The knowledge of how to react when faced with an unexpected flare-up could literally save your life and the lives of others! By earning the Fire Safety merit badge, you’ll not only learn how to prepare your own household for fire-related emergencies, you’ll also learn the fascinating science behind why flames even exist.
In my opinion, Fire Safety is one of the most fascinating (and useful) merit badges a Scout can earn. Tragically, accidental blazes cause thousands of deaths each year, and many of them could’ve been prevented with the knowledge you’ll be learning here. Take this information to heart and practice it regularly. Who knows — I hope you’ll never need to use it, but it might just come in handy! 🙂
If you have Eagle-required merit badges to earn, you also should check out my Difficulty Ranking Guide to Every Eagle-required Badge. There, you’ll also find the links to my other merit badge guides, as well as a description and summary of each badge’s requirements. I’m certain this resource will be helpful to Scouts on their road to Eagle!
Also, remember that ScoutSmarts should just serve as your starting point for merit badge research. In school, we’re taught not to plagiarize, and the same is true for Scouting worksheets. Answer these questions in your own words, do further research, check out the included links, and I promise you’ll gain much more from every merit badge you earn!
As a Scout, I sat through (and taught!) a ton of fire safety seminars but never once thought to get the actual badge. I’m kicking myself right now for not starting a Fire Safety blue card back then! However, you’re not gonna be making the same mistake because, in this guide, I’ll be walking you through each of the requirements so you can earn your own Fire Safety merit badge.
First, closely read through each of the requirements below so you know what you’ll be learning, as well as what you’ll need to do. Thoroughly understanding your instructions, beforehand, is an important key to succeeding on your first try! After you know exactly what you’re expected to complete for each requirement, follow along closely. Now, let’s dive into it!
What Are The Fire Safety Merit Badge Requirements?
- Do the following:
1a. Demonstrate the technique of stop, drop, cover, roll, cover your face, and cool. Explain how burn injuries can be prevented.
1b. List the most frequent causes of burn injuries
1c. Explain how to safely discard and store flammable liquids.
- Explain the chemistry and physics of fire. Name the parts of the fire tetrahedron. Explain why vapors are important to the burning process. Name the products of combustion. Give an example of how fire grows and what happens.
- Name the most frequent causes of fire in the home and give examples of ways they can be prevented. Include a discussion about fires caused by smoking in the home, cooking, candles, fireplaces, and electrical appliances.
- Explain the role of human behavior in the arson problem in this country.
- List the actions and common circumstances that cause seasonal and holiday-related fires. Explain how these fires can be prevented.
- Conduct a home safety survey with the help of an adult. Then do the following:
6a. Draw a home fire-escape plan, create a home fire-drill schedule, and conduct a home fire drill.
6b. Test a smoke alarm and demonstrate regular maintenance of a smoke alarm.
6c. Explain what to do when you smell gas and when you smell smoke.
6d. Explain how you would report a fire alarm.
6e. Explain what fire safety equipment can be found in public buildings.
6f. Explain who should use fire extinguishers and when these devices can be used.
6g. Explain how to extinguish a grease pan fire.
6h. Explain what fire safety precautions you should take when you are in a public building.
- Do the following:
7a. Demonstrate lighting a match safely.
7b. Demonstrate the safe way to start a charcoal fire.
7c. Demonstrate how to safely light a candle. Discuss with your counselor how to safely use candles.
- Explain the difference between combustible and noncombustible liquids and between combustible and noncombustible fabrics.
- Do the following:
9a. Describe for your counselor the safe way to refuel a liquid fuel engine, such as a lawn mower, weed eater, an outboard motor, farm machine, or an automobile with gas from an approved gas can.
9b. Demonstrate the safety factors, such as proper ventilation, for auxiliary heating devices and the proper way to fuel those devices.
- Do the following:
10a. Explain the cost of outdoor and wildland fires and how to prevent them.
10b. Demonstrate setting up and putting out a cooking fire.
10c. Demonstrate using a camp stove and lantern.
10d. Explain how to set up a campsite safe from fire.
- Visit a fire station. Identify the types of fire trucks. Find out about the fire prevention activities in your community.
- Determine if smoke detectors are required in all dwellings within your municipality. If so, explain which specific types are required. Tell your counselor what type of smoke detectors your house has or needs.
- Choose a fire safety-related career that interests you and describe the level of education required and responsibilities of a person in that position. Tell why this position interests you.
