3 essential tips to teach kids how to use fire safely

The Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Services (WFPS) provide advice for parents on how to teach their children the rules of fire and that it is dangerous.

Earlier this week, WFPS responded to a call on the 200 block of Grassie Boulevard. After an initial investigation into the cause of the fire, it is believed that the fire was an accident, the end result of a child using a lighter.

“Curiosity and fire come naturally to a child,” says Derek Grignon, a public education officer. “They don’t understand the full potential of the fire hazards at this time, but it’s an interesting thing that they want to explore at times, not all kids but some. So it’s a natural instinct for them to want to experiment with fire. The most important thing is for the parents or the guardians or whoever is raising them.”

Talking to children is the first tip Grignon gives, highlighting what the dangers of lighters and matches are and what children should do if they see them lying around or if they see their friends playing with them. These conversations help children understand that fire is something that adults deal with.

The next tip Grignon shares is to familiarize everyone in the household with what the smoke alarm is and what it means.

“When the smoke alarm goes off, you have to have an idea in advance of what to do. They need to talk to their kids about smoke alarms, they need to test their smoke alarms and make sure the kids hear them, they know what they mean, it’s usually three loud beeps. It’s all part of this home emergency exit plan.”

Knowing when the house is on fire is the indicator of the larger fire safety tip that creates an escape plan. When creating an escape plan, Grignon advises first preparing to keep the smoke low in the house, knowing two exits in each room of the house, and having a meeting place for the family to see if everyone made it.

“You can go into more detail by drawing a fire escape plan using an overhead drawing of the house and the rooms and all the exits and you can get the kids to do that and it can be like a little project that they can do and then you have to practice it, practice it a few times a year and discuss everything that goes wrong. Talk to your kids about specific things about the house that they need to know if they want to get out.”

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Grignon says that by talking about all the possibilities, parents or guardians are putting this knowledge in their children’s minds for use if they ever need it. You know the plan and stick to it instead of panicking and not knowing what to do in an emergency.

“They don’t know what to do and they get excited and panic. Unfortunately, many children hide, they get scared and they hide under beds. This is another issue parents need to talk about with their children when there is smoke and when the smoke alarms go off they need to get out as soon as possible. It’s just that kind of stuff, it seems like common sense, but if you’ve never talked about it or planned it, it becomes an issue when the emergency happens.”

Most people involved in fire evacuation situations tend to exit the space the same way they entered it. However, this may not be possible. For this reason, secondary escape strategies are valuable factors.

“We’ve seen fires break out even among adults in theaters where everyone has gone through the main exit. There are now emergency exits everywhere, three or four in every theater room. It’s human nature to go the way you came in.”

Commenting on the efficiency schools have in conducting fire drills throughout the school day, Grignon said all children can get out in under five minutes. Fire drills at school also allow children to take the conversation home so escape plans can be made there too.

“You can go to our website and there are some resources there, there are many resources on YouTube if you are looking for fire escape plans. I’ll be honest there are very good videos and guides and stuff like that. You can also look at the NFPA website, that’s the National Fire Protection Association, they have all sorts of options. If you’re an educator out there, we come into the schools and talk to the kids. If they ever want to set up a meeting with me, they can reach me on the City of Winnipeg Department of Public Education website and we can book, it’s about a one hour presentation where I talk about fire safety and the different things they do can do, and answer questions for the children.”

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