In 2002 U.S. Fire Departments responded to a total of 1,687,500 fires...
That amounts to a fire every 19 seconds! 3,380 civilians and 97 firefighters died in these fires, or one civilian every 156 minutes. 79% of those deaths occurred in the home, and of those deaths, nearly 80% occurred in homes without working smoke detectors. 67,500 of these fires were started by children playing with fire, causing an estimated 232 deaths, 1,805 injuries and $235,000,000 in property damage. A child under the age of 5 dies nearly every day in a residential fire, and they are twice as likely as the rest of the population to meet this fate. Even considering these statistics, only 25% of families have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan, and many people have no working smoke detectors or fire extinguishers in their homes.
Many of these losses are preventable. On these pages, and in the links provided to various fire-prevention websites, we will outline some proven, common-sense precautions that will drastically reduce the chances that you or your loved ones will become the victims of a fire.
"No child -not a single one- should suffer such an awful death, a death that can be prevented by parents who take the necessary precautions. Every parent and every caregiver with young children depending on them must take a few simple but important steps to prevent this tragedy. Even toddlers can be taught how to quickly respond in case of fire and adults need to know how they will escape with infants." -R. David Brown, U.S. Fire Administration
By taking a few simple steps you can help keep your loved ones safe, greatly reduce the chance of a fire in your home, and ensure everyone has the best chance of escaping safely of a fire does occur.
- Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and outside each bedroom, test them regularly (a great opportunity to practice your home fire escape plan!) and change the batteries at least twice a year.
- Install a smoke detector in each bedroom and sleep with the bedroom doors closed. The smoke and gases produced by even the slowest growing fire are enough to kill a person in his/her sleep. Smoke and carbon monoxide will desensitize the sense of smell so that a person will not wake up because he/she smells smoke. A closed bedroom door will help prevent this. Additionally, smoke detectors in bedrooms will alert the rest of the family to a fire in a bedroom with a closed door.
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy on each level of your home and make sure everyone in the house knows how to use it.
- Develop a home escape plan with two ways out of every room. Practice it until every member of your family understands it and can follow it when a fire occurs, even in the middle of the night.
- Teach your family to roll out of bed and crawl low under smoke. This will reduce the chances of inhaling superheated, toxic smoke and gases. Always check doors for heat before opening them...if hot, use a secondary escape route (i.e., the window).
- Consider installing drop-down escape ladders inside upper story windows, and practice using them. They store in wood or metal boxes at the base of the window and can be deployed in seconds, even by young children.
- Teach your children to never play with matches, lighters or any form of fire, and how to stop, drop and roll if their clothes catch fire.
- Remember to keep all oily rags and fireplace ashes in closed metal containers outside the house. Don't store flammable or combustible liquids in the house, never overload electrical outlets or run extension cords under rugs or furniture, and never leave cooking materials unattended.