According to a new study, Home Structure Fires, from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), home fires account for 92 percent of fire deaths that occur in structures. These fires cause an average of 2,840 civilian deaths each year.
“This study strongly underscores the need to aggressively work to reduce the number of home fires in this country in order to save lives from fire,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications.
During the period of 2003-2007, U.S. fire departments responded to approximately 380,000 home fires a year. These fires not only caused a large number of civilian deaths, they also caused an average of 13,160 reported civilian fire injuries and $6.4 billion in direct property damage.
From 2003-2007, smoking materials caused the largest number of fire deaths. Heating equipment was the second leading cause of home fires and home fire deaths.
The leading cause of home structure fires, civilian fire injuries, and unreported fires continues to be cooking equipment. Forty-one percent of home fires started in the kitchen area and caused 15 percent of the home fire deaths and 36 percent of the reported fire injuries.
Other key findings include:
· Reported home fires peaked around dinner hours of 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
· Only 20 percent of the reported home fires occurred between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., however 52 percent of home fire deaths resulted from fires reported during these hours.
· Thirty percent of reported home structure fires and 38 percent of home fire deaths occurred in the quarter including December, January, and February.
· Reported apartment fires were more likely to start in the kitchen than fires in one- and two-family homes.
· The two leading items first ignited in home fire deaths are upholstered furniture in 21 percent of home fire deaths, followed by mattress and bedding in 13 percent of the deaths.
Properly installed and maintained fire protection can prevent most fire deaths. Forty percent of fatal home fire injuries occurred in properties where no smoke alarms were present. Home fire sprinklers can also help, as the death rate per 1,000 reported home fires was 83 percent lower when wet pipe sprinkler systems were present, compared to reported home fires without automatic extinguishing equipment.
“Smoke alarms have been a key factor in significantly reducing the fire death problem since their widespread use beginning in the ‘70s. The move to require home fire sprinklers in new homes will be the next step forward in fire protection,” said Carli.
The NFPA offers these safety tips to prevent home structure fires from occurring:
· Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
· Keep anything that can catch fire – oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains – away from your stovetop.
· Keep anything that can burn, such as paper, bedding, or furniture, at least three feet away from heating equipment and have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around stoves, open fires and space heaters.
· Remember to turn off portable heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
· If you smoke, smoke outside using a deep, sturdy ashtray. Remember to make sure butts and ashes are out, and dousing water or sand on them is the best way to do that.
· Keep matches and lighters up high, out of children’s sight and reach, preferably in a locked cabinet.
· Install smoke alarms inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. Larger homes may require additional smoke alarms to provide a minimum level of protection.
· For best protection, install combination ionization/photoelectric smoke alarms or both photoelectric and ionization alarms. Photoelectric alarms are more responsive to smoldering flames and ionization alarms are more responsive to flaming fires.
· Smoke alarms with non-replaceable batteries are designed to remain effective for 10 years. If the alarm chirps, warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away. For smoke alarms with any other type of battery, replace batteries at least once a year. If the alarm chirps, replace only the battery.
· Test smoke alarms at least once a month by pushing the test button.
· Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use ten year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they are ten years old or sooner if they do not respond properly when tested.
· Smoke alarm accessories are available for people who are hard of hearing. These accessories activate from the sound of traditional smoke alarms and produce a complex low frequency alarm signal, more effective at waking those with mild to severe hearing loss.
· Smoke alarms and accessories are available for people who are deaf. Smoke alarms and accessories that use high intensity strobe lights and accessories that produce a tactile (vibration) signal are now required for those with profound hearing loss.
· If you are building or remodeling your home, consider installing home fire sprinklers.
For more safety tips, please visit www.nfpa.org/safetytips.
NFPA has been 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.