What Kids Need to Know About Fire Safety

Each year, hundreds of children die in home fires. Home fires can spread rapidly and leave families with just minutes to escape after an alarm sounds. That's why it's important that children as well as adults know how to prevent and handle fire emergencies. From escaping quickly to testing smoke alarms monthly, kids should know these important fire safety details.

  1. How to escape during a fire: If you do nothing else, do this. Kids need to know how to get out of their home if it's on fire. Unless they are very small, children should know how to escape without your help in case you're incapacitated or unable to reach them. Make a family escape plan, highlighting two escape routes for every room and a safe meeting place for all family members to gather outside of your home. This worksheet offers a handy way to make a fire escape plan for your family. Once you've established your escape plan, practice it regularly with your family. Make it a game and use a stopwatch to see if you can beat your best time!
  2. Proper escape details: Teach children how to roll out of bed and crawl low to escape smoke and move quickly out of the home. Remind children that they should never go back inside a burning home, not even for pets or a favorite toy.
  3. Don't hide, go outside: Teach children that they should never hide under a bed, even if that's where they feel safest. Remind children that emergency personnel are there to help them, even if they might look scary with gear on. Consider visiting your local fire station and asking firefighters to show children what they look like with their gear on while actively fighting fires.
  4. How to smell smoke: While burning your fireplace, candles, or other controlled fires, ask children to notice the smell of smoke. Remind them that if they smell smoke that is not related to a controlled fire such as the fireplace or a kitchen cook top, they should escape immediately.
  5. What to do if they see or smell smoke or hear a smoke detector alarm: Explain to children how they should handle the smell of smoke or the sounding of a fire alarm. Test your smoke detector with your child so that children know what it sounds like.
  6. How to call 911: If you're unable to call 911, or if a child is home alone, they will need to be able to call for emergency services on their own. Show children how to use the phone, whether it's a home land line or a cell phone, and teach them how to dial 911. Explain what emergency situations are and when it is appropriate to call 911 for help.
  7. Their home address: When calling 911, dispatchers may need to know your address, especially if you're calling from a cell phone. Teach children their home address so that emergency responders can know where to go to help you.
  8. How to get help from a neighbor: If your child makes it out of the house before you do, they may be tempted to go back in and get you. Teach them to call for 911 instead and then get help from a trusted neighbor. Be sure they have been introduced to the neighbor and that they are familiar and comfortable with them. Show them how to knock on their door or ring their doorbell.
  9. How to stop, drop, and roll: Show your child how to stop, drop, and roll if they have fire on their clothing. Make it fun and practice it as a dance.
  10. The difference between good and bad fire: Not all fire is bad. It can be used as a tool to warm homes and cook food. But children should know that fire is a tool, not a toy, and should always be used carefully by an adult. Children should only use fire with permission and adult supervision.
  11. Kitchen fire safety: Teach children that they should never cook without an adult present and should avoid playing in the kitchen when someone is cooking.
  12. Never play with fire, matches, or a lighter: Children may be curious about fire and the tools used to create fire. Teach children that matches and lighters are not toys, and they shouldn't be lying around. If they find one, they should never pick them up, and instead, tell an adult about them immediately. Create consequences for fire misuse.
  13. Electrical safety: Kids should take care not to plug too many items into a single electrical outlet. They should also know not to play with electrical outlets.
  14. Safety with flammable items: Children should never place towels or other flammables near stove tops, fireplaces, or heaters. Clothes and other flammables should never be placed on or near a lamp.
  15. Never play near fire or burn dangers: Children can avoid burns by never playing near a stove, fireplace, or heater.
  16. Report fire dangers immediately: Teach children to tell a trusted adult any time they observe a fire danger, like flammables near a heater or an unattended candle.
  17. Remind parents to practice fire safety: Children can encourage parents to stay on top of fire safety, reminding them to test smoke detectors monthly, regularly review and practice family escape plans, and change batteries in smoke detectors twice a year. Smoke detectors should be placed on every floor of the home and ideally, in every bedroom.