Communicating with young children can be difficult at the best of times, so how do you set about teaching them about fire safety?
Every year, over 400 children under the age of 11 are injured and 4 are killed in accidental fires in the home in England. Young children are especially vulnerable, and understandably so, but that doesn’t mean family members can’t undertake a variety of fire safety measures to protect them. This may involve installing a higher standard of fire safety products in the home, such as an interlinking system so that you are alerted to danger throughout the property or taking a variety of approaches to teach them about the dangers of fire and what to do if one occurs.
Sometimes children will run away or hide from fire and rescue officers trying to rescue them - not understanding why they are there or perhaps scared of what they are wearing. Adults need to go over what to do if there is a fire - rehearsing a fire escape plan from different areas in the house - and identify fire hazards and risks.
Identifying fire hazards and reducing risks for children
Matches, lighters, candles and fireplaces
- Keep matches, lighters and candles where children can't see or reach them - and put child locks on cupboards. Also ensure children know how dangerous they are.
- Install a childproof guard around fireplaces - and discourage children from playing near the fire, or leaving their toys near the fire
Electric sockets, appliances and fireplaces
Children love to investigate, and often this will include sticking fingers or other objects into sockets, so it is important to teach them not to do this, and consider getting plug guards to cover sockets. Also make sure:
- Children are aware of the dangers of electric appliances and water
- Ensure electrical appliances are turned off at night in children’s bedrooms
- Young children are told not to put things on top of lights or heaters
The kitchen is the most dangerous room in the home - especially for young children, so it important to never leave them unattended in this room. If you find it hard to cook and watch children simultaneously, it is recommended to prevent them from coming into the kitchen, and never cook whilst holding a child. It is also important to ensure:
- Saucepans are kept at the back of the stove, with handles turned to the back, and children are taught never to touch any saucepans on the cooker
- Young children should never switch on the cooker or put anything on top of it
Primarily, the responsible person (e.g. homeowner or landlord) should ensure there are working fire alarms installed in the property. These provide the earliest possible warning of fire, and so give parents and children more time to escape. These should be fitted in the best locations, and tested regularly. For minimum protection at least one smoke alarm should be installed on each level of your house.
For more information on fire safety in the home/kitchen and protecting children from fire, please see our free eBook below:
Teaching young children fire safety
Young children are forever curious and testing the world around them, so it can be difficult to teach them about fire hazards and fire safety. However, there are a variety of different approaches parents can use with young children to educate them in this area. For example:
- Turn Fire Safety into a game
- Provide them with fire safety information that can be coloured in together and then displayed on a wall or even fridge to remind them (see below)
One of the best ways to engage children is to ask them to complete an interactive challenge. This can be both within the house - e.g. rewards for completing the correct fire escape route from different rooms - or you can use a variety online resources as a source inspiration. For instance, Fire Safe Kids has a range of resources for teaching children about fire safety, such as online games of puzzles/mazes:
Or images to colour in:
Or books to read to them before bed. For instance, No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons) or Cuyler's Stop, Drop and Roll.
For more examples, Community Health Strategies have a good list of fire safety books for children here.
FireAngel has also recently produced a 'What To Do In The Event Of Fire' eBook, featuring a child-friendly section for colouring in. You can download your free copy here:
Prove what they have learnt
Every child is different, so it’s important to teach them about fire safety in a variety of ways, then get them to prove what they have learnt. You can get them to rehearse scenarios, or answer ‘what if’ questions as follows:
“What would you do if you saw someone playing with matches”
“What would you do if you were in your bedroom and the fire alarm went off?”
“Can you show me two different exits from the sitting room to go outside”
“Where is the safe meeting point in a fire drill?”
Child-friendly videos about fire safety
Alternatively, there are a variety of child-friendly videos that can be shown to children to raise awareness of fire safety, as seen here:
Flee the dog in 'Hero' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEele5QPSW4
Flee the dog in 'Hot Date' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqPuLzg_9E0
Sing alongs, such as 'SteveSongs & Sparky the Fire Dog' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OVHhkqpZf8
Elmo (for very young children) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dL-hJzfGcuc
Fundamentally, the best way to teach children about fire safety is to lead by example. Let your children see you being careful when cooking, and sensible with candles and other potential fire risks in the home.
It is vital to teach young children about fire safety as there may be a fire event in which you are unable to help them yourself. Children need to be able think for themselves in the event of a fire alarm or fire event. This is an imperative way of protecting them against fire, rather than relying solely on fire safety products or other family members.
Further resources you can use: