Escaping a Fire

By Catherine M. Pruissen

Fast Facts:

* you have no more than 3 minutes to escape a burning building
* more people die from smoke inhalation than from fire itself
* fire creates so much smoke that a room turns pitch black in minutes
* the toxic fumes created by a fire can kill you within a few breaths
* heat produced by fire can exceed temperatures of 1000oF, yet temperatures of more than 150oF can cause your body to shut down; high temperatures actually cause the body to go into shock.

Given the above, can you get your family out of a fire in your home safely? Can your child care provider get your and every other child in her care out alive? If you are telling yourself you "think so", that isn't good enough. You have to "know so", and without a shadow of a doubt. In other words, you must both have a fire escape plan.

Fire Escape Plan

The best way to plan your escape route is to make a drawing of your home, marking each room, window, door and stairwell. Using arrows, mark at least two exits from each room.

It is vitally important you practice your escape routes regularly, that you know them by heart. Your provider should have frequent fire drills with the children and should be teaching them to understand what it means when the smoke detector goes off and what they are to do when they hear it. She, like you, should let the children hear the sound it makes so they know when to take action.

Teaching Children Fire Safety

There are a number of things you and your provider can do together to teach your child about fire safety. You can:

* teach them how to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothing catches fire, by having them place their arms at their sides, drop to the ground, then rolling until the fire is out. Younger kids may need your help learning this technique;
* borrow books from your library that explain fire safety. Your librarian can help (see the Resource section);
* arrange for the children to visit the local fire hall and if possible, for a fire fighter to visit with them in their centre or home, to teach them how to crawl to safety, and that fire fighters are their friends;
* show them where to go once they are outside of the building, i.e., your designated safe spot where you can find them;
* teach them to alert an adult if they see smoke or fire;
* tell them they are never to go back inside a burning building for any reason like getting their doll or pet.

Fire Prevention

Saving lives begins by preventing fires. Use the following checklist to ensure your home and the daycare center or home is fire safe.

* fire evacuation plans are clearly posted in each room;
* all matches, lighters and flammable substances are locked up;
* exit passageways are clear at all times;
* smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are functioning properly;
* all staff members know how to use fire extinguishers properly;
* electrical plugs and extension cords are not overloaded;
* curtains, blankets and/or bedspreads are not close to heat sources such as the stove, space heater, radiators, heat vents, or the fireplace;
* home or building is free of flammable debris such as oily rags, gas containers, stacks of old newspapers;
* heating systems are checked regularly and portable heaters are used according to manufacturer instructions and are not within a child's grasp;
* facility is inspected yearly by the local fire marshall.

"How much you know is not as important as what you do with what you know." Talk to your provider and work together on a fire prevention plan that could save your child's life.


Start and Run a Profitable Home Day Care By Catherine M. Pruissen, Self-Counsel Press, Inc., 1993

Family Care: A Caregiver's Guide By Lee Dunster, Child Care Providers Association, 1990

Get Out Alive By John Morse, Ladies' Home Journal Parent's Digest, Spring 1993

The Daycare Alternative By Catherine M. Pruissen, CanDan Publishing Co., 1992