Home Fire Prevention, Children Ages Birth to Four Years

In New York State (NYS), fire-related injuries are the third leading cause of death due to injury for children ages birth to four years. Fire-related injuries are also one of the ten leading causes of hospitalizations due to injury for children in this age group. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 40 percent of children ages 14 years and younger who die in home fires in the United States are under the age of five. Children under the age of five are at increased risk for fire-related deaths and injuries. Smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths.

The good news is that you, as a parent or caregiver, can play a major role in preventing fire-related injuries.

What NYS laws related to fire safety are important for me to know?

All disposable and novelty (toy-like) cigarette lighters must have a child resistant mechanism that makes them difficult for children under age five to operate. Novelty lighters look or sound like toys or other items that appeal to children under age five. Homes where children live or visit should not have novelty lighters. Children's sleepwear (size nine months to 14 years) that is not tight-fitting must be resistant to flames and self-extinguish if a flame from a candle, match, lighter or a similar item causes the clothing to catch fire. Children's sleepwear includes clothing such as nightgowns, robes, pajamas and loungewear that is made primarily for sleeping. Check the label of your child's sleepwear to make sure it is flame-resistant.

Rental property owners must install and maintain smoke alarms in rental units outside of each separate sleeping area, in each room used for sleeping purposes and on every level of the home including basements and cellars. All consumer fireworks (fireworks set off by untrained individuals) are illegal in NYS. These include sparklers, firecrackers, bottle rockets, and even glow-worms/snakes (charcoal-colored sulphur worms that "grow" when ignited). Consumer fireworks cause injuries most often to the hands, eyes, head, face, and ears. More than half of these injuries are burns.

Where do most fires occur?

Most fires occur in the home.

What are the leading causes of home fires and related deaths and injuries?

  • Cooking equipment: Cooking equipment is the leading cause of both home fires and home fire injuries. More home fires start in the kitchen than in any other place in the house. The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is leaving the kitchen while food is cooking.
  • Heating equipment: Heating equipment (such as chimneys and space heaters) is the second leading cause of home fires, home fire injuries and deaths.
  • Electrical: Electrical fires are the third leading type of home fires.

Playing with matches, lighters, and other fire sources are important causes of children's fire deaths, especially for children under age five.

What is the best way to protect my child from death and injuries in case of a home fire?

The best way to protect your child is to make sure that your house has working smoke alarms, a fire escape plan and, if possible, a home fire sprinkler system. Install smoke alarms on each level of your house (including the basement), outside each sleeping area, and inside each bedroom. Test each smoke alarm every month to make sure it is working correctly by pushing the test button with your finger. Replace smoke alarms every 10 years. Gently vacuum your alarms to clean them.

How can I get my child to get out of the house safely in case of a fire?

Create and practice a home fire escape plan with all family members. Keep a baby harness by the crib in case of fire. This will allow you to comfortably carry your baby and leave your hands free to escape the home.

What should the fire escape plan include?

  • The plan should include two escape routes from each room in case the door is blocked by smoke or fire. Keep fire escape routes clear from clutter.
  • Make sure all security bars (that block outside entry to your house) have quick release devices. All older family members should know how to open them.
  • Make sure the fire escape plan addresses the special needs of infants.
  • Practice the fire escape plan at least twice a year.

When is it safe to use a fire extinguisher?

Fire extinguishers should be used cautiously and only for small, contained fires of known origin. Do not use a fire extinguisher if you do not know what is burning; if you might inhale toxic smoke; if you cannot position yourself with an exit or means of escape at your back; and/or your instincts tell you not to fight the fire. Fighting a fire can be dangerous. About 37 percent of people injured in home fires are hurt trying to fight the fire.

How can I prevent home fires?

Inspect your home often to look for fire hazards. Ask your local fire department if they can inspect your home. Here are some ways you can prevent the leading causes of fires, fire injuries and deaths.

Cooking

  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. Turn off the stove if you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time.
  • Stay in the home while food is cooking and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Keep all items that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packages, paper, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.
  • Never leave children alone near hot stoves.

Electric

  • Keep electrical appliances and cords out of children's reach.
  • Place plastic safety covers over unused wall outlets and extension-cord plugs.
  • Avoid overloading outlets. (Plug only one high-wattage appliance into an electrical outlet at a time.)

Home Heating

  • Keep young children and pets away from space heaters and fireplaces.
  • Keep all flammable materials at least three feet away from heating sources.

Smoking Materials

  • Ask adults who smoke to do so outside your home and extinguish their smoking material and place it in an appropriate receptacle.
  • Keep matches and lighters away from children.

Where can I find more information about fire safety?