Playing with fire
A fire safety guide for parents and guardians Each year many families have their homes destroyed and thousands of pounds worth of property go up in flames in fires started both accidentally and deliberately by children!
Naturally, many parents are concerned that their child may start playing with fire and thus the whole family may fall victim to fire.
By understanding the circumstances that lead children to start fires and by following a few simple, basic fire safety practices, you can reduce the chances of your child starting a destructive fire.
Children and Fire
Children are fascinated by fire; the warm glow of a fireplace, blowing out birthday candles, watching the repetitive habit of an adult lighting up a cigarette. Children as young as two may show an interest in fire.
With this natural fascination and curiosity comes the need for parents/guardians to take fire safety precautions with younger children and to educate and train older children in fire safety.
Young Children (5 years or younger)
Keep matches and lighters out of sight and out of children’s reach. Child proof matches and lighters are available. Teach children that if they find matches or lighters to take them to a known adult. Reward or praise them when they do. If a child is seen with matches or a lighter, use an empathic ‘NO’ followed by a simple explanation such as “No, matches/lighters are hot; they can burn/hurt you.” Supervise children at all times when they are in a room where there is a firepace, lit candle, portable heater or other open flame or hot surface. Never use a cigarette lighter as a ‘toy’ to pacify a child who is crying or causing a disturbance.
Older Children (6 years and over)
Fire safety skills should be one of the essential survival skills taught to children, along with swimming and road safety.
- Teach older children both the usefulness and the destructive force of fire, as well as fire safe behavior. Older children can understand that fire is dangerous. However, most of these children do not realise that clothes can burn or that the carpet, bedding or furniture can catch fire and set light to the whole house.
- Teach children to prevent fire in the home and recognise the sound of smoke alarms.
- Set a good example. Children often imitate adults, so make sure that you follow fire safety rules when you use a match, light a fireplace, use candles, cook, etc. I
- f there are smokers in the house, or if visitors or babysitters smoke, ensure that matches and lighters are kept out of reach.
- Encourage the school to provide fire safety and prevention instruction in the school curriculum.
- Teach and train the message that “a match is a tool not a toy”. The Statements “don’t play with matches” gives no positive information and does not explain the safe use of matches or fire.
- Parents and guardians can encourage older children to participate in normal fire activities, for instance by lighting birthday candles, fireplaces, bonfires etc. in the presence of an adult.
What to do
If you suspect your child has a problem with fire contact the telephone number below for a possible home visit.
Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service – Community Fire Safety - Telephone 0300 123 1669.
Members of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service may seek further help or advice from other approved agencies in order to meet the further needs of protection of children.
Thanks to Essex Fire & Rescue Service and West Norfolk Accident Prevention Group for the production of this information.