Teaching Fire Safety to Preschoolers
Houston Day Care Center Fire Kills 3, Injures 4
“A kitchen fire filled a home daycare center with smoke Thursday, killing three children and injuring four others. Firefighters ran with babies and small children in their arms to nearby ambulances on the crowded street, a fire official said. All seven children in Jackie's child Care were taken to hospitals, said Lt. Rick Flanagan, Houston Fire Department's executive assistant chief. The children ranged in age from 18 months to 3 years old, officials said. The four injured "are apparently still clinging to life ... I don't think they're out of the darkness yet," Flanagan said. He said no other information was immediately available on the names and ages of those who died or the conditions of those injured.” February 24, 2011, Associated Press.
One of the problems associated with teaching fire safety to this high-risk group, given their age and related thinking skills, is teaching fire safety that is meaningful to them as possible. When should we start teaching children what to do if a fire breaks?
“There have been a lot of studies done on teaching fire safety to young children, and basically we found that children below the age of 3 have difficulty understanding abstract concepts like fire prevention or 'what if' scenarios," says William Wiseman, a New York State Fire Investigator. "Although they might not understand or be able to digest all that you tell them, things like the importance of the smoke detectors alarm can still be taught to them." Wiseman says it is also important to let young children know that fire is dangerous. "Children are taught about not touching the oven or stove as soon as they are able to walk. They learn that hot things can and do hurt." Still, Wiseman says that more detailed fire safety lessons aren't really recommended until the child is at least 4 to 5 years old.
Where to Begin
Wiseman suggests that fire safety, like almost any other important safety lesson, begin in the home. "Start by familiarizing young children with the sound of the smoke detector and instructing them on what to do if it goes off," he says. "You should also teach them what to do if they start a fire accidentally and show them how to stop, drop and roll if their clothes catch fire." Most importantly, Wiseman says you should teach them never to play with matches, lighters or any flame-producing equipment. It might also be helpful to not use any such products in your preschooler's presence. "Kids are naturally curious at that age and they like to mimic what they see adults do. They are highly imitative," he says. So, if you must light the grill or strike a match to your oven's pilot light, either wait to your preschooler leaves the area or send him or her to do something else.
Although it is difficult to teach unless you actually visit a firehouse or your child's preschool is visited by firefighters during fire prevention week in October, it is necessary to teach your children that firefighters are just people in protective equipment. "The equipment can look pretty frightening to a child already scared to death by the sights and sounds around him," says Capt. Rich Holdgren, a firefighter in upstate New York. "When we visit the schools, we introduce the kids to the fireman in a protective uniform by having them watch as we put it on a piece at a time. That seems to really re-enforce the fact that there really is a person under all that stuff."
"We try to teach the kids that if you hear us banging or calling out for you to come to us and not run away or say nothing," Wiseman says. "Sometimes they are just so scared that they think they might be safer if they wait until we have gone away." Such an assumption could end up costing the child his life.
Just like stranger alerts and safety information you pass onto your children about drugs and medicines, it is important to keep your child informed about fire safety. Unfortunately, what they don't know can end up hurting them very badly. "Teach fire safety the same as you would teach your kids their address and telephone number," Wiseman adds. "It is that important."
The most recent figures from the National Fire Incident Reporting System show that properly installed smoke detectors can actually double your chance of survival in the event of a fire.
by Felicia Hodges.
Child care providers, teachers and parents alike should partner together to teach children of all ages, and especially youngsters, about fire safety. Here are 10 tips for teaching fire safety for kids.
1. Escape Route Planning
Designate two ways out of every room, if at all possible. Today’s media rooms (rooms created without windows) can create a particular fire entrapment issue, and parents should evaluate their home and establish a plan in those instances.
2. Windows Are For More Than Fresh Air
Make sure that windows are not stuck closed, that screens can be removed quickly, and that security bars can be opened. For parents in particular, if a child’s bedroom is upstairs, they should be able to complete these tasks in the event of an emergency.
3. Second Floor