Teaching Preschoolers To Be Fire Safe
Children at risk
Tragically, children five years of age and younger are more than twice as likely to die in fires as are older children and adults. Most fire fatalities involving preschool children fall into four categories.
Preschool and kindergarten teachers and parents can make an important difference by teaching fire safety in a way that young children can understand.
It's a proven fact that providing these lessons early can save lives.
To work, a preschool fire safety program should involve both the children and their parents. Through the activities described in this brochure, young children can encourage the adults in their households to be aware of home fire hazards and to know what to do if there is a fire.
Match and lighter safety
Each year, many fires are started by children playing with matches or lighters. Young children should learn that matches and lighters can get hot and hurt children and that they are for grown-ups only.
Matches and lighters are tools, not toys. The message should be clear: Children should not touch matches or lighters. If they find them, they should tell a grown-up.
Get the message to parents. Use only child-resistant lighters and store matches and lighters up high, prefereably in a locked cabinet. Tell parents to remind guests who smoke to keep their matches and lighters with them while visiting.
Escaping from a fire
It's not uncommon for fire fighters to discover the bodies of children hiding in closets or under beds. In many cases, young children die in fires because they try to hide from smoke and flames. When talking with children about what to do in a fire, emphasize that they cannot hide from fire but that they can escape.
Children need to learn that a smoke detector warns them of danger from fire and that when they hear the warning sound, they should get out of the building.
At home and at school, children should know a proper fire escape plan. Hold frequent fire drills and encourage children and their parents to have a similar fire escape plan at home.
An escape plan should include knowing two ways out of every room (in case a primary exit is blocked by smoke or flames) and being familiear with every possible exit from the home. Encourage families to decide on a meeting place outside where everyone in the household can gather after they've escaped so parents will know if anyone has been left inside. Children should learn the phrase, "Get out and stay out." Never go back into a burning building.
Crawl low under smoke
Teach preschoolers to use a different exit if they encounter smoke or flames during their escape from a fire. If they must escape through smoke, they should crawl on their hands and knees, keeping their heads about a foot (30 centimeters) above the floor. The air will be cleaner there.
Stop, drop, and roll
Even young children can learn this simple maneuver that could save their lives if their clothing catches fire. "Stop, drop, and roll" is easy and fun to practice in the classroom.
Stop where you are - don't run.
Drop to the ground.
Roll -- cover your face with your hands and roll over and over to smother the flames.
Activities for preschoolers
Identifying toys versus tools
Have children collect pictures from magazines of things that are safe to play with -- such as bikes and balls -- and things that are not -- such as matches, lighters, and power tools. Put the cut-out pictures into a box, draw them out one at a time, and have the children say if the item is safe or unsafe for children.
Crawling under smoke
Practice crawling under smoke as part of a fire drill. Have adults assist by stretching out a bedsheet two feet above the floor to represent the "pretend" smoke at some point along the exit route. Have the children find an alternative escape route or crawl under the sheet to an exit.
Have the children act out what they would do in specific fire situations. Possible scenarios: "Pretend you wake up and there's smoke in your bedroom" (crawl low under the smoke to the exit), or "Pretend you're helping in the kitchen and your sleeve catches fire" (stop, drop, and roll).
Taking the message home
Encourage young children to take the fire safety message home by asking them to talk with their families about home fire escape plans. Make fire safety information part of meetings with parents. Send information home on child-resistant lighters and the importance of smoke detectors, fire escape plans, meeting places, and smoke alarms.