Keeping your family safe from fire and burns

A steaming shower and a hot cup of coffee may be your idea of bliss, but they can present a safety hazard for your child

A steaming shower and a hot cup of coffee may be your idea of bliss, but they can present a safety hazard for your child. Burns, especially scalds from hot water and liquids, are some of the most common childhood accidents, according to Sharon Rengers, R.N., Children’s Hospital Foundation Office of Child Advocacy of Norton Children’s Hospital.

To protect kids from burns, electrical shocks and household fires, Rengers offers these tips:

  • Electric water heaters should be set to 120ºF or below. Gas water heaters should not be set above the “warm” setting.
  • Cook using the stove’s back burners, and turn pot handles away from the front of the stove.
  • Place hot foods and liquids on the center of the table.
  • Avoid using a microwave oven to heat baby formula or milk because you can’t control the temperature of the liquid.
  • Don’t carry anything hot while holding a baby.
  • Keep lighters and matches locked away.
  • Never leave a lit candle unattended, and do not burn candles in kids’ rooms. Use battery-operated flameless candles instead.
  • Keep all portable heaters out of children’s reach and at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn.

“Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and in every sleeping area. Check the batteries monthly,” Rengers said. “It also is important to install a carbon monoxide detector.”

In case of a fire, Rengers said the best defense is to have a good plan. “Practice an escape plan with your child. Make sure exit routes are not blocked by furniture or heavy objects. Designate two different routes in case one is blocked by fire,” Rengers said. “Have an assigned meeting place outside the house so everyone knows where to go to be accounted for.”

For more tips to keep your family safe, visit the comprehensive online library at

Fire Prevention Week

October 5-11 marks Fire Prevention Week. Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. During this week, the National Fire Protection Association urges the testing of home smoke alarms to ensure they are in working order.

To assure proper placement and maintenance, the Norton Children’s Hospital Office of Child Advocacy recommends following these guidelines:

  • Place a smoke detector in/near each bedroom or sleeping area. People sleeping have the greatest risk of dying in fires. Toxic gases and smoke lull them into a deeper sleep, eventually killing them.
  • Place a smoke detector on each level of the home. If you live in a multi-level home, one on every level can provide up to three minutes to escape
  • Position smoke detectors on ceilings or high walls. Smoke rises, so detectors should be placed high and close to the middle of the room
  • Do not place the smoke detector on a wall that faces the outside if you live in a poorly-insulated or mobile home. The temperature of the wall may vary and cause the detector to malfunction.
  • Position the detector away from cooking or furnace fumes, fireplace smoke and dust to reduce unwanted alarms. The best location is three feet away from an air vent or air conditioning unit since they can inhibit the detector’s ability to sense smoke.
  • Test detectors once a month. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for testing and maintenance.
    Clean the detector regularly. Dirt can “confuse” the detector and lead to false alarms or impair its ability to detect smoke.
  • Replace the batteries in your detector at least once a year. The best way to remember to change the batteries in your smoke detector is to change them when you change your clocks to Daylight Savings Time.


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