Don't ignore smoke alarms

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Four of every 10 home fire deaths resulted from fires with no smoke alarms in 2003-2006, according to a new report released today by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

"Smoke alarms are one of the greatest fire protection devices of our time and have significantly contributed to the decline in home fire fatalities since the late 70's," said James M. Shannon, president of NFPA.

Working smoke alarms cut the risk of victims dying in reported home structure fires in half. The NFPA recommends smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level. They should also be interconnected so that when one sounds, they all sound.

Other key findings from Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires:

*Smoke alarm failures usually result from missing, disconnected, or dead batteries.

*In one-fifth of all homes with smoke alarms, none were working.

*Most homes still have smoke alarms powered by batteries only.

*More than half of home fire deaths that occurred where no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms were present happened between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.

*The death rate per 1,000 reported fires is 84% lower when hardwired smoke alarms and wet pipe sprinklers are present.

According to NFPA approximately 3,000 people a year die in home fires.

NFPA offers the following tips for smoke alarms:

*Choose a smoke alarm that bears the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

*Interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.

*Replace batteries in all smoke alarms at least once a year. If an alarm "chirps," warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.

*Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they are 10 years old or sooner if they do not respond properly when tested.

*Test your smoke alarms at least every month, using the test button or an approved smoke substitute and clean the units, in accordance with the manufacturers' instructions.

*Be sure that all doors and windows that lead outside open easily and that everyone in the home knows the escape plan.

*Consider home fire sprinklers when building a new home or doing a major renovation.