Fire Prevention Week: How safe is your home?

Published 9:08 am Monday, October 17, 2016

According to the National Fire Protection Association, on average, seven people die every day due to a home structure fire.

The organization’s five-year study revealed one out of every 320 households reported a home fire, killing 2,570 people and causing $7.2 billion in property damage per year.

Half of the fire deaths were reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Older adults were the age group most likely to die. While cooking equipment was the most frequent cause of fires and injuries, smoking materials were the leading cause of fatalities.

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We’re sharing these statistics because Oct. 9-15 is National Fire Prevention Week.

When firefighters staged activities for National Fire Prevention Week this week, they followed a tradition that began with commemorating one of the worst fire disasters of all time.

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871, in which hundreds of people were killed and thousands of buildings destroyed, is far removed from the smoke detector alerts and stop-drop-and-roll drills of today’s fire prevention activities, but the focus is the same.

The Great Chicago Fire represents the danger to human life that fire creates. The goal of fire prevention remains an aim at preventing that loss.

Does your home have a smoke alarm? According to the National Fire Protection Association, the answer is likely yes. NFPA research shows that most American homes have at least one. But do you know how old your smoke alarms are? If you’re like most people, you’re probably not so sure.

A recent survey conducted by NFPA revealed that only a small percentage of people know how old their smoke alarms are, or how often they need to be replaced. That lack of awareness is a concern for the Elizabethton Fire Department and NFPA, along with fire departments throughout the country, because smoke alarms don’t last forever.

According to the NFPA’s National Fire Alarm Code, smoke alarms should be replaced at least every 10 years. To find out how old your smoke alarm is and its expiration date, look on the back of the alarm. It should be replaced 10 years from the date of manufacture.

Chief Barry Carrier with the Elizabethton Fire Dept. also says smoke alarms should be tested monthly, and that batteries should be replaced once a year or when they begin to chirp, signaling that they’re running low.

“The No. 1 tip to prevent fire deaths is to make sure your home is equipped with working smoke detectors. Smoke alarms save lives. I can’t emphasize that enough,” said Chief Carrier.

As cooler weather approaches in the coming weeks and months, homeowners are advised of some safety tips to follow once they turn on the heat:
• Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.

• Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.

• Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

Cooking fires are the No. 1 cause of house fires and home injuries in the U.S., and unattended cooking is the leading cause of kitchen fires. The National Fire Prevention Association recommends staying in the kitchen while frying, grilling or broiling food. And keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, food packaging, towels and curtains — away from the stovetop.

The message is clear: Fires can be deadly. Use the month of October as an opportunity to make sure you and your family are ready in the event of a fire.