Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Common Sense Is Key to Preventing Bedroom Fires

Every bedroom should be a sanctuary from the outside world, where people feel safe and secure. However, research shows half of home fire fatalities occur between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., with most victims asleep at the time of the fire.

While no one wants to think about hidden dangers lurking around the house, many potential fire hazards go undetected because people simply do not take steps to fire proof their home.

“Most home fires, especially bedroom fires, can be prevented,” said Pat Martin of the Sleep Products Safety Council, or SPSC. “Many bedroom fires are caused by child play, misuse or poor maintenance of electrical devices, careless use of candles, and smoking in bed.”

Most potential hazards can be addressed with a little common sense. For example, be sure to keep flammable items like bedding, clothes and curtains at least three feet away from portable heaters or lit candles, and never smoke in bed. Also, items like appliances or electric blankets should not be operated if they have frayed power cords, and electrical outlets should never be overloaded.

While these measures are easy for adults to address, curious children need to be educated about the dangers associated with fire.

“Fires and burns are leading causes of injury and death to children,” said Chief Mike Love, a fire marshal with the Montgomery County, Md. Fire and Rescue Service. “Unfortunately, many of these fires are started by children themselves. Two-thirds of bedroom fires are started by children playing with matches or lighters.”

Parents and caregivers can take the mystery out of fire by teaching that matches, lighters and candles are tools, not toys. If they suspect that a child is playing with fire, parents should check under beds and in closets for telltale signs like burned matches. Matches and lighters should be stored in a secure drawer or cabinet.

Adults should also remember to:

- Install and maintain a working smoke alarm outside of every sleep area and remember to change the battery at least once a year.
- Designate two escape routes from each bedroom and practice them regularly.
- Teach everyone the “Stop, Drop, and Roll” technique in case clothing catches on fire.
- Avoid storing old mattresses in the home or garage.

Parents can find free fire safety educational games along with other interactive resources on www.safesleep.org.

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