Fireplace Safety for Children and Pets
A home with a fireplace and an infant has something to warm the room and to warm the heart. But the two don’t go together very well. Every type of fireplace – whether wood-burning, gas, or electric – is a potential danger to children. Little ones have been known to fall headlong into a fire simply because they’re unsteady on their feet. Because they’re just learning about the world, infants and toddlers don’t usually understand about the pain and danger of burns caused by fire; of course, pets share the same lack of understanding of fireplace safety. But there are ways you can prevent any fireplace hazards from occurring. You can take steps that enable your family to fully enjoy the warmth of your fireplace with assurance of your child’s and your pet’s safety.
The best way to prevent your child or pet from getting injured or burned by the fireplace is to supervise them at all times. Burn prevention is similar to the number one rule for drowning prevention of little ones (which is: Never leave a child unattended around any amount of water): If you leave the room while the fire is burning or the fireplace is still hot, take the child and/or pet with you.
The next best step is to communicate to the little one as early as possible the dangers of fires and the heat generated. Take your time and explain in ways the child can grasp. As the child grows, continue to instruct about fireplace safety in understandable terms.
Potential Hazard and Solutions: Hot Glass
The glass doors on a fireplace heat up quickly; and, if touched, the doors can cause serious burns, particularly on tiny hands. The number of hand burns caused by touching the glass doors on gas fireplaces has had a startling 50% increase since 2006, according to hospital reports. Children are especially susceptible to this kind of burn; the second leading cause of burns in children is touching a hot surface, such as a glass fireplace door.
To prevent this type of burn from occurring, put some type of barrier between children (and pets) and fireplaces, including those with glass doors. It’s already a requirement to prevent an open fire from burning in the home. There must be a grate cover, mesh, or glass doors so that sparks and hot embers can’t start a house fire. But an additional barrier may be needed with infants and pets around. Fireplace hearth gates are available and can provide a great deal of protection, since they prevent pets and children from getting too near the fireplace.
Potential Hazard and Solutions: Fireplace Accessories
Fireplace accessories may get knocked over onto infants and animals rolling around or playing on the ground. The tools could be kept near the fireplace if a gate is installed around the hearth; otherwise, they should be firmly secured or kept where children can’t get to them. Matches, starter chips, and newspapers which are kept handy to start a fire should be kept away from the vicinity of a burning fireplace and out of reach of children. Fireplace remote controls should also be put out of reach, and a switch lock should be installed on the starter for a gas fireplace.
Fireplace hearths are usually hard and have sharp corners that infants can fall and hurt themselves on. Hearth guards, which create a cushioned surface, are available and make falls less of a danger. Anytime the fireplace isn’t being used, blankets or comfy cushions can also be placed on the hearth, which can also liven up the room’s décor more than the current styles of hearth guards.
More Safety Tips
- Keep toys and all flammable materials at least two feet away from the fire.
- Never leave the house or go to sleep with a hot fire in the fireplace.
- Make sure the smoke alarms are operable; check them monthly.
- Add a child lock to fireplace doors.
- Buy a carbon monoxide detector.
- Keep Christmas trees and packages a safe distance from the fireplace.
- Have your chimney inspected annually by a professional chimney sweep, to keep your fireplace safe and in tiptop condition.
Do you have an extremely curious and adventurous child? Remember that the dangers with a fireplace do not only exist when a fire is lit. When you have cleaned out the fireplace and it isn’t in use, is it possible your child will try to climb up the chimney? Keep in mind that this is a possibility that could have terrible consequences, and take preventative measures.
It is always better to be safe than sorry. For this reason, keeping your children and pets away from the dangers of the fireplace and educated about fireplace safety are musts for every household. And remember, a safety measure does not always have to be an eyesore! There are many beautiful styles of fireplace screens and covers that will keep your room stylishly decorated and your entire family safe.
Photo Credit: -Manda, J. Chris Vaughan
Northeastern Chimney, Inc
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110