Fire Safety Merit Badge Requirement 1:
1a) Demonstrate the technique of stop, drop, cover, roll, cover your face, and cool. Explain how burn injuries can be prevented.
Near open flames, loose garments like sleeves and flowy clothing can be a fire hazard. If your clothing does catch on fire, it’s important to stifle the flames as quickly as possible to keep them from spreading and causing damage. Every second counts when responding to a fire, so read this section carefully!
You should take the following steps if you ever catch fire, as they’ll reduce your burn injuries and could even save your life:
- Stop: Freeze, identify a clear space near your feet for you to drop to, and keep calm. Resist the urge to run or tear off your clothes, as the breeze from moving quickly can cause the flames to spread.
- Note: If the article of clothing on fire can easily be removed in under two seconds (like a hat or loose jacket), take it off. Don’t randomly fling it — try to keep the fire from spreading!
- Drop: Gently but quickly lower your body to the ground. Reckless falling could cause you to hurt yourself and also fan the flames, causing them to grow.
- Cover: Cover your eyes and mouth with your hands. This protects them from the ground and the flames. I’d recommend not taking deep breaths, as you could inhale soot and dirt.
- Roll: Roll back and forth from your belly to your back until the flames are completely put out. To roll properly, you should only need a square the length of your body in either direction.
- Cool: After the flames have been extinguished, cool minor wounds with a damp towel and get proper medical attention. Based on the extent of your burns, first aid will differ.
For more information on treating burn wounds, you can check out the Burn Section of My Guide to the First Aid Merit Badge.
By now you should have a pretty clear understanding of the stop, drop, and roll technique. If you have any remaining questions though, I’d highly recommend watching the video (0:44) below for a quick demonstration.
To reduce the harm of burn injuries after catching fire, it’s also important to thoroughly examine the skin after cooling down. Do not try to peel off any clothes sticking to the skin, as this can make an injury worse! Any noticeable burns should be covered with a clean, dry cloth until you can get proper medical attention.
Scalds happen more commonly than burns from open flames and are another type of heat-injury you should be prepared for. Scalds are burns from hot liquids or steam that often occur when cooking. The Fire Safety Merit Badge Pamphlet recommends the following for preventing scalding:
- Turn pan and pot handles towards the back of your stove when cooking.
- Turn on the cold water before the hot water when taking a shower.
- Help young children adjust their water temperature when showering or washing their hands.
- Set your water thermostat to no more than 120°.
- Keep hot liquids like coffee and soup away from children
- Never use a wet oven mitt when cooking. If the water turns to steam, you will quickly scald!
Whatever the source of the scald, it’s important to stop your skin’s contact with the heat as quickly as possible. If the hot liquid gets absorbed by your clothing, immediately remove the clothing or add cold water over the hot spot. Afterward apply cool, running water over the burn area for 10-15 minutes.
1b) List the most frequent causes of burn injuries
Burns are serious injuries, caused by heat, which can have a major effect on the body. Carelessness is one of the main reasons why burn injuries occur in the US, so always be cautious when working near heat sources. According to the US National Library of Medicine, some of the most common causes of burn injuries include:
- Scalds from steam and hot liquids.
- Contact with direct fire or flames, such as from gas stoves, campfires, charcoal grills, or lanterns.
- Touching extremely hot surfaces.
- Carelessness when building bonfires, lighting fireworks, or ‘torches’ of any sort.
I don’t want to see you or your friends getting burnt, so be careful! Although working with fire can be a lot of fun whether you’re cooking, having a campfire, or popping fireworks on the Fourth of July, it’s important that you always consider the safety of yourself and others, first and foremost. If you see something unsafe, say something right away!
Remember that injuries from improper handling of fire can range from small blisters to extensive damage to the skin that could require life-saving surgery. By being careful, remembering what you learned in earning your Firem’n Chit, and knowing how to react in an emergency, fire can become a helpful and safe tool! 🙂
1c) Explain how to safely discard and store flammable liquids.
It’s important to take careful precautions when storing flammable liquids. Imagine if these chemicals accidentally ignited and lit your house on fire! Not good, right? Luckily, there are a few things to keep in mind to prevent that from happening:
- Flammables should be stored in a well-sealed, childproof, non-combustible storage bin (Amazon Referral), when not in use.
- When putting flammable liquids in storage, the type of liquid should be clearly labeled on the container, with the appropriate Hazardous Class 3 logo.
