New Partnership Seeks to Eliminate Home Fire Deaths by 2020

Washington, D.C. – The Public-Private Fire Safety Council has released the first in a planned series of white papers that will outline major strategies for reducing the annual death toll from home fires. The first white paper, on home smoke alarm strategies, comes in the wake of a March fire in Tennessee, where nine family members reportedly died in one of the deadliest single home fires in U.S. history.

The Public-Private Fire Safety Council is a 16-member partnership of federal agencies and non-government organizations, created to develop a coordinated national effort to eliminate residential fire deaths by the year 2020. Many Council members rank among the nation’s leading sources of public fire safety educational information and research and include the major code and standard- making organizations, the U.S. fire service, fire safety educational organizations, federal agencies and many more.

The white paper is organized to help pursue proven strategies toward this ambitious goal. It provides an overview of all the elements of a smoke-alarm strategy to reduce fire deaths – how programs work and how well we are doing as a nation – and points to areas where new initiatives and research would be particularly useful.

“With so many agencies and organizations developing fire safety programs, it makes sense that we should work together to avoid duplication, to fill in gaps, and to reinforce the effects on public safety,” said Dr. Denis Onieal, superintendent of the U.S. National Fire Academy. “We believe this partnership and the renewed energy it provides give us our best path to a future of no home fire deaths.”

“In a typical recent year, just over 3,000 Americans were killed by fire in the United States,” said John Hall, assistant vice president for Fire Analysis and Research of the National Fire Protection Association, “and we have been unable to move below that plateau in nearly a decade. Smoke alarms are a proven fire safety strategy that targets all those deaths and offers a real chance to move toward that goal.” Unfortunately, according to Hall, smoke alarms are either missing or not working in roughly a quarter of all homes across the United States.

Numerous contributions to the white paper were made by members of the Council, including original research results, status of ongoing research projects, or specifications for needed future research in such areas as the engineering performance of different types of smoke alarms; waking effectiveness of smoke alarms for special populations including children, older adults and persons with disabilities; educating non-English speakers on proper smoke alarm usage; information covering faster smoke alarm activation and response to different types of fires combined with fewer nuisance alarms; and more affordable ways to interconnect alarms in existing homes.

The white paper also identifies the need for greater understanding of human behavior to improve fire safety awareness programs that support the use of smoke alarms. Some of these include: behaviors related to home escape planning; the perceived value of immediate escape; the inspection, maintenance and replacement of smoke alarms; and safe options for dealing with nuisance alarms without sacrificing smoke alarm protection.

The Public-Private Fire Safety Council includes American Burn Association, American Insurance Association, American Red Cross, Center for Campus Fire Safety, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Congressional Fire Services Institute, Home Safety Council, Indian Health Service, International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Code Council, International Fire Marshals Association, National Association of State Fire Marshals, National Fire Protection Association, SAFE KIDS Worldwide, Underwriters Laboratories Inc., U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the United States Fire Administration.

To download a copy of the Public-Private Fire Safety Council’s white paper, go to

For more information, contact Joe Hirschmugl at (847) 664-1508.

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