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Protect children from fire

Firefighters must seize every opportunity to talk fire safety with adults and children

When you hear "Bless the Beasts and the Children" many will think back to the song of the same name made famous by The Carpenters. Some will remember an older movie and book of the same name.

Some may not remember any of them. But suffice it to say, they all deal with the fact that we need to look after the youngest members of our population, as they often don't have the full understanding of the world to make the best decisions.

At greatest risk
The National Center for Health Statistics released a report last year on the risk that fire poses to children. The report found that young children face the greatest risk of death or serious injury in home fires.

This is sadly reinforced in the news on a regular basis. On Christmas morning of last year in Connecticut, a house fire killed three young children while their mother barely escaped with her life.

Although children five or younger make up about 7 percent of the country's population, they account for about 12 percent of the home fire deaths. This gives them a risk almost twice that of an average person. The very young may not be able to make it out of their cribs to escape, while those a little older may not have the height, strength or dexterity to unlock and open bedroom windows.

Being the grownup
The very youngest children need to have a responsible adult look after them in an emergency. This task must be made perfectly clear to the family so there is no confusion later about which adult was in charge of which child. The task must include how to move quickly from the adult's room to the child’s room, closing the door and how to escape from the door and the window in an emergency.

Although a nonfire situation, this point was hammered home by a recent news story out of Ohio. In it, a 5-year-old boy dialed 911 because his mother, a drug user, was unresponsive. The Ohio dispatcher, in this case the responsible adult, kept the boy calm and instructed him on how to care for his infant sibling until paramedics arrived.

Firefighters can find opportunities to speak to the adults in their communities at places like local service clubs, subdivision homeowners groups and birthing classes. Consider recording a few of the above safety tips concerning children and posting it on the fire department's website. Pamphlets can be created and distributed at city hall, libraries and the fire stations.

Encourage the children you come in contact with at school visits to practice the fire safety behaviors that you teach them (Stop, Drop and Roll and Crawl Low Under Smoke), and to practice them again at home with their families. Include a pamphlet for each child to take home after your visit.

Do it for their sake.

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