October is National Fire Prevention Month, and so it’s a good time for some reminders about how to stay safe at home.
The New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control says that between 2009-2013, only 53% of the home fires reported to U.S. fire departments were in houses that had working smoke detectors in them.
And at the same time – 38% of home fire-related deaths happened in a home without a smoke alarms, while another 21% of deaths happened in home that had smoke alarms, but that weren’t working.
Guy Swartwout, Branch Chief for Inspections and Investigations, says that is why having a working smoke alarm is critical. “Most fires that have fatalities occur at night” he says. “So you’re sleeping, you have no idea this is going on, and the smoke alarm is the first thing that alerts you to the fact that this fire is occurring.”
Swartwout recommends getting a 10-year sealed battery unit. They’re available at most local stores, and generally, units are the same across-the-board.
While home fires occur less and fewer fire deaths occur, Swartwout says the likelihood of dying in a home fire is actually greater now than it was in 1980.
“There are a variety of things that cause that” he says. “We have furniture that’s made out of synthetic products, so the smoke is toxic when anything burns. We have lightweight constructions, so the materials burn more quickly. Open concept houses means the fire travels through a building much faster.”
In fact – the time you have to escape a fire in a home built before 1980 is approximately 15 minutes. In a home built in 2016, that time drops dramatically, to just 2-3 minutes.
Swartwout says if you’re building a new home or renovating an older home, consider adding a residential sprinkler system. “If you combine the smoke alarm with the sprinkler system, the likelihood of dying in a fire is 84% less.”
Take time right now to check the smoke alarms in your home are working. It only takes a few moments but could save your life.