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Does Stop, Drop and Roll Really Work?

Does Stop, Drop and Roll Really Work?

Last night while putting my kids in bed for the night, my little boy asked, “Does stop, drop and roll really work”? He had learned about fire safety at school that day and was very interested in how it works to put out the fire.

If your cloths catch fire, you can quickly and effectively extinguish the fire by stopping, dropping and rolling until the fire has been completely extinguished. By rolling round on the ground, you’ll effectively be smothering the fire out. So, yes, stopping, dropping and rolling does work to extinguish the fire.

For a fire to stay active and continue to burn, it needs three elements. 1- Heat, 2- Fuel and 3- Oxygen. If you eliminate any one of these elements, the fire will be unable to continue to burn and the flames will be extinguished. The three elements together cause the chemical reaction known as FIRE.

The Fire Triangle

The Chemical reaction for FIRE is known as “The Fire Triangle”. For a fire to start and continue to burn, these three elements previously mentioned – heat, fuel and oxygen – must be present and involved together.

  • Heat: There must be enough heat in the immediate area to rise to the point of ignition
  • Fuel: Some sort of fuel or combustible material
  • Oxygen: There must be enough oxygen in the immediate area to support a combustion

Fire extinguishers work to extinguish fires by removing one or more of these elements. If you take any one of the three elements away the chemical reaction (Fire) will be extinguished.

Stop, Drop and Roll Technique

The technique of stop, drop and roll works for the following reasons:

  • Stop: Running adds oxygen to the fire, or it can be thought of as fanning the flames. Running does not allow for a “smothering” of the fire. It may also prevent bystanders, who may be willing to provide assistance, from smothering the fire with their jackets or other form of clothing, from dowsing the fire with water, or even using a fire extinguisher they might have available.
  • Drop: By dropping to the prone position (face down) you immediately reduce your body surface area that can receive oxygen. In this position the person should immediately cover their face from the flames to prevent burn injury and the difficult disfiguring effects of burned skin. With the body against the ground/surface, it smothers the fire, by reducing the oxygen that is available for the fire. Further, fire burns upward, and by dropping to the prone position you retard the fire’s ability to burn upward.
  • Roll: Because a person’s clothing (fuel source) circumferences their entire body, the roll portion of the technique ensures that all clothing that may be on fire is smothered (depriving it from oxygen) against the ground, and not just the front or abdominal surface of the body of the prone position. The person should continue “rolling” back and forth until the fire is fully extinguished.

It’s one thing to be so-called “book smart” about the do’s and don’ts of the Stop, Drop, and Roll Technique, its another thing to be able to actually perform the technique when your clothes are on fire, you’re feeling the pain of the burn, and you enter panic mode. Afterall, we have all seen YouTube videos of adults catching fire, and then start running around and flapping their arms in in the panic of their situation.

According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, young children playing with fire are responsible for starting more than 20,000 fires each year leading to an average of 150 deaths and nearly 1,000 injuries each year. The majority of these victims are under 6 years of age.

With a real and present risk of a child being involved in some type of fire incident, how do we go about trying to teach young children to effectively perform the Stop, Drop, and Roll Technique? They may not even really understand what fire is or the danger it presents, are likely to panic in fear if they catch fire, and whose physical capabilities to extinguish themselves may be limited.

Strategies for Teaching the Stop, Drop, and Roll Technique to Children

  • Find some good YouTube videos. There are videos directed at teaching young children how to stop, drop, and roll if their clothes catch fire. Of course, they require that a parent watch the video with them to help the child understand what is being taught and demonstrated, to provide a calming reassurance to what might be viewed as very scary, and then to work with them in performing the technique. This can include using terminology that is more targeted to this age group. For example, instead of using phrases like “if your clothes catch on fire”, you might reword it to say, “if fire gets on your shirt or pants”, then perform the technique. Also, instead of stating, “cover your face when you drop to the ground”, consider stating, “put your hands over your face when you drop to the ground.”
  • Make a game out of learning and practicing the technique. The game should include every member of the family properly performing the technique and then talking about it. Young children need to understand things like they should not run to mommy or daddy if fire gets on their clothes but should immediately perform the technique, and then to tell them. Consider having family members perform the technique whenever a responsible member of the family gives a signal, such as yelling, “Stop, drop, and roll”.On the signal, every family member is expected to stop wherever they are, drop to the ground and cover their face with their hands, and rapidly roll back and forth so all sides of their body are compressed against the ground/surface. Appropriate and encouraging feedback should be given after each time the technique is performed as part of the game, pointing out areas for improvement and offering words of encouragement support for correct performances of the technique.
  • Coloring Books. Find or create a coloring book where children color in illustrations of children performing the Stop, Drop, and Roll Technique. This exposes the child to repetitive views of the technique and associates it what an enjoyable activity – coloring.

Of course, prevention is always the best medicine or in this case intervention, and that is a topic for another article. But should a fire event happen to your child or those to whom you have responsibility, having taught them correctly and practiced with them diligently may mean the difference between a close call and tragedy.