The best way to teach children about fire safety is by example. Let your children see you being sensible and careful about cooking, candles, smoking and other potential fire risks.
Fire and children
Fires in the home kill dozens of children every year, accounting for nearly half of all accidental child deaths. Children are naturally drawn to the warmth and light of fire, but without the proper guidance this can turn into a dangerous fascination. Children under the age of 10 cause 6,000 fires a year.
Talking to your children about fire
Younger children should be given clear instructions of what they should and shouldn’t do, whereas with children of five and above it is better to explain why. All children should know that it is never safe to play with fire.
Teaching your children simple rules will help protect them against fire. Tell them:
- never play with matches or lighters
- never play with a lighted candle
- never play close to a fire or heater, or leave toys near a fire or heater
- don’t pull on electric cables or fiddle with electrical appliances or sockets
- never switch on the cooker
- never put anything on top of the cooker
- don’t touch any saucepans on the cooker
- don’t put things on top of heaters or lights
- if they see matches or lighters lying around – tell a grown-up
Fire instructions for children
It's important to talk through with children what to do if there's a fire. Don't avoid it for fear of frightening them. Children need to know the basics of how to react, because there may not be an adult around to tell them what to do if a fire happens. Here are the basic instructions to give to your children:
- if they see smoke or flames, they should tell someone immediately – a grown-up if possible
- get out of the building as soon as possible
- never go back into the building for anything – fire fighters can search the house for anything left behind quicker and more safely
- if there is smoke, crawl along the floor where the air is cleanest
- if the escape route is blocked, go into a room with a window, put bedding or towels at the bottom of the door to block the smoke, open the window and call for help
- never hide in a cupboard or under a bed – get out of the house and call for help immediately
- find a phone and dial 999, and ask for the Fire and Rescue Service – give the address slowly and calmly (they may need to go to the neighbours to find a phone)
You should always make sure that children know their address so they can raise the alarm.
Know your escape route
Plan an escape route and make sure that everyone in the house, including children, childminders and babysitters, are familiar with it. Keep all exits clear and practice the escape plan with children.
Make your home safe for children
Here are some measures you can take in your home to make sure your children stay out of harm's way:
- don't leave children on their own in a room where there's a fire risk
- keep matches, lighters, candles and tea lights in a place where children cannot see or reach them
- put a child-proof fireguard in front of an open fire or heater
- don't let children play or leave toys near a fire or heater
- put child locks on cupboards containing anything that could be used to start a fire (for example, matches, candles and flammable liquids)
- keep portable heaters in a safe place where they can't be knocked over when they are being used or stored
- keep your fire escape route clear of toys and other obstructions
- never leave children alone in the kitchen when you're cooking and never let them play near the oven and hob
- make sure electrical appliances in childrens’ bedrooms are switched off at night
Plug socket covers
It is very difficult for a child to get an electric shock by playing with a socket, so using socket covers should not be necessary. In some instances they may stop young children plugging in heaters or other appliances that could cause burns or start a fire – but you should not rely on them as they are not regulated for safety. It's much better to make sure appliances are safely put away.