NFPA Survey: U.S. Homes Have Room to Improve on Smoke Alarms

According to a recent survey among 1,004 adults commissioned by the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and conducted by Harris Interactive by telephone in September 2010, Americans continue to have misunderstandings about smoke alarms, including how many they need in their homes, and how often they should be tested and replaced.

 
Smoke alarms represent a key component of home fire safety. When working properly, they alert people to fire in time to escape safely, and can cut the chance of dying in a fire in half. This year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Smoke Alarms:  A sound you can live with!”, works to better educate people about the importance of smoke alarms, emphasizing newer requirements and recommendations for smoke alarm placement, installation, testing and maintenance.
 
Smoke Alarm Survey Findings
NFPA’s survey shows that most American homes include a base level of smoke alarm protection. Almost all adults (96%) have smoke alarms in their homes, with more than two in five (42%) owning two to three; hallways are the most popular area for people to place them, while 42% reported having one in each bedroom. NFPA recommends at least one smoke alarm on every level of the home, including the basement, as well as outside each sleeping area and inside each bedroom. Larger homes may need additional smoke alarms.
 
“Over the past 30 plus years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of homes that have at least one smoke alarm, which represents a big step toward increased home fire safety,” says Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of communications. “But with those gains, this survey demonstrates that confusion about smoke alarm placement, maintenance and testing persist, which ultimately put the public at continued risk to home fires.”
 
Interconnected smoke alarms provide the best level of protection – when one alarm sounds, they all do. However, survey findings show that less than one quarter (24%) have interconnected smoke alarms. And while smoke alarms should be tested monthly, a large portion of the population doesn’t check them as often as they should.
 
More specifically, survey findings show:
 
·         40% of smoke alarm owners test their smoke alarms at least every few months, while about a quarter (24%) only test them twice a year, and 11% rarely or never check them.
·         Most adults (71%) reported having a home fire escape plan, but more than half (53%) said they never practice it.
 
NFPA offers the following tips for making sure your home is protected by smoke alarms
 
  • Never remove or disable smoke alarms.
  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button, and make sure everyone in your home knows their sound.
  • If an alarm “chirps,” warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.
  • Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they’re 10 years old (or sooner) if they do not respond properly when tested.
  • Smoke alarms are available for people who are deaf. These alarms use strobe lights to wake the person. Install vibration equipment – pillow or bed shakers. This equipment is activated by the sound of the smoke alarm.
  • People with mild to severe hearing loss can use equipment that emits a mixed, low-pitched sound. This device is activated by the sound of a traditional smoke alarm.
 
Methodology
This survey was conducted by phone within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of NFPA from September 8-12, 2010 among 1,004 adults ages 18 and older. Results were weighted to reflect the U.S. adult population. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Lorraine Carli at publicaffairs@nfpa.org
 
About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
NFPA is a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education. Visit NFPA’s website at www.nfpa.org

NFPA: Do You Have Enough Smoke Alarms?

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The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside all sleeping areas, and on every level of the home, including the basement. According to the NFPA, which develops NFPA 72, National Smoke Alarm Code®, many homes still don’t have that level of protection. Unfortunately, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths per year result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms at all or no working smoke alarms.

In an effort to better educate the public about smoke alarm recommendations, NFPA is promoting “Smoke Alarms:  A Sound You Can Live With!” as the theme for Fire Prevention Week 2010, October 3-9. NFPA has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week for 88 years.

“Many U.S. homes may still only have one smoke alarm,” says Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of communications. “That is simply not enough.” Carli emphasizes that smoke alarms must be installed in all bedrooms, not just near them, to ensure that everyone is alerted in time to escape safely.

Smoke alarms can cut the chance of dying in a fire in half, but they must be working properly to do so. NFPA’s data shows that many homes have smoke alarms that aren’t working or maintained properly, usually because of missing, disconnected or dead batteries. 

“This year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign works to motivate the public to actively determine whether they have proper smoke alarm protection throughout their homes,” says Carli. “It also encourages people to explore newer, more comprehensive options for smoke alarms.”

According to NFPA, interconnected smoke alarms offer the best protection; when one sounds, they all do. This is particularly important in larger or multi-story homes, where the sound from distant smoke alarms may be reduced to the point that it may not be loud enough to provide proper warning, especially for sleeping individuals. Interconnected smoke alarms can be hard-wired or wireless battery-operated interconnected alarms are now available.

NFPA offers the following tips for making sure smoke alarms are maintained and working properly:

  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button, and make sure everyone in your home knows their sound.
  • If an alarm “chirps,” warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.
  • Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they’re 10 years old (or sooner) if they do not respond properly when tested.

Fire departments throughout the country will be hosting activities during Fire Prevention Week to promote the campaign locally. These educational, family-oriented activities can help everyone learn more about the power of smoke alarms, newer options for installing and maintaining them properly, and ultimately, how to better protect themselves and loved ones from fire.

To find out more about Fire Prevention Week, smoke alarms and this year’s campaign, “Smoke Alarms: A Sound You Can Live With!,” visit NFPA’s Web site at www.fireprevention week.org.

NFPA is a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education. Visit NFPA’s Web site at www.nfpa.org