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State Fire Marshal: Teach Children Fire Safety at an Early Age

Thursday, March 01, 2018 | 10:00am

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) reminds parents, educators, and caregivers to teach children the importance of fire safety early and often to help prevent the devastation that can result from youth fire play.

“One of the primary causes of residential fire deaths and injuries for children under 10 is playing with a heat source, which includes lighters and matches,” said State Fire Marshal and Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “It is vital that children understand the dangers associated with fire and that they know items like these are tools for adult use only.”

According to the Tennessee Fire Incident Reporting System (TFIRS), between 2012 and 2016, 405 fires in which playing with a heat source was a contributing factor were reported by Tennessee fire departments. Fires resulting from playing with a heat source caused four civilian deaths, 14 civilian injuries, and $5,436,321 million in property damage in that time.

In 2008, Tennessee banned the sale of novelty lighters in the state. These lighters usually resemble cartoon characters, toys, guns, watches, musical instruments, and animals, and often include entertaining audio and visual effects. They pose a serious fire hazard, especially in the hands of children who mistake them for toys. Toy-like or novelty lighters have been responsible for injuries, deaths, and accidents across the nation.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office recommends Tennesseans utilize the following tips to encourage fire safety in the home:

  • Supervise young children closely. Do not leave them alone, even for short periods of time. Many fires happen when young children are left alone and have access to matches and lighters. Parents must have clear rules and consequences about fire misuse.
  • Keep matches and lighters in a locked drawer or cabinet, high out of the reach children.                                                     
  • Purchase and use only child-resistant lighters. Even child-resistant lighters are not childproof and should be stored securely out of the reach of children.
  • Lighters that look like toys can confuse children and cause fires, injuries, and death. Again, they are prohibited in Tennessee. Do not buy or use them.                                                             
  • Teach young children to never touch matches and lighters, and to tell a grownup if they find them.
  • Take the mystery out of fire by teaching children that fire is a tool to be used carefully by adults, not a toy for children. Never use lighters or matches as a source of amusement for children; they may try to do the same.
  • Check under beds and in closets for burned matches, evidence your child might be playing with fire.
  • Develop a home fire escape plan, practice it with your children and designate a safe meeting place outside your residence for the family to gather in case a fire occurs.
  • Teach children not to hide from firefighters but to get outside quickly and call for help from another location.
  • Show children how to crawl on the floor below smoke, to get out of the home and stay out.
  • Demonstrate how to stop, drop to the ground and roll if their clothes catch fire.
  • Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Familiarize children with the sound of smoke alarms. Test smoke alarms each month and replace their batteries according to manufacturer’s instructions. Daylight saving time changes are opportunities to replace smoke alarm batteries if they are not 10-year batteries.
  • Entirely replace any smoke alarm that is at least 10 years old.

For more home fire safety information or to download a free copy of the 2018 Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office calendar, visit