Of all of the things Black people have to worry about killing us in this world, we just can’t be complacent when it comes to something as mundane as our homes. We have to be pro-active with prevention and preparation.
Nationally, the risk of fire-related death for African Americans is almost twice that of individuals of any other race. African Americans represent 25 percent of individuals killed in residential fires and 15 percent of African American fire victims are children under age five, as compared to only eight percent of white fire victims. (New York State Department of Health).
“Nationally, the risk of fire-related death for African Americans is almost twice that of individuals of any other race.”
These statistics are scary but preventative. As autumn approaches quickly, this is great reminder to review a checklist with your children to keep them safe. Children as young as two can participate and learn about fire prevention.
- Check all of the batteries in your smoke alarms and make sure that you have a carbon monoxide detector on each floor as well.
- Put in your phone’s calendar an actual appointment to change your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide batteries on your birthday and make it a reoccurring annual reminder. Purchase extra batteries for those 3’oclock in the morning chirps that always happen unexpectedly.
- Make sure you have an escape ladder or fire escape if you’re above the first floor, and practice using it.
- Have an escape plan for leaving your home in case of an emergency and practice it during the daytime and once at night.
- Teach your child how to yell, “FIRE” to alert others in the home as they are making their escape.
- Teach your children to check doors for heat and how to get out if the doors aren’t accessible. Let them know that is a time when they can break the glass in the windows and doors and how to use an object to do it as safely as possible. They need to know now that they have your permission to do so.
- Practice opening windows and tell them to do so only if there is a fire.
- For young children, sing a song – Consider teaching a fire escape song to reinforce the need to get out of a burning building. Sing these words to the tune of “Frere Jacques”: “There’s a fire! There’s a fire! Must get out! Must get out! Stay away from fire! Stay away from fire! It is hot. It is hot (VeryWellFamily).”
- Use Your Hands, Not Your Eyes – Children should practice feeling their way out of the home in the dark or with their eyes closed. Turn this into a game by blindfolding your child and asking them to feel their way to a designated area (VeryWellFamily).
- Teach your child the objective is always to get out of the house or at least to an open window or an exterior door where they can get to safety or yell for help but never to hide, especially in a closet.
- Teach your child how to crawl out quickly in case of heavy smoke.
- Have a meeting place outside of your home for everyone to gather and meet once they are out of the house.
- Teach your child how to roll out flames if they are ever on fire.
- Learn how to dial 911. It is important to also teach them to hit the green call button for cell phones after dialing 911. once safely outside. And once they are outside, to stay outside no matter what!
“15% of African American fire victims are children under age 5, as compared to only 8% of white fire victims.”
Janice Robinson-Celeste is a businesswoman, journalist, author, school teacher, entrepreneur, mother and is one of the original founders of Successful Black Parenting magazine.