Five and six year olds can learn what to do in a fire emergency, and this is lifelong learning. A programme of learning operating over part of five to ten days can give the children the knowledge and behaviour that will get them out of a burning building safely some time in the future.
The Get Firewise programme has been developed using current best practice in teaching safety information to five and six year olds.
Current best practice based on national and international research indicates that five and six year olds need to develop an understanding of the dangers of fire and then learn behaviours to keep themselves safe from a fire in a sequential manner.
The children need multiple opportunities to practise new fire safe behaviours. They need to have participated in a range of activities like role-plays, drawings and story-telling where they describe themselves taking safe actions so that they can internalise the knowledge or behaviour and recall it during a fire emergency.
The Get Firewise programme establishes a minimum number of fire-safety messages and the same messages are used over and over so they are retained by the children and remembered in a fire emergency.
Books or fire-safety programmes developed outside New Zealand may have the same overall intent but use different key messages. An obvious example is the use of different emergency numbers in different countries.
If you pre-read any material you plan to use with your class you can adapt the material to reflect the key messages in the Get Firewise programme and assist your students to learn and retain the fire-safety messages.
You should talk to your local Firewise coordinator or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Issues will be handled with discretion.
Five and six year olds need to understand that fire can be dangerous. There is not a focus in the programme on dying from smoke inhalation or from burning, or on the long-term effects of suffering from severe burns.
However the students will understand that sometimes people die in house fires. If asked, the firefighters will tell students that they go into a burning house in their special fire-resistant clothing and with their special breathing apparatus to rescue people.
If they are asked if they always save or rescue people they will say that sometimes a fire can be burning so fiercely that they cannot go in to rescue people, and sometimes by the time they get into a building it is too late to rescue them.
Teachers will want to respond in a similar way to student questions, providing truthful answers but not raising students' fear levels.
The Get Firewise programme has a focus on children leaving a burning room or house FAST, and not stopping to rescue pets or carry out favourite toys or possessions.
However many five and six year olds need to believe that their pets will be safe in a fire or they will want to try to rescue them.
When asked by children if the firefighters will rescue pets, the firefighters tell them that pets will try to escape the fire, and that when the firefighters are in a burning house putting out a fire they will rescue pets if they can.
This is truthful but it does not say that firefighters will enter a burning building to search for missing pets, although there are examples where firefighters have rescued and resuscitated pets.
Modern homes contain materials that will burn easily and fuel a fire once it has started. Some house insulation materials, curtains, furniture like sofas and chairs, and possessions like books will burn rapidly and produce toxic smoke that can kill people.
If a fire starts in a room, a person has about three minutes to get out before the room is engulfed in smoke or flames that will kill them.
Once a smoke alarm alerts you to a fire or you see the fire, unless you can immediately put it out without having to leave the room, it is too late to try to extinguish the fire.
You need to get out of the room FAST, shout ‘Fire Fire Fire!’, go to the safe meeting place, call 111 and get the Fire Service to put the fire out. Do not endanger your life by trying to put the fire out.
This website explains the Fire Awareness and Intervention programme (FAIP) that is a free service. A trained firefighter will work with a child and their family so the child recognises the dangers and potential consequences of lighting fires.
Each year, firefighters attend about 3,500 urban house fires and about 500 rural house fires. Each year people lose their lives in these fires.
The consequences for families who have family members die or suffer burn injuries, or lose their homes and cherished possessions are high.
There are actions that families can take to reduce the risk of fires starting and to make sure the family knows what to do if there is a fire emergency.
House fires can happen any time of the day or night, and children need to take responsibility to get themselves out of a burning building. The family or whānau component of the
Get Firewise programme encourages families to:
• carry out fire safety checks and prevent fires starting
• install smoke alarms in bedrooms, hallways and living areas
• develop escape plans that include determining two ways out of every room and establishing a family safe meeting place
• practise getting out of all the rooms in the house and meeting at the safe meeting place.
Some families will want to read fire safety information; other families prefer to sit and watch a DVD.
The take home component of the Get Firewise programme is designed to engage families and whānau on a voluntary basis.
If any family or whānau does not want to be involved your school will obviously respect that.
Talk to your firefighter or contact or your Firewise coordinator. You may be able to arrange an opportunity for the firefighters to make presentations to your students' parents and caregivers.
Your school may be able to work with the Fire Service to promote community events where the Fire Service demonstrates the value of smoke alarms and promote its free service to advise families where to install the smoke alarms in their houses.