Editorial: Blazing the trail

Parents must teacher their children fire safety in the home
Feb. 21, 2013 @ 12:03 AM

Someone dies every day of the year in a residential fire. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 3,500 Americans die and approximately 18,300 are injured each year in fires.

That should get your attention. So too this sobering reminder of the cost: One of the primary causes of residential fire deaths and injuries for children under 10 is playing with a heat source, which includes lighters and matches. “We urge parents to teach children at an early age about the dangers of playing with fire, to prevent child injuries, fire deaths and fire-setting behavior,” State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak says. “If your child expresses curiosity about fire or has been playing with fire, calmly but firmly explain the dangers and that matches and lighters are tools for adults only.”

All kids are curious about fire, so it demands that parents teach them about the proper ways to handle it and the dangers of mishandling it. Since 2010, nearly 60 structure fires in Tennessee have resulted from children playing with fire. It is imperative that parents teach their children the importance of fire-safe habits, and practice a home fire escape plan with them.Consider these facts:

n Children 14 and under make up 10-15 percent of all fire deaths.

n 52 percent of all child fire deaths occur involve those under 5. These children are usually unable to escape from a fire independently.

n At home, children often play with fire in bedrooms, in closets and under beds to avoid detection. These locations just so happen to contain a lot of flammable materials.

n Too often, child fire-setters are not given proper guidance and supervision by parents and teachers. Consequently, they repeat their fire-setting behavior.

Practice fire safety at home. Keep matches and lighters in a locked drawer or cabinet, high out of the reach children. Purchase and use only child-resistant lighters. Lighters that look like toys can confuse children and cause fires, injuries, and death.

Teach young children to never touch matches and lighters, and to tell a grownup if they find them. Teach children that fire is a tool for adults, not a toy for children. Never use lighters or matches as a source of amusement for children; they may try to do the same.

Develop a home fire escape plan, practice it with your children and designate a safe meeting place outside your residence. Teach children not to hide from firefighters but to get out quickly and call for help from another location. Show children how to crawl on the floor below smoke, to get out of the home and stay out.

For more information on making your home fire-safe, download and print the state home fire safety checklist (http://tn.gov/fire/fsk/documents/checklist.pdf). The State Fire Marshal’s Office also may be contacted at 615-741-2981.