The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s) new report on home fires shows that U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 366,600 home structure fires from 2007-2011. Seven people died each day in U.S. home fires, on average, and older adults were the age group most likely to die in a home fire. Cooking equipment remains the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries; however, smoking materials persist as the leading cause of home fire deaths, according to the report.
Roughly one in every 320 households per year had a reported home fire during this five-year period. These fires caused an estimated average of 2,570 civilian deaths, 13,210 civilian injuries, and $7.2 billion in direct property damage per year.
One-quarter (25 percent) of the home fire deaths resulted from fires that originated in the bedroom, another quarter (24 percent) from fires in the family room, living room, or den, and 16 percent from fires starting in the kitchen. Half of home fire deaths were caused by incidents reported between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
Home fire deaths from fires in which no smoke alarms were present, or in which smoke alarms were present but did not operate, accounted for 60 percent of all home fire deaths. Smoke alarms were lacking in 37 percent of home fire deaths, and at least one alarm was present but non-operational in 23 percent.
“Three out of five home fire deaths occurred in homes without working smoke alarms, which emphasizes the importance of taking personal responsibility when it comes to protecting yourself and your family from fire,” says Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications for NFPA. “Installing and maintaining these alarms could save a majority of the lives lost in home fires, especially if they work in conjunction with home sprinklers.”
Fire sprinklers were present in only 6 percent of reported home fires between 2006-2010, according to a 2012 report – U.S. Experience with Sprinklers. That report, referenced in the home fires report, also noted that the death rate was 83 percent lower when wet pipe sprinkler systems were present, compared to reported home fires without any automatic extinguishing systems.
The report is based on data from the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the NFPA’s annual fire department experience survey.
For more information, visit http://www.nfpa.org/homefires.
Top ten fire safety tips from NFPA:
Watch your cooking
Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you must leave, even for a short time, turn off the stove. If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer.
Give space heaters space
Keep fixed and portable space heaters at least three feet from anything that can burn. Turn off heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep.
Ask smokers to smoke outside. Have sturdy, deep ashtrays for smokers.
Keep matches and lighters out of reach
Keep matches and lighters up high, out of the reach of children, preferably in a cabinet with a child lock.
Inspect electrical cords
Replace cords that are cracked, damaged, have broken plugs, or loose connections.
Be careful when using candles
Keep candles at least one foot from anything that can burn. Blow out candles when you leave the room or go to sleep.
Have a home fire escape plan
Make a home fire escape plan and practice it at least twice a year.
Install smoke alarms
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Interconnect smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound. For the best protection, both ionization and photoelectric alarms or combination ionization and photoelectric alarms (also known as dual sensor alarms) are recommended.
Test smoke alarms
Test smoke alarms at least once a month and replace conventional batteries once a year or when the alarm “chirps” to tell you the battery is low. Replace any smoke alarm that is more than 10 years old.
If you are building or remodeling your home, install residential fire sprinklers. Sprinklers can contain and may even extinguish a fire in less time than it would take the fire department to arrive.
Visit www.nfpa.org/safetytips to learn more and access free downloadable resources.