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Practicing Fire Safety Habits at Home

December 7, 2009
Times Observer
BY HEIDI WOODARD, RESOURCE & REFERRAL COUNSELOR, CHAUTAUQUA OPPORTUNITIES

As a parent, your child's safety is your first concern. A good first step to keeping your child safe is to follow recommended safety practices at home. As you follow safety practices, teach your child safety habits and show him what to do if there is a dangerous situation.

One of the greatest dangers for children in the home is fire. Every day there are fires in homes across this country. And every day, there are children who get hurt or die in home fires. In fact, children under the age of 5 account for almost half of all home fire victims. Children are the most vulnerable and likely to be hurt in a fire. That makes it extremely important to focus on fire safety with young children.

Many people still aren't aware of how dangerous fires are and how quickly they spread. They also may not know how to prevent fires and help reduce injuries if they occur.

Fire Facts and Safety Tips Get a smoke alarm and make sure it is working. Most home fires in which children died were in homes that did not have a working smoke alarm.

Never assume you have time. It only takes a few seconds to a few minutes before flames can spread through an entire home. Leave a burning home as quickly as possible.

The heat of a fire is more deadly than the flames. According to NACCRAware: The heat of a fire can rise to 600 degrees. The heat alone is deadly and can melt clothes to the skin. Don't think that if you don't see flames you are safe.

Once a flame starts, it quickly turns dark - into a thick, black smoke. The dark smoke prevents you from seeing - and breathing.

Smoke and the toxic gases and fumes from fire are more deadly than the flames. Breathing becomes difficult. This is a main reason why people are hurt in a fire.

Do not fight a fire. If you cannot put out a contained fire - meaning it is very small and has not started to spread - with a fire extinguisher in less than 20 seconds, LEAVE.

Do not try to use a fire extinguisher for the first time when there is an actual fire. Get instructions and practice using it beforehand. In a moment's notice, it won't be easy to just read the instructions and do it correctly.

There's No Place Like Home Home is a special place for children. It is a place of comfort, and an exciting place for children to explore and learn. And it should be. But, it should also be a safe place. By taking precautions, you can make sure your home is as fire safe as possible.

To Prevent Fires Store all flammable and hazardous materials properly and out of reach of children. This includes: kerosene, cleaning materials and household products, lighters, matches, candles, pesticides, alcohol, paint. If you have gasoline, paint thinner, ammonia, or kerosene, these should be stored outside of the home.

• Keep matches, candles, and lighters out of reach of children.

• Use stove and cooking appliances safely or not at all

when children are present

• Keep all electrical appliances and items with electrical cords out of reach of children..

• Clean and empty all lint filters in dryers and have dryer vents inspected regularly. Dryer lint build-up is a major cause of home fires.

• Limit how much is on walls.

• Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

• Have a home fire extinguisher on each floor.

• Keep all exits clear and free of any clutter or blockages.

• Post emergency numbers next to each working telephone.

• Have a family emergency escape plan.

Talk to Your Child About Fire Safety Children learn by watching, listening, and doing. The fire safety habits you practice will help show your child how to be safe. Remember, children are very curious by nature. By removing fire sources and talking about fire safety, you can help your child understand how important it is to stay away from fire.

Many home fires are caused by matches, lighters and other heat sources. Children set a lot of these fires. Many children have a fascination with fire and actually hide and play with matches or lighters. Bedrooms and closets are often secret places where children will play with fire.

These are some things you can do to help teach your child about the dangers of fire and what to do in case there is a fire. Of course, you will use your judgment depending on your child's age. But, children as young as three can be taught to practice safe behaviors:

Heidi Woodard is a resident of Jamestown, NY. She graduated from Jamestown Community College with honors, and earned an Associates degree in Social Sciences. She also graduated from SUNY Fredonia with highest honors earning a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She is currently employed with the Chautauqua Child Care Council a service of Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc.

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