Fire Safety and Burns--Prevention

Preventing fires

According to the National SAFEKIDS Campaign, 40% of residential fires that kill children are caused by children playing with smoking-related products, such as matches, lighters, and cigarettes. In addition, not having working smoke alarms can significantly increase the chance of dying in a residential fire. However, by taking these steps to make your home safe, you can protect your children and your family from fires:

  • Keep flammable products, such as matches, lighters, and candles locked and out of the reach of children.

  • Install and maintain smoke alarms in your home.

  • Maintain heating equipment: regularly have your furnace inspected, and turn off and unplug supplemental heaters when sleeping.

  • Only burn logs in the fireplace with a fireplace screen in place to protect against sparks. Have your chimney cleaned and inspected yearly.

  • Develop several fire escape plans from each room in the house and practice them regularly with your family.

  • Make sure items such as clothing or blankets do not cover lamps that are turned on.

The family escape plan

In the event of a fire, it is important to get out of the house fast. However, small children can become frightened, disoriented, or react inappropriately when a fire occurs. By developing a family escape plan together, and practicing it repeatedly, your child will have a better chance of escaping a fire unhurt and alive. A good family escape plan should include the following:

  • Two escape routes from each room (in case one exit becomes blocked by the fire)

  • A chain ladder for every upstairs bedroom

  • A drawn floor plan of your home with arrows indicating escape routes

  • Repeated practice to familiarize yourself and your child with the escape plan

  • An agreed-on meeting place outside of the house

How to escape a fire:

  1. Fast exit. The key to escaping a fire in the home safely is to get out fast. Smoke, gas, or fire can kill within one minute. Leave valuables behind. Do not get locked inside your house; keep a key in or near any locks at night.

  2. Exit low. Smoke and the heat from fire rise, so it is important to stay low. Crawl out of the house. Do not run or walk.

  3. Feel doors. Always feel the door before opening it. A hot door indicates fire on the other side. If a door is hot, place sheets or clothing under the door to prevent deadly smoke from entering the room.

  4. Window exits. If the door exit is not an option, escape through a window (use the chain ladder if the window is upstairs). If the window is sealed, throw something heavy through the glass and protect yourself from the broken glass when exiting.

  5. Safe meeting place. Meet at an agreed-on meeting place outside, such as the mailbox, to make sure everyone is out of the house.

  6. Call for help. Go to a neighbor's house to call the fire department.

Special Note: Never go back inside a burning house for any reason!

Electrical safety

Electric shocks from appliances and electrical outlets and cords can burn the skin and cause tissue and nerve damage. To avoid electrical shock, take the following precautions:

  • Keep electrical appliances away from sinks and bathtubs.

  • Ensure that your electrical appliances are approved by Underwriter's Laboratories (UL), which is indicated on the box or appliance itself.

  • Use ground fault circuit interrupters in areas near water, such as the kitchen, bathroom, and outside.

  • Unplug electrical cords that are not in use. Keep electrical cords out of reach of children.

  • Cover unused electrical outlets with safety covers.

  • Turn off electrical equipment that is not being used.

Preventing burns

Burns are among the most painful and devastating injuries to a person. Severe burns can require long periods of treatment, including rehabilitation, skin grafts, and physical therapy. Scald burns are the most common types of burns among young children, while older children tend to sustain flame burns. However, children can also get burned through electricity and chemicals.

The skin of young children is thinner than adults, which means it burns deeper and at a lower temperature. Consider the following: it takes three seconds of exposure to hot tap water at 140° F (60° C) to sustain a third-degree burn in a young child, according to data from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign. Third-degree burns require hospitalization and skin grafts. However, by taking these preventive steps, you can protect your children from burns:

  • Set your water heater thermostat to 120°F (49° C) or below. Antiscald devices are now available for water faucets and shower heads to prevent scalding.

  • Check the water temperature with your elbow, wrist, or bath thermometer before bathing your child.

  • Use the back burners on stove as much as possible, away from the reach of children. Turn pot handles away from the edge of the stove.

  • When cooking, put your toddler in a safe area, such a high chair or play pen.

  • Never carry a child while carrying a hot drink or hot food.

  • Do not use tablecloths or placemats around young children (they can pull on them and spill hot food or drinks).

  • Test microwaved foods and drinks before giving them to a young child. Do not heat baby bottles in the microwave, as the heat may be unevenly distributed.

  • Open microwaved containers away from you and your child, as the steam can scald the skin.

  • Keep irons, curling irons, and other heat appliances and their cords out of a child's reach.

  • Do not allow children to handle fireworks.

  • Keep children away from kerosene lamps, supplemental heaters, and outdoor grills when in use.

A special note about sunburns

Children can suffer burns when their unprotected skin is exposed to sunlight. In addition, excessive sunburns can lead to skin cancer later in life. In fact, most people receive 50% of their lifetime exposure to the sun by 18 years of age.

The following steps have been recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation to help reduce the risk of sunburn and skin cancer:

  • Protect children from excessive sun exposure when the sun is strongest (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.), and apply sunscreen liberally and frequently.

  • Apply sunscreen, with at least a SPF-30 or higher that protects against both UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B) rays, to all areas of the body that are exposed to the sun.

  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days. Reapply after swimming or sweating.

  • Wear clothing that covers the body and shades the face. Hats should provide shade for both the face and back of the neck. Wearing sunglasses will reduce the amount of rays reaching the eye by filtering as much as 80% of the rays, and protecting the lids of the eyes as well as the lens.

  • Do not allow your children or teens to be exposed to UV (ultraviolet) radiation from sunlamps or tanning beds.

Remember, sand and pavement reflect UV rays even under an umbrella. Snow is also a good reflector of UV rays. Reflective surfaces can reflect up to 85% of the damaging sun rays.

Consult with your child's health care provider before applying sunscreen to babies under 6 months old.