How to talk to your children about fire safety
It’s important to have sensible and age-appropriate conversations with children to help them to understand the risks of fire, and what to do if there is a fire at home.
How to talk to children about smoke alarms
Children need to understand what it means when a smoke alarm sounds.
- Get your children involved in testing your smoke alarm and talk to them about what to do if the smoke alarm sounds.
- If you accidentally set off the alarm through cooking, talk calmly about what you are doing to silence the alarm. Explain that you know the alarm is telling you there is smoke from the cooking, but if the sound was from another reason for smoke, you would get out in case there was a fire.
Do children hear smoke alarms?
Research conducted in 2017 found that a smoke alarm would not wake the large majority of children. However, it is unlikely that a young child would be sleeping alone in a house, so an adult would hear the alarm and wake the child.
Children may be frightened by the sound of a smoke alarm – particularly if they have additional needs. We recommend that when you do your smoke alarm testing, you also practise your escape plan with your child. This will help them to get used to the sound and also stay calm and know exactly what to do. This is what happens in fire drills in schools.
Learn about smoke alarms
Watch this video with your children.
Hello my name is Beep and I work for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service. Our firefighters are really busy at the moment so we need you to help keep yourself and others safe.
The way you can do this, is to look at this presentation and complete the tasks I made for you. I'd also like you to tell your grown-ups, your family and your friends everything that you will have learnt and tell them what they should be doing to keep safe at home and in the garden. Thank you, and have fun learning.
Smoke alarms are very important, they can help save your life if a fire starts. Check where your smoke alarms are and see if you have enough. A smoke alarm should be fitted on the ceiling of each level of your home, in the hall and at the top of the stairs. The more alarms you have, the safer you'll be. Do not put smoke alarms in or near kitchens or bathrooms where smoke or steam can set them off.
You need to look after your smoke alarms so they are always working. Make sure you tell your grown-ups what to do. If there is a battery change the battery every year. Test your smoke alarms once a month, they should beep if they are working. Vacuum your alarms once every six months to remove dust. Whoa that tickles!
Firefighters have to do a lot of reading before they can tackle a fire or know how to keep people safe. You've just done the same as the firefighters by looking at the presentation and learning about smoke alarms. Now, you can have a look at worksheet one all about smoke alarms, and practice what you have learned. Have fun and I'll see you later.
How to talk to your children about fire safety
Give children under five years old clear instructions of what they should and shouldn’t do. With older children, it’s better to also explain why.
You will probably need to talk about fire safety more than once, to make sure they have remembered and understood what you have taught them. Tell them:
- never to play with matches, lighters, or lighted candles and to tell a grown-up if they see matches or lighters lying around
- never to play, or leave toys close to a fire or heater
- not to pull on electric cables or fiddle with electrical appliances or sockets
- never to switch on the cooker or put anything on top of it
- never touch any saucepans on the cooker.
Explain that fire is not a toy and that it can hurt and cause damage.
A memorable rhyme for young children:
“matches, lighters, never touch, they can hurt you very much”
How to talk to your children about escape plans
It’s important that the children in your home know what to do in the event of a fire, but you need to take care of how to do this without frightening them.
When making the fire escape plan include the children; everyone in the house needs to know what to do.
- Practise and go through the fire escape plan together – practise in the dark too.
- Download our printable escape plan sheet (PDF) and go through this with the children.
- When talking to children refer to what they do at school in their fire drill – and apply that to your home situation.
In school, children will regularly practice what to when the fire alarm goes off. Though the first time they hear the fire alarm at school they may have been scared, with time and reassurance from their teachers, they realise the importance of knowing what to do and how to behave in an emergency situation.
Watch a video for children about escape plans and bedtime routines
Watch this video with your children.
Hello it's Beep here. I'm by myself today because Pumper is out with his firefighters. So what we've been looking at in some of the other presentations is about how to make sure a fire doesn't start in the first place. This is called prevention and this is what keeps us safe. So before you go to bed, it's important you do certain things to keep safe and make sure that fire doesn't start.
Here are some of the things the fire service would like you to do.
So first of all close inside doors. If a fire did start this would stop the flames and the smoke from spreading quickly through the house.
