Home Fire Safety

by E. Stephen Edwards, M.D.

Home Fire Safety

When you’re adjusting to life with a new baby, fire safety may be one of the last things on your mind. Babies and children under age 5, however, are twice as likely to die in a fire as the rest of us. That’s a sobering statistic and one reason that the American Academy of Pediatrics is partnering with the U.S. Fire Administration and other organizations on a new public-safety campaign to help reduce fire-related tragedies. Here are the key points:

Make prevention a priority. Practice and teach fire-safe behavior at home. Don’t overload electrical outlets, and have heating systems checked annually. Hopefully, you don’t smoke, but if you or guests do, be sure to use deep ashtrays and soak ashes in water. Supervise young children in your home closely, and store matches, lighters, and other fire starters out of their reach and sight, preferably in a locked cabinet. This is important, as kids who play with matches and lighters start many of the home fires that kill children.

Install and maintain smoke alarms. Two-thirds of fires that kill babies and young children occur in homes without a working smoke alarm. When a fire breaks out, you have only seconds to escape the heat, smoke, and deadly gases. So it’s crucial to put working smoke alarms on each floor of your home, ideally right outside of bedrooms where doors might be closed. (If you keep the door to your baby’s room closed, have a working smoke alarm inside, and use a baby monitor so you can hear the alarm sound.) Finally, test the alarm batteries monthly, and replace them at least once a year.

Develop and practice a fire-escape plan. A fire can engulf your home in a matter of seconds, so be prepared to react quickly by developing a detailed escape plan. Begin with a basic diagram of your home. Mark all windows and doors, and plan two routes out of each room. Since babies and toddlers can’t escape without help, consider keeping a baby carrier near the crib so you can carry him out in an emergency and leave your hands free. Practice your escape plans at least twice a year and prepare an alternative option to use when only one adult is at home. Hopefully, you’ll never have to put your plan to use, but good preparation can help prevent the unthinkable. For more information, visit