2009-09-17 / Local & State

Forty Percent Of Home Fire Deaths Resulted From Homes With No Smoke Alarms

NFPA release report on smoke alarms in U.S. home fires

Four of every 10 home fire deaths resulted from fires with no smoke alarms in 2003-2006, according to a new report Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires, released today by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

"Smoke alarms are one of the greatest fire protection devices of our time and have significantly contributed to the decline in home fire fatalities since the late 70s," said James M. Shannon, president of NFPA. "But it's not enough to randomly put up one smoke alarm and forget about it. In addition to placing smoke alarms in recommended areas, they must be kept in good working order, which includes testing them monthly, changing batteries at least once a year, and making sure that they are not disconnected."

Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home structure fires in half. The 2007 edition of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code® requires smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level. They should also be interconnected so that when one sounds, they all sound.

Other key findings from Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires:

Smoke alarm failures usually result from missing, disconnected, or dead batteries.

In one-fifth of all homes with smoke alarms, none were working.

Most homes still have smoke alarms powered by batteries only.

More than half of home fire deaths that occurred where no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms were present happened between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.

The death rate per 1,000 reported fires is 84 percent lower when hardwired smoke alarms and wet pipe sprinklers are present.

People 55 or older were more likely to have smoke alarms that were more than 10 years old. (Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years.)

According to NFPA approximately 3,000 people a year die in home fires. "This report reinforces the importance of smoke alarms in saving lives and identifies the way to further reduce that number through the installation of home fire sprinklers," said Shannon. "It is not acceptable to say 3,000 deaths are OK when we know we can do better."

NFPA offers the following tips for smoke alarms. Visit http://www.nfpa.org/smokealarms for more information and to see video with basic smoke alarm safety tips.

Choose a smoke alarm that bears the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

Install a smoke alarm in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of your home, including the basement.

Interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.

Replace batteries in all smoke alarms at least once a year. 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 are 10 years old or sooner if they do not respond properly when tested.

Test your smoke alarms at least every month, using the test button or an approved smoke substitute and clean the units, in accordance with the manufacturers' instructions.

An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, both types of alarms, or a combination alarm (photoelectric and ionization), should be installed in homes.

Be sure that all doors and windows that lead outside open easily and that everyone in the home knows the escape plan.

Consider home fire sprinklers when building a new home or doing a major renovation.

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 http://www.nfpa.org

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