Turn off and unplug electrical items, unless they are meant to be left on like the fridge or the freezer for example.
Check your cooker is turned off and your oven too.
Sometimes grown-ups like to leave tumble dryers or washing machines on when they go to bed or if they go out of the house. We don't want them to do that because if they go wrong they can start a fire.
Turn off heaters. If you've got a log burner or an open fire put up fire guards.
We don't really like candles in the fire service but if you've got them please make sure they're put out properly and cigarettes too.
Make sure all stairs and doorways are clear. Keep door and window keys where everyone can find them and, finally make sure that you've got a phone next to the bed. Make sure that it's on a hard surface and not charging. And that's the same for all things that you need to charge like your laptop or your tablet or even your Playstations or your Xboxes because they can get really hot and they could start a fire.
Now you know some of the things that you need to do for your bedtime routine, you can make your own. I've done a little worksheet called bedtime routine checklist. You can make one with your family, talk it through with them and then make sure you have your own fire-safety bedtime routine.
Sometimes, if people haven't done things like unplug or turn off or put out, fires can start. We know things don't always go to plan. It should be your smoke alarm that will tell you if the fire started so it's really important that you make sure your smoke alarms work. Don't forget to test them once a month. And if you haven't got working smoke alarms, or not enough, then please contact us at the fire service by ringing our special number. It's very important that you chat to your grownups and ask them what you would do if your smoke alarm did go off and you needed to get out of the house quickly. This is what we call, in the fire service, your fire escape plan and we're going to talk you through how to make one.
So we're going to talk about what to do to make your fire escape plan. If you think about what you do when you have a fire practice at school it's a little bit like that and that should help you. So if your smoke alarm is beeping loudly you've got to make your way calmly and quickly out of the house. Every time you come to a door, what we'd like you to do is, feel the door with the back of your hand. If it is cold or cool then it's safe to go through that door because it means there's not a fire on the other side.
When you've gone onto the landing or the hall shout fire! fire! fire! Just to make sure everybody knows and everybody's awake.
As you're going out of the building make sure that you stay low because the air is clearer lower down. Remember, smoke goes up so you go down. The way you get out of the house is normally the same way that you come in and out of your home every single day. That's the way you should go out. So, you go out your door and once you're outside you stay out. You do not go back in for anything. It's then that you call 9 9 9 and ask for the fire service.
Obviously, sometimes our first plans don't always go as they should and that's why you need a plan B. That means that, when you feel that door, if it feels hot or warm to touch then you mustn't go through it because there is a file on the other side.
It's important you put bedding or cushions or blankets along the bottom of the door to block the smoke. Then you, and if you are with anybody else, go stand by an open window. And it's from there that you shout fire! and help! as loudly as you can. If you've got a phone you can dial 999 as well. The fire service will come and rescue you.
Here, somebody's drawn a fire escape plan but see that tree says 'meet here' because you should always decide where everybody should meet when they've got out of the house. Then everybody knows that everyone is safe.
Well, that's it. That's your fire escape plan done. Make sure everyone knows it and make sure that you practice it like you do when you're at school and you have your fire practices.
What we'd like you to remember is that if your smoke alarm does go off, don't try and find out where the fire is and try to tackle it. Leave all that to the fire service. That's our job. Try and keep calm and act quickly and get everyone out as soon as possible. Remember, the best route is the normal way in and out of your home. Always make sure your way out is kept clear, so don't leave things on stairs or in doorways. And make sure that your bedroom is tidy too. Keep door and window keys where everyone can find them.
We'd like you to not go looking for anything, so leave your maths homework in your school bag and also don't go looking for your animals. I know that's a little bit difficult, but if you go outside, when the fire service arrives you tell us where your dog is or where your cat might be and we'll go looking for them.
If you can't get out, it's important that everyone goes into one room, ideally with a window, and also make sure everyone knows where to meet when you're all out of the building.
Now you know what to do to make your own home fire escape plan. Remember it's, get out stay out and call 999. Everybody in the house needs to know about it and if you can, practice it. There's a few tasks you can do on our website and a fire escape plan that will help you remember and help you learn more. Have fun and stay safe.