Every year over five thousand people die, or are injured, in house fires, in the United States. Take measures now, so that you, and your family, do not become statistics.
1. THE ESCAPE ROUTE
This is the most important aspect of fire safety, and must be practiced over and over with children until they respond instantly to the sound of the smoke or fire alarm, if you have one, or to the yelled word 'fire'.
There will be several routes to safety, depending on where you are in the house. These routes must end at a door or window. Routes must be geared to the age of the children. Going out windows may be feasible for older children, but not for small ones.
If you are going to consider low windows as escape routes, make sure that the windows open smoothly and that children can easily operate locking devices. Teach children how to go out the window, by climbing onto the ledge, hanging from their hands, and then dropping. If you are alone with your children, always put them out first, even if there is no one outside to catch them.
Start with the simplest route, and practice this over and over until response is instantaneous, and then go on to another route. You do not want to frighten little children, but you must stress the importance of escape. How you do this depends on the understanding level of your children. You may suggest that you must all get outside so you can together and then decide how to put the fire out. This leads us to the next important thing - the meeting place.
Consider fire safety when you are allotting children their bedroom.
2. THE MEETING PLACE
Once the children are outside, they should run to a designated meeting place, and wait until the rest of the family arrives. Choose a place on your property, but not too close to the house itself. Do what you must to motivate your children. In the case of small children, you might consider making a chart and giving out stars, when everyone has arrived. Once they get a certain number of starts, the family gets a treat.
3. SAFETY DEVICES
Equip your house with all the fire safety devices you can afford. Smoke alarms are the most essential. These should be placed over the door to every room, as well as in hallways. If you want expert advice on where alarms should be placed, consult your fire department. Check these alarms often.
Carbon monoxide detectors are just as important as smoke alarms, and children should be taught to respond to both alarms.
Escape ladders for second floor rooms are a good idea. Make sure the ones you choose have flat secure rungs, and practice using them. Make sure that children understand that these ladders are for emergencies only. They should never be used as toys.
A fire extinguisher should be available on each floor. Make sure responsible children, who are big enough, and old enough, know how to use them.
4. TEACH SAFETY
Emphasize to children, that if they are in a closed room, they must never open the door if it is hot.
Remind them that if there is a lot of smoke in the house, they should crawl to the nearest exit. Practice this.
Discuss what children should do if all possible escape routes are cut off. Possible suggestions might be:
a) Retreat to the closest room, or the room furthest from the fires, or a room at the front of the house, where they are most likely to be seen and heard.
b) Shut the door and stuff any available towels or clothing under the door.
c) Open the window and yell, waving a piece of clothing, or blowing a whistle.
d) If you have water available, wet the cloth you put under the door, and wet a towel to hold over your face as you breath.
5. BE A CALM EXAMPLE
Fire is a frightening thing, but you do not want to frighten your children or they are likely to panic, and no good will come of that.
The aim is to keep everyone safe. Emphasize that.
Remember to teach your children how to dial 911, and how to "stop, drop, and roll", if their clothing should catch on fire.
Practice patiently, and calmly, as often as it takes. When you feel everyone is prepared, cut the practices down to random times, right in the middle of dinner, or at bedtime, or when watching a movie. Fire does not happen at convenient times, so neither should practices.
Firemen do what they can. The rest is up to you.