What To Teach Your Latch-Key Children About House Fires

Posted on: 17 December 2014

When children reach that age when they are too old for a babysitter, parents often tend to spend a lot of time drilling rules into their children's heads, such as when it is appropriate to call 9-1-1 and when not to open the front door. However, it's also important to teach your children what to do and what not to do in case there is a fire… before and after calling 9-1-1.

Limit the use of heating equipment, but fire hazards may still be there

You've probably already told your latch-key kid to not use portable heaters when you are not home. If you ask your friends and family members what heating equipment they believe causes the most structural fires in houses, they might say portable heaters or furnaces. It's a common misconception. However, the answer is actually fireplaces and chimneys. Between 2009 and 2011, nearly half of the residential structural fires caused by heating equipment started in the fireplace or the chimney.

In fact, there were nearly as many structural fires caused by fireplaces and chimneys as there were for all other types of heating equipment combined, including portable and fixed heaters, water heaters, and central heating. Therefore, if you use a fireplace and/or a chimney in your home, it is crucial that you teach your latch-key children how to escape the home if there is a fire.

Teach your children how to safely recognize the location of a fire

In order to be able to figure out how to escape a fire or which way to go, your children will need to be able to tell where the fire is located. Often, this is obvious when the flames and smoke are visible. However, sometimes it is not so obvious because the fire is out of sight, such as inside of a chimney or on the other side of a door.

Teach your children to touch a closed door to see if it feels hot. If it is hot, the door needs to remain closed because there could be a fire on the other side. This means they may need to re-route to another fire escape. For this reason, it is important to have them learn all the fire escapes for each room and area, not just their own bedrooms. 

Establish several fire escape routes

It's important to establish several fire escape routes from each room in the house, and teach them to your child. That way, your child will know how to escape no matter where the fire is inside the home. Make sure he or she is physically able to reach and open doors and windows to escape a fire. For example, teach him or her how to unlock windows and open them.

Instruct your child to only call 9-1-1 after he or she has escaped the fire. The only time they should stop is to drop and roll when their clothing is on fire. Otherwise, they should keep going until they are safely outside at a predetermined meeting location. Instruct your child to wait there for you or a firefighter police officer or paramedic.

Of course, there aren't too many parents who will let their children light up fires in their fireplaces when they are home alone. However, nearly all furnaces and heating equipment use chimneys to dispel of dangerous fumes and gases that result from incomplete combustion, so there is still a risk even if the fireplace is not in use. Since fireplaces and chimneys account for nearly half of the residential structural fires caused by heating equipment, it's a good idea to click here for more information and have your fireplace and chimney maintained regularly and repaired whenever necessary.