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Effective fire prevention and survival skills—life skills that can protect young lives now and in their future lives—are more than school fire drills, a session of stop, drop and roll, or a mention of pot holders during a cooking lesson. Children and teens with intellectual disabilities are at higher for preventable injuries, including fire and burns. Teens are an especially important group to reach with effective fire safety skills, because they are approaching an age when many will move into more independent living situations—where their risk increases. This article includes six modules for lessons and classroom activities, discussion prompts and take-home materials that cover the key skills of kitchen safety, smoke alarms and exit plans, and calling 911.
Cooking is the most common cause of home fires. Foodlink, a regional food bank serving 10 counties in Greater Rochester, New York, has partnered with Prevention 1st to incorporate safety into its Cooking Matters courses that help families learn about healthy cooking.
Through support from Wegmans Food Markets and Community Health Strategies, Prevention 1st has developed a kitchen and cooking safety curriculum for the program, which serves about 500 families. Here are some of Prevention 1st’s tips for preventing fires and burns in the kitchen, especially when involving children in cooking:
Be Fire Safe in Kitchen—the top fire and burn risks and how to avoid them
Kids in the Kitchen—includes at what ages children can learn to use kitchen appliances and techniques safely
Modeling Kitchen Fire Safety—the top habits for safety in the kitchen
Related Articles and Resources:
When is a Child Old Enough to Use the Stove or Oven? (from our expert partner Community Health Strategies)
Young children and people with developmental disabilities are among those at highest risk from fire. At the Mississippi Fire Chiefs’ Conference, fire chiefs learned how to protect these vulnerable groups even when budgets for preventive education are limited.
The state of Mississippi had the highest average fire death rate in the five most recent years.[i] Lt. Robert Crandall (Ret.), a Prevention 1st board member and vice-president of Community Health Strategies, was recently invited to present ways to bring preventive education to two of the most vulnerable groups: young children, and people with developmental disabilities.
Community Risk Reduction: (Mostly) Free Fire Safety Resources for Vulnerable Populations, presented to 120 fire chiefs, lead off the two-day Mississippi Fire Chiefs’ Conference.
The invitation and attendance “shows a real commitment to education in times of lower budgets,” said Crandall.
On average every year across the country, 49,300 fires are caused by “child playing,” leading to 80 deaths and 860 injuries—nearly 3 injuries a day (NFPA data 2014). Young children have a great deal of experience with fire from family activities such as cooking and grilling, camping, and celebrations involving candles, yet can’t really understand how dangerous fire can be. Crandall shared free and low-cost materials that can help fire service educators and others reach this group:
- Mikey Makes a Mess – a children’s book available both in print and online.
- Help Mikey Make It Out – an award-winning online teaching game.
People with developmental disabilities are at much greater risk of dying from an injury than the general population, and at 4 times the risk of dying from a fire. Policy changes are moving people with disabilities into more independent living situations, where they are at a 34% greater risk for injury than in institutionalized settings. [ii]
Prevention 1st and Community Health Strategies have developed and delivered Safe at Home training workshops addressing communication between fire service and people with disabilities, avoiding the dangers of exit drill overkill, strategies for people who resist complying with fire drills, and involving families in home safety, with an emphasis on practical skills particularly kitchen/cooking safety. They have been encouraged by the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and others to create the program structure necessary to deliver the training more widely, including a formal curriculum and residential safety assessment tool.
[i] NFPA, US Unintentional Fire Death Rates by State, October 2012
[ii] Strauss, et. al, American Journal of Epidemiology (1999)
When we think of preventable injuries, we may not think of our ears. But hearing loss is a growing health issue for both adolescents and older Americans, with 48 million people nationwide suffering from hearing loss.
The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss is completely preventable. Take these tips from the National Hearing Loss Association of America.
Remember, the noise is too loud when:
- You have to raise your voice to be understood by someone standing nearby;
- The noise hurts your ears;
- You develop a buzzing or ringing sound in your ears, even temporarily;
- You don’t hear as well as you normally do until several hours after you get away from the noise.
Protect yourself by:
- Following the “60/60 Rule,” which means limiting the use of ear bud headphones to 60 minutes at a time and at 60 percent of the device’s maximum volume;
- When around loud noise, protect yourself by:
- Turning down the volume if you can;
- Blocking the noise (with earplugs or ear defenders);
- Avoiding the noise (put your hands over your ears if you can’t walk away).
Protect your children and teens as well, especially by monitoring their use of personal listening devices. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Listening to loud music though ear buds – the tiny electronic speakers that fit into ears – is probably the main reason that more adolescents are losing some of their hearing.” If your child is wearing ear buds and you can hear the sound while standing next to them, the music is too loud.
Ototoxic medications, including some over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin in high doses, some antibiotics, and some chemotherapy drugs, can also cause hearing loss. Ask your doctor if hearing loss is one of the possible side-effects of a medication and if it is, whether there is a substitute medication that would work just as well for you.
Learn more about how to prevent, diagnose, and live with hearing loss.
Swimming can be one of the great joys of a child’s summer. But its important to be vigilant around water, and not just at the beach. Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children 14 and under. And for children ages 1 to 4 its the leading cause. The majority of drownings and near-drownings occur in residential swimming pools (Foundation for Aquatic Injury Prevention).
Keep young swimmers safe with a few simple rules:
- Lifeguards aren’t babysitters. Keep an eye on your kids, and never leave a child alone near water, whether on the beach or at a pool.
- Enroll children older than age three in swimming lessons taught by qualified instructors. But keep in mind that lessons don’t make your child “drown-proof.”
- Always follow posted safety precautions when visiting water parks.
- When swimming outside, get everyone out of the water if you hear thunder or see lightning.
Teach your children these four key swimming rules:
- Always swim with a buddy.
- Don’t dive into unknown bodies of water. Jump feet first to avoid hitting your head on a shallow bottom.
- Don’t push or jump on others.
- Stay away from drains in pools and spas.
Many people don’t think of sparklers as a hazard, and readily hand them to children. In the states that permit their sale, sparklers and some other fireworks of comparable strength such as party poppers have been labeled “safe and sane” by their advocates. But the National Fire Protection Association flatly states: “safe and sane” fireworks are neither.
Sparklers throw off showers of hot sparks, and their temperatures can exceed 1200º F. Sparklers caused 24% of hospital emergency room visits for fireworks-related injuries—the largest of any single type of fireworks.
“Children are getting burned with sparklers. Around the 4th of July is the busiest time for hospitals for children and burns, whether they are burns to the hands or whether they are stepping on the sparklers when they are still hot on the ground,” said Brian McQueen, Director of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) in a news report from WKTV following the recent legislation legalizing the use of sparklers and other Class C fireworks in New York.
Looking for a safer alternative? Get creative with these ideas for sparkless sparkler decorations.