Children and House Fires

One important fact highlighted in the NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week video this year is that children can sleep through smoke alarms. In the event of a house fire, it is essential to make sure the children in the house are being rescued as there are a number of reasons they may not make it out safely on their own. Here are some important things to consider regarding children and house fires:

Children Are More Likely to “Freeze” In Distress

According to scientific research, children are more likely to respond to stressful situations by “freezing”, or becoming unable to correctly respond to the high-pressure situation. This is a real danger in the event of a fire. Whether awakened by the alarms or already awake, the realization that there is a fire in the house would be distressing to a child. The knowledge of the fire itself combined with the presence of smoke and loud alarms could cause a child to simply sit and cry in fear rather than seeking the way of escape.

Young Children Are At a Greater Risk

According to the American Red Cross, children under 5 years old are twice as likely to die in a home fire compared to the rest of the population. There is also the concern that younger children will react in two different extreme ways and either hide from the danger and thus become even harder to find or view the commotion as an annoyance and just seek distraction or comfort. These fears not only mean it is less likely that little children will save themselves in a fire, but also that they will be harder for parents or emergency responders to find.

Do Children Really Sleep Through Smoke Alarms?

Yes! This BBC investigation found that children, especially boys, sleep through smoke alarms in most instances. This is because the frequency of standard smoke alarms is below those easily detected by children’s ears. In fact, children of all ages have died as a result of sleeping through smoke alarms, even those installed in the same room. Research is underway to find a smoke alarm option that would wake children more effectively.

Give Kids a Fighting Chance By Preparing Ahead

The best way to keep your children safe in the event of a home fire is to prepare for this potential emergency ahead of time. When making your home fire escape plan, assign each child to a responsible adult. Teach children to react to smoke alarms in ways that are age appropriate. Practice things like using fire escape ladders and crawling close to the ground if there is smoke. Test smoke alarms so everyone knows the sound. Remind children that there is NEVER a good reason to go back into a burning house and that no personal possession is worth searching for in an emergency.

By being aware of these statistics and reviewing safe practices with children ahead of time, you can give your entire family a better chance of surviving in the event of a house fire. Check back for more Fire Prevention Week tips throughout the week!