Preschool Children Taught About The Dangers of Fire

ROCHESTER, NY -- Children playing with fire cause hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries each year. Preschoolers are most likely to start these fires, typically by playing with matches and lighters. Children playing with fire caused an estimated 13,900 structure fires in 2002, resulting in 210 deaths, 1,250 injuries, and $339 million indirect damage.

Most of the people killed in child-playing fires are less than 5 years old. Although children under 5 make up about 7 percent of the country's population, they accounted for 14 percent of home fire deaths--a risk that is twice the national average. In addition, children in low-income families are at particularly high risk. Studies show poverty is the single most important factor related to unintentional injuries in children. Children from low-income families have been found to be five times more likely to die in a fire.

Fireproof Children/Prevention First Company

Fireproof Children/Prevention First Company in Rochester, New York, received a 2004 Fire Prevention and Safety grant to expand the reach of Prevention First Fire Safety Education for Preschool Children and Families. Two previous AFG grants had enabled the company to develop the program and distribute it to states with high rates of fire-related injuries and deaths for children.

By 2008, more than 4,204,000 people will have benefited from Prevention First Fire Safety programs funded by AFG grants, at a total Federal share cost of 41 cents per person. This is due to the sustainability and durability built into Prevention First Fire Safety. Through train-the-trainer workshops, Head Start and other preschool managers and teachers gain knowledge of effective fire safety education. They then disseminate training and materials in their local communities and do so for years to come.

The framework of the training is the award-winning play safe! be safe! multimedia classroom kit, created by BIC Corporation working with Fireproof Children. The play safe! Program has been evaluated and shown to be effective in teaching young children key fire safety skills including Stop Drop and Roll, Crawl Low Under Smoke, Go to the Firefighter and Go Tell a Grown-up/ Matches and Lighters Are Adult Tools Only.

So that each child receiving the Prevention First classroom program will take home its life-saving messages, Fireproof Children developed parent/child activity materials, which are highly durable or easily reproduced. These materials incorporate visual illustrations, with minimal written directions in both English and Spanish. They contain activities parents can do with their children such as making sure their home has a working smoke alarm, checking for household hazards, putting matches and lighters out of sight and reach, and having and practicing an emergency exit plan with a meeting place.

To bring home safety messages in a more durable form, Fireproof Children also created Mikey Makes a Mess, an English/Spanish storybook parents can read with their children. Mikey is a little boy who likes to leave his things exactly where he wants them--in the middle of the floor. But then Mikey's daddy leaves out something he shouldn't--a packet of matches. Both Mikey and his dad learn that some things shouldn't be left lying around. Besides teaching kids matches and lighters are adult tools only, the book reminds parents that picking up clutter and keeping pathways clear is a good preparedness technique for any emergency. More than 130,000 copies of Mikey Makes a Mess have been distributed nationwide.

Evaluation of these workshops over 3 years has found they increased the participants' knowledge of fire safety, their intention to include fire safety in the curriculum, and their confidence in their ability to teach fire safety to young children. A random sample of workshop participants trained in 2004 found that 97 percent of the teachers trained had used the play safe! kit in their classroom, 80 percent had presented all four lessons from play safe!, and 88 percent had distributed the home safety activities to parents. Of the families that received the materials, 82 percent reported finding the activities useful. Documentation from schools which received play safe! kits 10 years ago show they are still using the program in their classrooms, thus validating the sustainability of the program.

Smoke Alarm Distribution

Between 2004 and 2005, Prevention First Fire Safety programs distributed 20,883 smoke alarms, including vocal smoke alarms, primarily to families in low-income areas. A number of research studies involving household visits and direct observation have found that only 50 percent of low-income households have working smoke alarms. Smoke alarms cut in half the chance of dying in a residential fire. The 2004 AFG award, along with funding from Ultralife Batteries, Inc., and SignalONE Safety, Inc., allowed for evaluation of the outcomes of the Prevention First smoke alarm distribution. It was found that 72 percent of households that received the smoke alarms still had them installed and operating a full year after initial installation, a fact confirmed by visual inspection by the fire service. Get more information about Prevention First Fire Safety Education for Preschool Children and Families.

What They Bought With The Grant:

  • Enhancement and Expansion of a Fire Prevention Program
Last updated March 3, 2022