Home Fire Statistics from National Association, Plus Fire Safety Tips from Illinois State Fire Marshal

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We are heading into the fall, when the risk of residential fires starts to climb. Two helpful and informative articles on the topic are worth sharing – so here you are! The first provides some frightening statistics from the leading national organization that tracks residential fires and fire safety issues. The second tells you what you can do about it – with great advice from a large state’s Fire Marshal. Here’s the first article, and below I have excerpted some important facts.

  • Every day in the United States, an average of seven people die from fire related incidents, according to a report released by the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA). This report on home fires shows that U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 366,600 home structure fires from 2007 to 2011.
  • Of the seven people who died each day in U.S. home fires, on average, 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, the report said.
  • 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, the report said.
  • One-quarter of the home fire deaths resulted from fires that originated in the bedroom, another quarter 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 p.m. and 7 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, the report said.
  • 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,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications for the NFPA. “Installing and maintaining these alarms could save a majority of the lives lost in home fires.

NFPA Suggestions for Fire Safety

In order to prevent such incidents, the NFPA suggests staying in the kitchen while cooking, giving space heaters space, not smoking indoors, keeping matches and lighters out of reach of children, inspecting electrical cords and replacing damaged ones, using caution with candles, having a home fire escape plan, installing working smoke alarms, testing those alarms and installing sprinklers.

These are frightening figures – especially considering that some many of these fires (and deaths) were preventable. Now for the home fire safety tips from the Illinois State Fire Marshal.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is taking the lead in educating Illinois residents to practice safe cooking habits to prevent home fire tragedies. Unattended cooking continues to be a top cause of home fires and injuries since 1990. “It continues to be our commitment to remind residents about the potential dangers of leaving cooking unattended,” State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis said in a news release. “With working parents, more underage children and teens are cooking their own meals, which could present some dangers if children are not well trained to follow basic safety tips.” OSFM recommends the following safety tips to avoid cooking fires:

  • Stay in the kitchen while you are cooking, frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you have to leave the kitchen for a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • Remain in the home while simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food.
  • For a safer cooking time, use a timer if necessary.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire away from your stovetop, such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains. Wear short sleeves or tight fitting clothes while cooking to prevent burns.
  • Keep a lid nearby when you are cooking to smother small grease fires, then turn off the stovetop and leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.

In case of a cooking fire:

  • Get out of the house, and stay out.
  • Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after getting out of the house.
  • For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

One important thing missing in both of articles above, especially in the suggestions portion, is any mention of monitored fire alarms as a way to lower the incidence of death and injury from home fires. I have actually contacted the NFPA on this topic – since their web site is oddly quiet on the benefits of adding fire detection to a monitored home alarm system. Since we know that fire alarm monitoring can make a huge difference, we’ll keep working on them to address this!

The Facts of the Matter

Most of the homes involved in residential fires do not have a monitored security system, let alone fire monitoring, but fire monitoring is one of the most important reasons to have a home alarm system in the first place. And for those with intrusion alarms, adding fire monitoring to a wireless home alarm system is such a logical course of action, it’s amazing that more people don’t do it – especially when they have children and pets to protect.

Then again, there are plenty of alarm companies who expect you to pay a lot for the standard combined smoke/heat sensors, and who add an unnecessary surcharge to the monthly fee for a service that does not cost them any extra. The best alarm companies include fire monitoring at no additional cost to you.

How Good Alarm Companies Protect You

In fact, most reputable alarm companies (including FrontPoint) recommend at least one monitored smoke and heat sensor for every system they sell. The main reason is that your standard non-monitored smoke detector is really just a noisemaker. Yes, it’s much better than nothing, and we know it has saved lives – but don’t you want to know the fire department is being summoned as soon as possible? You may be away, or – much worse – overcome by smoke in your own home. That’s when you definitely want a system that quickly and proactively reaches out the people who can help. For more information, here’s a link to my previous post on monitored fire protection.

FrontPoint continues to provide the latest in interactive, wireless home security, including 24-hour fire monitoring for no additional monthly fee. We are proud members of the NFPA, and fully support their goal of protecting us in our homes and workplaces – just one more reason why FrontPoint is known as the #1 ranked alarm company in the US.

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