If you’re a parent, carer or work with children, your number one priority is to keep your children safe. In the early years, this often means removing any hazards from their direct surroundings, so they are not exposed to them in the first place. As they reach school age, it is best to teach them about fire safety basics and build on those as they grow older and more responsible.

The winter months with occasions such as Halloween, bonfire night and Christmas present an increased risk for fires starting – so the more children understand, the easier it is to keep themselves and others safe.

Here are our top tips for teaching children about fire safety

Explain sources of fire

As a starting point, explain to your child(ren) how fires can start and spread. Going round your living and sleeping areas, pick out typical sources of fire at home and show them everyday items that could be potential hazards, such as candles, hair styling tools, lighters or matches.

Where possible, dangerous items should be kept out of reach so they’re not accessible to children. Where this is not possible, it’s best to explain and show the child(ren) how features such as the oven, hob and fireplace work so they understand when not to go near them.

Also point out the steps you’ve taken to minimise the risk, such as installing smoke detectors, keeping doors closed at night, not using white goods during the night, keeping hazardous items out of reach and making sure electrical appliances are in good working order.

Teach them and practise what to do in case of a fire

Once you’ve looked at the hazards around the property, talk about what they should do next to get themselves to safety should there be a fire.

  • Do the children know how to call the Fire Services? Show them how to call 999 from a landline or mobile phone and make sure they know your address and what to say to the operator.
  • Do they know what the smoke detector sounds like? Show them where the smoke detectors are and what to listen out for.
  • Do they know their escape routes? Go through different scenarios of how the child would get out of a room if there were to be a fire. Also explain what they would do once they get outside, such as alerting a trusted neighbour and where to wait. Stress that they should NEVER try and go back inside to retrieve their belongings, other people or pets.
  • Are there any new skills they need to learn? You might need to show them how to open windows that will get them outside, or how to open a garden gate if it’s part of their escape route.
  • Do they know what to do if their clothing catches fire? Practice the ‘Stop, drop and roll’ technique (some more information can be found here)

Make it fun

Whilst there is of course a very serious message behind this, children retain information best when they’re having fun and ‘doing things for themselves’. Turning a fictional fire incident into a role play game will help them remember more easily what to do should the case ever arise in real life.

Repeat and adapt

It’s best to repeat the process on a regular basis – both to check how much they remember, but also to take into account any changes to their environment. As you visit relatives or go on holiday, discuss what they would do if a fire were to start there. This not only gets them to think for themselves, but it also instils a mindset in them to look out for hazards and be prepared for an emergency.

Hopefully, you and your child(ren) will never be involved in a fire incident – but as always, it’s best to be prepared.

Further reading:

Here are some child-friendly videos around fire safety awareness:

Further resources you can use:

If you’re interested in finding out more our Fire Safety training courses, you can view them here.