As more people live closer and closer together, particularly as a result of urbanization, risks associated with fire increase. House fires are predominantly accidental, usually in relation to the use of indoor lamps, stoves or heaters that use an open flame. However, careless use of cigarettes is another leading cause of fires, and fires may also be set deliberately as public violence and arson.
While localized in effect, house fires ultimately affect hundreds of thousands of homes a year world-wide. Fire spreads quickly and can easily engulf a home and neighboring structures within minutes. In urban settings, fire risk is often aggravated by the difficulty of access for fire response equipment into narrow streets and high-rise buildings present another challenge where the middle and top floors of the building may only be accessible by stairs.
- If a fire occurs in your home, GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL for help.
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Test them every month and replace the batteries at least once a year. Because smoke rises, put the alarms on the ceiling or high on the wall. Test the smoke alarms regularly. Install new batteries every year. Get new smoke alarms every ten years.
- Home fire plans should include at least two ways to escape from every room of your home.
- Select a meeting spot at a safe distance from your home where family members can meet after a fire.
- Talk with all household members about a fire escape plan and practice the plan twice a year.
To help avoid a fire in the home, there are steps someone can take now:
- Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as sources of heat or stoves.
- Never smoke in bed.
- Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to sleep.
The biggest disaster threat to families in the United States isn’t floods, hurricanes or tornadoes; it’s fire. The American Red Cross responds to a disaster every eight minutes and nearly all of these are home fires. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), there are almost 365,000 residential fires reported in the U.S. every year causing on average, the death of seven Americans in home fires every day. These fires cause more than $6 billion in property loss. While the frequency of fire deaths has steadily decreased over the past ten years due to increased awareness and safety measures, more than 2,400 Americans still die every year in home fires. Fortunately, most home fires can be prevented. Homeowners should check for items that can be hazardous such as candles and space heaters – common items that can turn dangerous very quickly.
Important facts to consider:
- Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in home fires by half.
- African Americans tend to be disproportionately affected by home fires. On average they account for 25% of all fire deaths even though they represent less than 13% of the population.
- Most home heating fires are caused by heating equipment that is located too close to things that can easily burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses, or bedding.
- Portable space heaters were involved in one-third of all home heating fires and four out of every five home heating deaths.
- Nearly 50% of all electrical fires involve malfunctioning or faulty electrical distribution equipment (power strips) or lighting fixtures.
- Nearly two-thirds of all fire deaths happen in homes that have no smoke alarms or malfunctioning units.
- Approximately 80% of home fire deaths are related to asphyxiation caused by breathing in poisonous smoke.
- Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire related injuries, followed closely by home heating equipment. Smoking is the leading cause of all home fire deaths.
- Two out of every five home fires start in the kitchen.
- On average, 57% of child fire deaths affect children ages 4 or younger. For Children younger than 15, exposure to smoke and fire is the third leading cause of death after transportation accidents and drowning.