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FOR RELEASE: November 7, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

Smother Fire with Safety Tips

A fire in the home can be quick, unexpected and deadly, especially for children. In less than five minutes, an entire house can be destroyed and precious lives tragically lost. It's crucial for families to know what to do in the event of a fire, but it's even more important to prevent them in the first place.

"Children, especially those ages 5 and under, are at the greatest risk from home fire-related death and injury," said Martha Collar, coordinator of the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition, a program of the Oklahoma Department of Health. "If a fire should break out in the home, children must know what to do to ensure a quick and safe escape."

Fires and burns are the third-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children in the United States. Each year, 1,000 children ages 14 and under die in residential fires. Nearly 70 percent of these children are ages 4 and under. In addition, most fires occur during the home heating season, so now is an appropriate time to review fire safety tips.

Eliminate Potential Fire Hazards

A small fire can transform into a deadly fire within minutes. To help prevent a fire, parents and caregivers need to closely inspect the home and get rid of all potential hazards. SAFE KIDS reminds families to:

  • Keep matches, lighters and other heat sources out of children's reach. Children are naturally curious. Playing with matches and lighters is the leading cause of fire deaths and injuries for children ages 5 and under. Children with a known fascination with fire, or a history of fire setting should be referred to counseling. In Oklahoma, call Operation Firesafe, (405) 234-2264.
  • Remove anything too close to a fireplace, heater or radiator, such as clothing, furniture, newspapers or magazines.
  • Avoid plugging several appliance cords into the same electrical socket.
  • Replace old or unraveled appliance cords and keep them on top of rugs.
  • Store all flammable liquids such as gasoline outside of the home and away from open flames such as pilot lights on water heaters.

Plan Ahead

In the event of a fire, simple safety practices such as the use of working smoke detectors can drastically reduce the chance of a fire-related death. The chances of dying in a fire are cut in half with the presence of a working smoke detector. Ninety percent of childhood fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke detectors. SAFE KIDS suggests:

  • Buy and install smoke detectors. Install smoke detectors on every level of your home or apartment and in each sleeping area.
  • Test and maintain smoke detectors regularly. Test smoke detectors once a month. Replace batteries at least once a year. A good time to remember to do this is in the fall, specifically, the last Sunday in October, when clocks are set back from Daylight Savings Time. In addition, smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years.
  • Plan and practice two escape routes out of the house or apartment. It is important to have an alternate escape route in case one is blocked by fire. Fire drills should be practiced spontaneously at night since 50 percent of fire deaths in the home occur between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Designate an outside meeting place to ensure everyone is accounted for, once outside.

Teach Children Fire Safety

Time is precious when a fire starts in the home. Children need to be taught about the dangers of fire and what to expect so they can act quickly. An unprepared child will most likely attempt to hide from the fire instead of leaving the burning building. If a child is coached properly ahead of time, he or she will have a better chance of escaping. In addition, adults and children can be overcome by odorless, colorless carbon monoxide fumes in less than two minutes, fall into a deep sleep and never awaken.

  • Teach children what the smoke detector alarm sounds like.
  • Teach children to crawl low under smoke. An estimated two-thirds of childhood fire deaths are caused by the smoke and toxic gases produced as a fire develops and spreads.
  • Teach children to cover their mouths and noses. A moist towel is best, but a T-shirt or anything within reach can protect lungs from dangerous fumes.
  • Teach children to touch doors before opening them. If the door is hot, use another exit.
  • Teach children to never go back into a burning building. A call to 9-1-1 should be placed after leaving the premises.
  • Teach children to "stop, drop and roll."
  • Take children to your local fire station for a tour. Children will be able to see a firefighter in full firefighting gear, and learn not to be afraid of them.


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