Chicago Fire Tragedy Reminds Families of the Importance of Working Smoke Alarms: Check Out Tips to Stay Safe in Home Fire

When you wonder what we mean at Safe Kids when we say our mission is to protect kids from preventable injuries, think about the Contreras family. Early Sunday morning, a fire broke out in an apartment in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. Ten kids ages 3-months-old to 16-years-old died, including two 14-year-olds who recently died of their injuries at Stroger Hospital. The Contreras family was hosting a sleepover with their cousins.

This tragedy did not have to happen for a number of reasons. First, reports are that there were no working smoke alarms in the apartment. Owners are required by law to supply smoke alarms in multi-dwelling buildings in Chicago (it’s the tenant’s responsibility to check batteries and request replacements for broken alarms). Second, over three years, the building failed four of seven inspections, reportedly for electrical issues. Third, while investigators are still determining the final cause of the fire, there are clues that cigarettes might have been the cause. There were butts found on the back porch, which is where investigators believe the fire may have begun.

Cesar, Ariel, Xavier, Nathan, Victor, Amayah, Alanni, Giovanni, Gialanni and Adrian. They are the names of the ten lives lost. Remember them.

Sadly, they are not alone. Every day, at least one child dies from a home fire and every one of these tragedies is preventable. Here are some tips to keep your family safe from fires.

  1. Working smoke alarms reduce the chances of dying in a fire by nearly 50 percent. They are a critical first step for staying safe, but in order to be effective, they have to be working properly. For the best protection, install smoke alarms on every level of your home and in every sleeping area.
  2. Teach kids never to play with matches and lighters. Make a habit of placing these items up and away from young children.
  3. Create and practice a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room in case of a fire. Get a stopwatch and time how fast your family can escape. Here’s a handy worksheet to help get you started
  4. Children should know how to respond to the sound of a smoke alarm. Teach them to get low and get out when they hear it. A child who is coached properly ahead of time will have a better chance to be safe. Watch our video to learn more.
  5. Use common sense in the kitchen. Limit distractions when cooking and don’t leave a hot oven or stovetop unattended.
  6. Blow out candles before you leave the room or before you go to sleep.