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Children Especially Vulnerable In Home Fires

Young children are more at risk than anyone else when fire strikes a home. Kids under the age of five are twice as likely to be fatally injured in a home fire than other members of their household. During Fire Prevention Month, the American Red Cross wants families to be aware of the dangers children face, and offers steps people can take to keep their youngsters safe in a home fire.

Children playing with matches or lighters are the cause of about two-thirds of fires involving youngsters. More than half of these fires start in a bedroom, and bedding is most often the first thing in the room to catch fire. Kids also can start fires by playing with candles, fireworks, cigarettes, and stoves.

Only a small percentage of families - 26 percent - have actually practiced a home fire escape plan. The Red Cross urges families to develop an escape plan and practice it with their children several times a year. Parents should also practice stop, drop and roll and low crawling with their youngsters.

Other steps parents can take to ensure their children’s safety include:

  • Keep matches, lighters and other ignitable substances in a secured location out of the reach of children, and only use lighters with child-resistant features.
  • Familiarize kids with the sound of your smoke alarm and what to do when they hear it.
  • Teach your children not to be afraid of firefighters. Take them to your local fire department to meet them and learn about fire safety.
  • Kids should be taught to tell you or a responsible adult when they find matches or lighters at home or school.
  • Smoke alarms save lives. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year. Having a working smoke alarm reduces the risk of dying in a home fire by nearly half.

The Red Cross responded to more than 62,960 home fires during the 2011 fiscal year. House fires are the worst disaster threat to families in the United States. To learn how to prevent a fire in your home and how to keep members of your household safe, you can download The Red Cross Fire Prevention and Safety Checklist. Downloadable fact sheets are also available at on how to be fire safe over the holidays, how to avoid home heating fires, candle safety, proper use of smoke alarms and tips on how to avoid cooking fires.