- Containers should not be placed in high-traffic areas that are likely to cause spills.
- Flammable liquid must be kept cool at all times, and be stored away from electrical circuitry, heaters, or open flames.
Flammable Waste Disposal
In addition to proper storage, flammable liquids also have a specific protocol for disposal. Improper disposal of hazardous waste is often illegal and can lead to extreme environmental damage in your community. Remember the following:
- Never pour even the smallest amounts of a volatile liquid down the drain or in the garbage.
- Hazardous wastes must be sealed and properly labeled in the appropriate container.
- Then, your wastes must be scheduled for pickup by a city government organization or hazardous waste company.
Most cities have free waste drop-off or pick-up services where you can safely drop these items off. Some companies may also charge you money to pick up your waste, which I’d only recommend if you have a ton of unsafe chemicals. To dispose of your own dangerous waste, I’d recommend Googling “Dispose of hazardous waste near me.”
Fire Safety Merit Badge Requirement 2:
2) Explain the chemistry and physics of fire. Name the parts of the fire tetrahedron. Explain why vapors are important to the burning process. Name the products of combustion. Give an example of how fire grows and what happens.
Fire is a chemical reaction that occurs when oxygen and combustible (i.e. able to catch fire) vapors interact. These combustible vapors are usually created through heat, as substances heated to a certain temperature will become vapor. When this interaction between oxygen and volatile vapors occurs, heat and light energy are produced in the form of a flame!
Read the above paragraph one more time. It’s important! Now, here’s an example: when you see a log burning, the flames are not actually feeding off of the wood! Instead, the fire is simply a byproduct of a rapidly occurring form of oxidation known as “combustion.” Here’s what this means:
- The heat from the flames causes the wood to give off flammable vapors. (This is why vapors are important to the burning process!)
- As these vapors catch fire, this maintains the heat, allowing the wood to keep giving off more fuel.
- As it burns, the chemistry of the wood changes and it turns to ash—a carbon byproduct of fire.
Now that you know the physics and chemistry that make fires possible, it’s time to talk about the essential 4 elements behind any fire: the fire tetrahedron…
The Fire Tetrahedron
Four elements must be present for a fire to start and continue to burn: fuel, oxygen, heat, and a continuous chemical chain reaction. These four elements, in combination, are known as the fire tetrahedron. To put out a fire, one must remove a fire tetrahedron element, such as using a blanket to stifle oxygen flow to the fire!
As a fire burns, the chain reaction will create energy, particles, and gasses. These “products of combustion” include heat, gases (like carbon monoxide), and particles (such as ash, smoke, and soot), which can be dangerous to humans when inhaled.
To learn more about the science of fires, I’d recommend watching the quick and informative video (2:38) below:
Fires grow when the heat given off by its flames causes other nearby fuel sources to also emit flammable vapors. These vapors catch fire and spread the blaze even further. This process, known as fire dynamics, can cause extreme damage to homes, communities, and wildlife in a fire’s path. 🙁
Fire Safety Merit Badge Requirement 3:
3) Name the most frequent causes of fire in the home and give examples of ways they can be prevented. Include a discussion about fires caused by smoking in the home, cooking, candles, fireplaces, and electrical appliances.
Although most fires occur outdoors, the fires that typically cause the most injuries, deaths, and financial loss are those in residential areas. While there are many different sources of home fires, most commonly they are caused by people not paying attention while cooking, flammable materials left near heating vents, or sparks that ignite from carelessness while smoking.
To prevent fires in the household, it’s important to be aware of the conditions that make a fire most likely to occur. By taking proper safety precautions to ensure flammable materials and unsafe conditions don’t exist in your home, you’ll be much more safe from fire-related emergencies!
According to the BSA Fire Safety merit badge pamphlet, below are some of the most common causes of residential fires that you should be aware of:
- Smoking: Cigarettes and matches can easily set materials like furniture and paper on fire. Because of this danger, people should never smoke while sleepy, as falling asleep with a lit cigarette is an extreme fire hazard. Also, cigarette butts should be put out completely before being discarded. (Smoking is also super unhealthy, so don’t even start!)
- Cooking: As heat is a necessary component of the fire tetrahedron, any time you turn on the stove or oven presents a potential fire hazard. Never leave the kitchen unattended while food is cooking, as food can unexpectedly ignite and cause a house fire. Also, always check that there are no loose flammable objects, such as potholders or paper towels, near the heating source.
