s because children under the age of 5 are more than twice as likely to die in a home fire than the general public.
According to Joseph Muhammad, president of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF), “If a fire starts, children need immediate help to quickly escape. Also, many fires are started by children playing with matches and lighters because they are unsupervised.”
African-American children are at a higher risk of dying in a fire, accounting for 38 percent of all children killed. As part of its No Child Left Alone campaign, the IABPFF recommends the following steps:
• Teach children not to hide from firefighters, in closets or under the bed. Instead, tell them to get out of the home quickly and call for help.
• Minimize temptation. Young children are curious and will play with most items left within their reach, including matches, lighters, stoves, candles and fireworks. Keep all these items in a locked cabinet, away from the reach of small children.
• Designate a “kid-free zone.” Keep children at least three feet away from any area where hot food or drink is being prepared or carried, such as an oven, stove, grill or turkey fryer.
• Teach stop, drop and roll. Show children how to crawl low on the floor, below the smoke, to get out of the house and to stop, drop and roll if their clothes catch fire.
• Get fire alarms. Equip your home with both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms or dual-sensor smoke alarms, which contain both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors.
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement.
• Teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like. Tell them what to do when the alarm sounds.
• Create and routinely practice an escape plan. Plan two ways to exit each room in the home and establish a central meeting place outside the home.
For more information and to order free materials, visit www.iabpff.org.