Fire Safety in the Home
Not only must Americans learn how to prevent fires in the home, they also must learn how to react properly when fire occurs if they are to save their lives, the commission said.
In view of the fact that nearly 700,000 fires in homes occur annually with losses of over $874 million throughout the nation, the fire commission endorsed Operation Edith (Exit Drills In The Home) and recommended “its acceptance and implementation both individually and communitywide.”
Of the 10,000 fire departments that responded to a commission survey, only 20 percent reported inspecting more than 10 percent of the residences in their community each year. However, “the regrettably few fire departments” that adequately evaluate their programs reported as much as 15 to 30 percent reductions in dwelling fires or life losses. The commission noted that inspections appeared to be most effective in high-loss neighborhoods.
The commission recommended that “annual home inspections be undertaken by every fire department in the nation. Further, federal financial assistance to fire jurisdictions should be contingent upon their implementation of effective home fire inspection programs.”
Home fire detection
If smoke or products of combustion detectors were used, the lives of some 2600 Americans who die in home fires at night could be saved each year, the commission said.
According to the commission, most advocates feel that as a minimum, “there should be an early-warning detector on the ceiling near each sleeping area in the house. Some believe a system of heat detectors is an adequate substitute, but only if there are many more of them located throughout the house.”
The commission urged “Americans to protect themselves and their families by installing approved early-warning detectors and alarms in their homes.”
To encourage this, the commission recommended that “the insurance industry develop incentives for policyholders to install approved early-warning fire detectors in their residences.”
Furthermore, the commission urged “Congress to consider amending the Internal Revenue Code to permit reasonable deductions from income tax for the cost of installing approved detection and alarm systems in homes.”
Detector research support asked
Noting that efforts are being made to improve detectors and also reduce their cost, the commission recommended that “the proposed United States fire administration monitor the progress of research and development on early-warning detection systems in both industry and government and provide additional support for research and development where it is needed.”
The report mentioned the possibility of using cable TV for transmitting fire detector alarms and said that several cities are experimenting with this system for reporting fires.
Although automatic sprinklers “are feasible for high-rise and other large buildings,” the commission regarded them as expensive for dwellings, even though they would save lives.
Therefore, the commission recommended that “the proposed U.S. fire administration support the development of the necessary technology for improved automatic extinguishing systems that would find ready acceptance by Americans in all kinds of dwelling units.”
More than 7 million Americans live in what the commission called “the fastest-burning of all homes”—mobile homes. Although the fire incidence in these homes is “about the same or less than in conventional homes, data indicate,” the commission said, that “results are often more serious when a fire occurs.”
Records compiled by the state’ fire marshal’s office in Oregon from 1965 through 1971, the report said, show that the fatality ratio per fire in mobile homes is 2.74 times more than for standard dwellings, the loss-to-value ratio is 3.84 times greater in mobile homes, and the average fire losses are larger by 1.62 to 1 ratio.
The commission recommended that “the National Fire Protection Association and the American National Standards Institute jointly review the Standard for Mobile Homes and seek to strengthen it, particularly in such areas as interior finish materials and fire detection.”
Because the standard is advisory and there is no code for mobile homes in many places, the commission also recommended that “all political jurisdictions require compliance with NFPA/ANSI standard for mobile homes together with additional requirements for early-warning detectors and improved fire resistance of materials.”
The commission recognized the fact that mobile home parks are often “far from fire departments and adequate water supplies” and, as the NFPA Standard on Mobile Home Parks has recognized, the parks must provide their own safeguards against fire.
Thus, the commission recommended that “state and local jurisdictions adopt the NFPA Standard on Mobile Home Parks as a minimum mode of protection for the residents of these parks.”
Self-protection from fire
Although they buy locks and burglar alarms, “very few Americans . . . consider the wisdom of providing their own fire protection,” the commission observed. Instead, they rely on fire departments.
“The inadequacy of this reliance is conveyed by a single word: time,” the commission warned. “It takes time to discover a fire, time to notify the fire department, time for the fire department to reach the scene, and time for fire fighters to bring the fire under control. Every passing second weighs the the odds more heavily in favor of the fire and against the victims.”
There is a need to educate Americans “to recognize the dangerous enemy they have in destructive fire, the commission said, before they will “protect themselves and their families.”