- Candles: Candles are another source of accidental fires in the home. Be sure to completely put out candles before falling asleep or leaving the house. Also, never use candles in a rowdy environment, as there is a chance they could be knocked over.
- Fireplaces: When using a fireplace, make sure that no sparks or embers can escape onto the carpet. To do this, you should always use a screen in front of the burning logs and keep any flammable materials at least three feet away from the fireplace. After you’re finished with the fire, douse it in water. Also, be sure to regularly remove ash and keep outside branches/fire hazards away from the chimney opening.
- Electrical Appliances: It’s important to always follow the instructions outlined in the user’s manual when operating anything with a plug. Keep appliances away from combustibles and water, especially when powered on. Also, make sure your heat-producing devices are unplugged when not in use, especially ones like irons and toasters.
Fire Safety Merit Badge Requirement 4:
4) Explain the role of human behavior in the arson problem in this country.
Arson is the crime of intentionally starting a fire to damage property or cause harm. Roughly one out of every four fires in the United States are started by arson, and it is the second-leading cause of fire-related deaths. Because of the damage it causes, arson is a felony offense, punishable by a lengthy jail sentence. In some locations, death resulting from an arson can legally make the arsonist guilty of murder.
Most arsonists tend to be under the age of 20. However, arson isn’t always committed for the same reasons. Young children can unintentionally light fires, unaware of the damages they can cause. In older children and teens, arson is usually a result of boredom or curiosity around fire. Older arsonists often suffer from psychological conditions.
Some arsonists incorrectly think that an intentionally-lit fire can be misinterpreted as an accident, which could remove evidence of a crime. However, advanced fire investigation techniques can lead researchers back to the very spark that started a multi-house fire! Basically, people who commit arson and harm others will get caught and stopped. 🙂
Fire Safety Merit Badge Requirement 5:
5) List the actions and common circumstances that cause seasonal and holiday-related fires. Explain how these fires can be prevented.
The likelihood of fires changes throughout the year. Surprisingly, in the coldest months, December through February, the highest rates of home fires occur due to carelessness when decorating for the holidays.
However, fires are more likely to spread in warmer conditions, so the Summer months are when outdoor fires are most common. The following breakdown looks into the fire-related concerns during various seasons of the year:
|Months||Fire-Causing Actions and Circumstances||Prevention|
|Highest Fire Likelihood: December-February||–Electrical fires from holiday lights are one of the most frequent causes of fires each year. |
–Christmas trees are another common cause of accidental fires.
–Burning packaging and wrapping paper in a fireplace is a common cause of fires (and extra pollution).
|–Use newer lights that don’t emit much heat. LED’s are better for this.|
–When decorating, always try to use an artificial, fire-resistant tree.
–If you want to use a natural tree, make sure that the tree is not too dry (rapidly falling needles are a sign of excessive dryness), keep the base of the tree dipped in water, and make sure that the tree is at least three feet away from any heating vents or other electrical appliances.
–Those celebrating Hanukkah should keep the menorah away from draughts, curtains, and other combustibles.
|March-May||–The nicer weather leads more people to cook outdoors during these spring months. |
–However, grass and other vegetation have not yet grown back, leaving the ground littered with dry, dead, and highly combustible fuel.
|–Take extreme caution when cooking outdoors so that you avoid lighting dead vegetation with any stray sparks.|
–Keep fire buckets or an extinguisher handy if you’re ever using fire in an especially dry area.
–Don’t light fires in windy areas, especially if it hasn’t rained recently. You should always use a fire pit, anyway.
|June-August||–The heat from the Summer months can cause blazes that are more difficult to put out due to the high temperature. |
–An additional fire threat during the summer is people lighting fireworks in dry regions or under unsafe conditions.
|–When cooking outdoors, make sure that you are in an open area and do not try to cook on apartment complexes’ balconies.|
–Be safe. Have adult supervision and a fire extinguisher handy when popping fireworks.
|September-November||–As Autumn arrives, the colder temperatures lead to an increase in home heating-related fires.||–Make sure your vents are clear and that your HVAC ducts are free of any combustible material.|
As a takeaway, remember that the Winter months present a greater risk for home fires, so be cautious! For more info on the seasonality of fires, I’d highly recommend checking out this paper put out by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).
