Stop, Drop and Roll: History and Teachings


Just about every one of us can remember being taught the basic lesson, Stop, Drop and Roll, during childhood fire safety education. Not much is known, however, about where the original concept came from and why it became such a popularized lesson for kids. Naturally, we decided to look into it so we could share this information with all of you.

In the early 1950s, a number of fire accidents occurred that involved highly flammable clothing. At the time, long-pile rayon shirts, nicknamed “torch sweaters” were very trendy but highly flammable and dangerous. So too were cowboy chaps that were popular with children who loved to pretend play as their favorite cowboys. If it were not for the Flammable Fabrics Act of 1953, which set a national standard on the flammability of textiles used in clothing, these alarming incidents might have been much more prevalent, but still many people were injured or even killed in flammable clothing accidents.

Although the Flammable Fabrics Act accomplished a decrease in these such accidents, it was observed by many that when they did occur, that no one knew quite what to do. Out of ignorance and fear, many people would run rather than drop to the ground and attempt to roll the flames out. This is where the NFPA came in.

The NFPA saw the need to educate the public about what to do in the event of a clothing fire incident and realized that they needed the help of one the of their most influential fire safety PSA personalities, in order to make the message stick. In the late 1970s, the first fire safety PSA that would soon become Stop, Drop and Roll starred Dick Van Dyke, rolling on the floor as he explained the importance of rolling out flames caught on clothing to the public. This campaign helped to popularize the lesson so much that it was quickly incorporated into all fire safety educational programs and the term, “Stop, Drop and Roll” was eventually coined as both its title and full instructions.

Over the years, children began to associate the term Stop, Drop and Roll with fire safety so routinely that it became a fear that they might think it was what they were supposed to do in the event of any situation concerning fire. This is why the NFPA now encourages the lesson, Know When to Stop, Drop and Roll, to ensure a child never performs this procedure when they should be escaping a fire instead.

Watch the original Dick Van Dyke PAS below and see just how much this particular fire safety lesson has evolved over the years.

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