In 2003, fire departments responded to 388,500 home structure fires in the United States — more than 1,000 every day. Eight people a day died in those fires.
While working smoke alarms greatly reduce the likelihood of a residential fire related fatal injury, smoke alarms are still missing in 4% of U.S. homes; those four million houses account for 39% of reported home fires and nearly half of all the reported home fire deaths, according to the Public/Private Fire Safety Council, a 16-member partnership of federal agencies and non-government organizations created to develop a coordinated national effort to eliminate residential fire deaths by the year 2020.
In June, the council released the first in a planned series of white papers outlining major strategies for reducing the annual death toll from home fires. The first white paper, on home smoke alarm strategies, comes in the wake of a March fire in Tennessee, where nine family members reportedly died in one of the deadliest single home fires in U.S. history.
The paper, Home Smoke Alarms, is a one-stop shop for smoke alarm information. It is available at www.firesafety.gov/downloads/pdf/whitepaperalarms.pdf.
“This is really the first time in a long time where all of current information about smoke alarms, smoke alarm programs, performance, and technologies is collected in one place,” said Denis Onieal, superintendent of the National Fire Academy.
Onieal said the intended audience for this white paper includes policy makers, managers, and others active in the cause of home fire safety for whom rapid, effective detection and notification are, or should be, key elements of their programs or strategies.
Residential sprinkler systems may be the subject of a subsequent white paper.
“There's a lot of angst on the part of builders, fear on the part of elected officials, misinformation on the part of homeowners, so there is no better time to look at the issue,” Onieal said. Plus, Baby Boomers are about to enter into the over-65 high risk group for residential fires.