Fire Safety Merit Badge Requirement 6:
Conduct a home safety survey with the help of an adult. Then do the following:
A home safety survey will require a thorough inspection of your house, with the help of a parent, to ensure there are no fire hazards. Some things to look out for include working smoke alarms, debris-free vents, and clear exit paths. Here’s a great home safety checklist you can use for your own survey!
6a) Draw a home fire-escape plan, create a home fire-drill schedule, and conduct a home fire drill
Finished your home safety survey with the help of a parent? Great! As we’ve already learned about the dangers that fire poses, now it’s time to get prepared! In this section, you’ll be creating a plan to evacuate your family in the case of an accidental fire.
This plan could save your life, so be thorough. Before we get started though, take a few minutes to watch the informative video (3:44) below and note down some of the most important points:
Now that you know the importance of a home fire escape plan, as well as some key techniques that’ll help you to escape a fire, lets briefly recap the most important points you must remember:
- You should never go back into a burning building.
- Escape the scene of a fire before calling 911.
- Identify 2 ways to escape from each room.
- Choose an outside meeting point for your family, beforehand.
- Test every doorknob for heat by lightly touching it with the back of your hand in the event of a fire.
- Ensure your smoke alarms are working by testing them at least once a month and changing their batteries out yearly.
- Inform firefighters if anyone or anything is missing.
- Practice your home fire escape plan regularly (I’d personally recommend at least once every 6 months).
You should be following each of the principles listed above when conducting your own home fire drill. Before you can hold an actual family fire drill though, you’ll need to draft out your own home fire-escape plan. First, let’s talk about what that is…
To create a home escape plan, you’ll need to draw a map of your home, taking care to show how the rooms are divided and pointing out all window locations. Then, you should identify 2 or more possible escape routes, from each room, to use in case of an emergency. In your escape plan, also identify a family meeting point.
Now, quickly watch the short video (1:13) below for an example home escape plan layout!
You’re now ready to make a home fire escape plan of your own! Here’s a great printable home fire escape plan that you can use to draw a map of your house. I believe there’s also a section in your merit badge worksheet where you can draw out your own plan too. Take your time, because having a thorough plan could make your family much safer!
6b) Test a smoke alarm and demonstrate regular maintenance of a smoke alarm.
Smoke alarms are important tools for alerting sleeping households of fires. They work by detecting chemicals in smoke, then by emitting a loud beeping sound that’ll wake most people up. You should make sure your smoke alarms are operational by testing them at least once per month.
To test a smoke alarm, simply press the button on its face until it begins beeping. If this doesn’t work with your smoke alarm, read the manufacturer’s instructions, as some alarms are made differently.
For all you visual learners out there, you can watch the short video (1:55) below for some tips and important notes on how to test a smoke alarm:
6c) Explain what to do when you smell gas and when you smell smoke.
If you’re walking through your house and you catch a strong whiff of something that smells like rotten eggs, you’re likely dealing with a gas leak. Or, you might need to buy new eggs. If you think you’re smelling gas, make sure that all stoves and lanterns are turned off and open your windows to let the fumes escape.
Important: This is a bit unrelated, but remember to never use a portable gas stove or propane lantern while indoors. When fuel burns, it creates carbon monoxide — an odorless gas that can cause sudden illness, fainting, and death.
If you suddenly feel faint or nauseous while indoors, you could be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. If the cause of the illness is actually carbon monoxide, getting fresh air will help you feel better very quickly.
Once the smell goes away, have your parents try to figure out its cause. However, if the scent remains, turn off anything that may cause combustion (such as a candle or even the overhead lights) and quickly get outside to safety. Never light a match to try to “burn away the gas”.
If you smell smoke, you should put your fire escape plan into action. Do not waste time collecting personal belongings and evacuate the building immediately. Feel any closed doors with the back of your hand to see if they are warm, avoiding doors that you suspect may be closing off the fire. Stay low to the ground and call 9-1-1 at a safe distance from the burning building.
Congrats on Finishing Part 1 of the Fire Safety Merit Badge!
Wow, we just made it halfway through this entire badge! Great work 🙂 . You definitely deserve a break at this point; give yourself a huge pat on the back!
Also, if you’re interested in the difficulty rankings for every Eagle-required merit badge, you can check out my full guide here. PS: The article also links to my ultimate badge guides that’ll help you to answer your merit badge worksheets!
Once you’re ready to continue on to part 2 of the Fire Safety merit badge (Requirements 6d-13) Click here!