Content approved by Jerry Parker
Fire prevention and education are important ways of decreasing fire and burn injury for people of all ages. Everyone needs to understand how to respond to a fire. Those at the greatest risk for fire and burn injury are children younger than age five and older adults over the age of 54. Pets are also at risk for injuries from fires. Know how to prevent fires, how to be prepared for the potential of fires, and what to do after a fire is out.
Keeping kids safe from fires is a responsibility of parents. Parents must ensure that a home is safe from accidental fires from sources such as frayed cords, overloaded outlets and extension cords, incorrect wattage of light bulbs, and outdated circuit interrupters. If a child merely touches one of these items, a spark could ignite a fire. Teach children not to touch electrical items, keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach, and teach kids the importance of fire safety. Conduct regular family fire drills.
A family fire plan is a crucial step in fire preparedness. Devise an escape plan with children so everyone knows what to do in a fire. Discuss the plan, and practice it together. The plan should include the following:
- Devise several different escape routes.
- Designate a meeting place outside.
- Teach kids not to hide if the smoke alarm sounds. Instead, they should immediately proceed with the steps of the escape plan.
- Children need to know to feel a door and touch a door knob before opening a door in a fire. If anything feels warm, they should choose another escape route.
- Kids need to know that they should never to return to a burning building.
A fire drill should include the smoke alarm sounding so kids know what it sounds like. Everyone needs to touch doors before opening them, crawling through the house to exit. Draw the escape plan out to help everyone remember it, and hang it on the refrigerator. Talk about the “stop, drop, and roll” technique for putting a fire out on clothes you are wearing. Also teach kids how to dial 911 to call the fire department.
After a fire, children need help recovering from the experience. It’s common for children to have nightmares and anxiety after a fire. As much as possible, parents should shield children from the aftermath of a fire. Watch for signs of unresolved trauma, such as:
- Increased anxiety
- Temper tantrums
- Headaches and stomachaches
- Sadness and depression
- Lower grades in school
Keep lines of communication open with children so they can talk about their feelings. Minimize upheaval after a fire as much as possible.
Adults older than age 54 have a higher risk for fire injury due to slower reaction times, medication that slow reaction times, and living alone. Prevent fires by:
- Installing extra smoke alarms in a senior’s home
- Not overusing electrical outlets
- Supervising cooking carefully
- Never smoking around oxygen tanks or while in bed
- Wearing close-fitting clothing when cooking
- Making a fire escape plan
Older adults living alone should speak with neighbors about an escape plan so help can be dispatched, if necessary.
Seniors need a TTY/TDD device installed near a bed so they can call for help. It’s also important to keep keys, eyeglasses, and hearing aids near the bed for easy access. Install lighting along walkways to prevent tripping and falling, and always keep hallways and stairs clear of objects. Make a list of relatives and doctors, posting it in the kitchen or near the phone. If a senior needs special medical equipment, keep it easily accessible at all times.
After a fire, a senior might take extra time to return to normalcy. It’s not unusual for an older adult to experience the following emotions or behaviors after a fire:
A support network around a senior should watch for these symptoms and respond with assistance if they occur.
Pets can start fires accidentally in many cases, knocking over something flammable that leads to a fire starting. For this reason, people with pets should:
- Never use flame candles around pets
- Secure wires and cords
- Crate pets when they’re not being supervised
- Make sure working smoke detectors are installed throughout the home
- Place pet rescue stickers in windows for firefighters to see
Pet owners might include pets in a fire drill so they can practice with the family. Sound the fire alarm, place the pet on a leash or in a carrier, and take the pet outside with you to your meeting place. A dog can be trained to understand the importance of a smoke alarm. Keep a leash or pet carrier near the place where a pet sleeps, so you can quickly grab the leash or carrier and get the pet outside. Additional options for preparedness:
- Install a dog door for your pet.
- Use outdoor dog pens.
- Install a Knox box near your door.
- Buy an oxygen mask for your pet.
- Crate a pet near the door.
Pets can experience trauma after a fire, exhibiting fear and anxiety. It’s not unusual for pets to begin biting or scratching during this time, and they might also begin making messes in the house. Be attentive and loving if your pet struggles after a fire. Stay calm and give comfort, get your pet back on routine, give regular play time, and your pet should recover. If your pet continues to struggle, consider seeing a veterinarian for assistance.
- Keep Your Family Safe From Fire – Cooking and home heating are two of the top causes of fires and fire injuries.
- Top Tips for Fire Safety – Install smoke alarms and test them every month to make sure you are ready to respond to a fire.
- Escape Planning (PDF) – Draw a map and the routes you can take if you need to escape quickly.
- Fire Safety Tips – Never leave cooking unattended in the kitchen. Find more tips here.
- Fire Prevention – Supervise candles when lit, watch what you heat in the kitchen, and don’t overheat cooking oils.
- Home Fires – A small flame can become a huge fire in less than a minute.
- Burn Prevention – Children should not be allowed to cook without supervision, and keep working smoke alarms on every floor of a home.
- Fire Safety Facts (PDF) – A fire can become life threatening in a home in only two minutes, and an entire house can be engulfed in flames in five minutes.
- Fire Safety Tips – Replace smoke alarms every 10 years, and have both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms in your home.
- Sparky the Dog (Video) – Watch this video to learn how to make a fire escape plan.
- Fire Home Prevention – Keep lighters and matches hidden from children, and keep fire extinguishers in the home.
- Teaching Children Fire Safety – Kids are naturally curious about fire, so supervise closely.
- Fire Safety Discussion Points – Vacuum smoke alarms regularly to keep dust out of the internal components.
- Create and Practice a Home Safety Plan – Fires spread quickly, so you need to create and practice a home escape plan.
- Is Your Home Fire Safe? (PDF) – Use this checklist to make sure you are prepared for a fire emergency.
- Fire Safety for Kids – If a child expresses curiosity about fire, explain the dangers carefully.
- Fire Safety for Seniors (PDF) – Make it a house rule that no one ever smokes while lying down.
- Pet Fire Safety (PDF) – Always extinguish open flames when pets are near.
- Fire and Your Pet (PDF) – Pets need to practice a family fire drill with other members of the family.
- Keeping Your Pets Safe in an Emergency – Keep a harness, leash, and crate near the door in case you need to evacuate the house with your pet.
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