Your age-by-age guide to talking, teaching fire safety to kids

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The starting bell is ringing for another school year, and your children are back in class to make the grade. For National Preparedness Month this September, you’ll also want to have them study up on fire safety so that they can be prepared. There were 1.3 million reported fires in 2014, down a whopping 22% from 2005. However, this shows that fires and related injuries still do happen, and can strike unexpectedly, especially if your house isn’t properly inspected.

Our children are priority #1 in an event of an emergency, so be sure to sit them down this month to talk about what to do and where to go should a fire take light in your home.

Fire safety for children ages 2-5 (toddlers and preschoolers)

It can be challenging to introduce fire safety to your little tykes. Keeping their attention on a serious matter and having them remember steps definitely takes a bit more time and effort than with older kids. Flames and loud sirens can also be frightening, so you have to walk a fine line and be mindful of their feelings. Try breaking down the concept of fire safety into bite-size pieces of information, such as focusing their attention on a lit candle and showing how knocking it over would be a big no-no.

You can also tour a fire station with your preschooler to get them used to seeing fire trucks and firefighters, and get them excited about safety. Firefighters are excellent teachers too. Bring a camera to document the day, and also to remind kids of what they learned and experienced when they look back on photos. Finally, play stop, drop and roll in the living room, and practice racing to the family’s chosen meeting spot – which should be well away from the house!

Fire safety for children ages 6-13 (adolescents and preteens)

When your child gets to this age range, you’ll want to ensure that they know when to dial 9-1-1 – at the first sign of emergency. Point out where the smoke detectors are, and carefully demonstrate how to operate the fire extinguisher (if they’re able to comfortably lift and hold it). Be sure to walk through other fire basics, like staying low to the floor, feeling if a door is hot before opening it, and having the last person in each room close the door behind them to help slow the fire’s spread.

Also plan go over common fire hazards they should be careful around, like aerosol cans, candles, lamps, electrical cords and fireplaces.

Fire safety for children ages 14-18 (teenagers and young adults)

Should you not be home in the event of a fire, your older children will be key for looking after your little ones and contacting first responders. Review the above information with them and coach them on how to stay calm in the face of danger so they can make smart decisions. Take time to run through checklists and brochures provided by FEMA and other fire safety organizations.