Why is it so important that baby-sitters know about fire safety? Isn't it pretty much all about common sense and sound judgment?
Unfortunately, every year thousands of children across the United States are seriously injured in accidents occurring while they are in the care of baby-sitters. Many times, these baby-sitters are relatives or friends, but often they are merely persons who are paid to do a necessary job. Good baby-sitters, whomever they may be, should take their jobs seriously enough enough to know that it's essential to have advance game plans for ANY emergency, but especially for fires, earthquakes, and those of a medical nature.

What does the Fire Department say should be included in a baby-sitter's game-plan for fires?

  • First of all, a baby-sitter should always make sure that the parents share their household fire escape plan with him or her. A baby-sitter should know the distinct sounds that the smoke alarm makes and their meanings, as well as the location of primary and secondary escape routes, the family meeting place, and a neighbor's home where the 9-1-1 call can be made. Other things a baby-sitter should know include: special provisions for infants and toddlers, handicapped and/or ill persons, and family pets; locations of fire extinguishers, escape ladders, flashlights and batteries, etc.
  • A good baby-sitter should also be thoroughly familiar with fire survival and safety procedures, which include: crawling low under smoke; feeling doorknobs before opening interior doors; closing all doors tightly wherever possible on the way out to help impede the spread of the fire within the building; stopping-dropping-rolling while covering the face with one's hands if clothing catches fires; never going back inside a building where there's a fire once you've gotten safely out; treating minor burns only by placing them in cool water for at least 15 minutes; and, finally, ensuring that all matches and lighters in the residence are kept out of the "strike zone" (where little kids can get their hands on them).
  • Baby-sitters should always memorize the address of every location where they will be working. In the event of a fire, you will need to provide a complete address in order to get the help you need. However, since you will be making the 9-1-1 call from another residence, it's important the you give the address of the emergency. And, since it's always possible that the 9-1-1 computer could be down for repairs or because of a malfunction, it's more or less essential that you make an effort to learn the complete address of every place you're going to be in case of emergency. In fires and other emergencies, every second counts. So, you won't have to waste time struggling to ascertain the address where you need help while the emergency's in progress.

Are there other important safety tips you can offer concerning baby-sitting safety?

  • Yes! We strongly recommend that all baby-sitters successfully complete C.P.R. (or at least mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and the Heimlich Maneuver for choking) and first-aid training, learn how and when to use portable fire extinguishers, acquaint themselves with emergency earthquake procedures and the location of all related supplies wherever they'll be working.
  • Don't let the parent(s) out the door without first obtaining:
  1. The exact name and location/address of where the parent(s) will be for the evening and a telephone number, if available.
  2. An estimated time of their return.
  3. How the parent(s) may be best contacted.
  4. The name, address, and telephone number of a nearby family member who may be contacted in an emergency if the parents(s) cannot be reached.
  5. The name and telephone number of a neighbor who may be able to help in an emergency situation.
  6. Special instructions concerning dietary restrictions, children's allergies, administration of medications, etc.

Our baby-sitter speaks very little English. Could this be a problem in an emergency?
Yes, it could be. Many non-English-speaking persons often delay or avoid calling the Fire Department for help because they do not feel proficient enough to convey the emergency information needed by dispatchers in English. Since every second counts in emergencies, many children have died or have sustained extensive brain damage because of such unnecessary delays. Therefore, parents should take responsibility for ensuring that baby-sitters know enough English to handle any emergency situation that may arise. They may even want to "rehearse" various situations with sitters in order to satisfy themselves that this would be the case, taking into account, however, that the circumstances would be very much different in real emergencies. They should emphasize the need to speak slowly and clearly and to continue to stay on the line until the dispatcher is through asking questions. While most public safety dispatch centers today have personnel on hand that speak various other languages besides English, there are no guarantees that this will be the case in any given situation.