03 October 2016
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Don’t Wait, Check the Date and Replace Smoke Detectors Every Ten Years
Scott Custer, Fort Detrick Fire Department
A properly working smoke detector matters when it comes to protecting you and your family from a fire. That’s the message behind this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Don’t Wait, Check the Date, Replace your Smoke Detector Every Ten Years!”

Along with firefighters and safety advocates nationwide, Fort Detrick Fire and Emergency Services is joining forces with the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association during Fire Prevention Week, October 9-15, to remind both residents and employees about the importance of having a properly working and in date smoke detector in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home, including the basement.

In a fire, seconds count, as half of home fire deaths result from fires reported at night between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Home smoke alarms can alert people to a fire before it spreads, giving everyone enough time to get out.

According to the latest NFPA research, working smoke alarms cut the chance of dying in a fire in half. Meanwhile, three out of five fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

Here are some more important fire facts to keep in mind:

Home fires
• Half of home fire deaths result from fires reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when most people are asleep. Only one in five home fires were reported during these hours.
• One quarter of home fire deaths were caused by fires that started in the bedroom. Another quarter resulted from fires in the living room, family room or den.
• In 2014, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 367,500 home structure fires. These fires caused 2,745 deaths, 11,825 civilian injuries, and $6.8 billion in direct damage.
• On average, seven people die in U.S. home fires per day.
• Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fire injuries, followed by heating equipment.
• Smoking materials are the leading cause of home fire deaths.
• Most fatal fires kill one or two people. In 2014, 15 home fires killed five or more people resulting in a total of 88 deaths.
• During 2009-2013, roughly one of every 335 households had a reported home fire per year.
Smoke alarms
• In fires considered large enough to activate the smoke alarm, hardwired alarms operated 94 percent of the time, while battery powered alarms operated 80 percent of the time.
• When smoke alarms fail to operate, it is usually because batteries are missing, disconnected, or dead.
• An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, or where extra time is needed to awaken or assist others, both types of alarms, or combination ionization and photoelectric alarms are recommended.

Escape planning
• According to an NFPA survey, only one-third of Americans have both developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.
• Almost three-quarters of Americans do have an escape plan; however, more than half never practiced it.
• One-third of survey respondents who made an estimate thought they would have at least six minutes before a fire in their home would become life threatening. The time available is often less. Only eight percent said their first thought on hearing a smoke alarm would be to get out.

• U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 162,400 cooking-related fires between 2009-2013 resulting in 430 civilian deaths, 5,400 civilian injuries and $1.1 billion in direct damage.
• Two of every five home fires started in the kitchen.
• Unattended cooking was a factor in one-third of reported home cooking fires.
• Two-thirds of home cooking fires started with ignition of food or other cooking materials.
• Ranges accounted for 61 percent home cooking fire incidents. Ovens accounted for 13 percent.
• Children under five face a higher risk of non-fire burns associated with cooking and hot food and drinks than of being hurt in a cooking fire.
• Children under five accounted for 30 percent of the 4,300 microwave oven scald burns seen in hospital emergency rooms during 2014.
• Clothing was the item first ignited in less than 1 percent of home cooking fires, but these incidents accounted for 18 percent of the cooking fire deaths.
• More than half of people injured in home fires involving cooking equipment were hurt while attempting to fight the fire themselves.
• Frying is the leading activity associated with cooking fires.

• The leading factor contributing to heating equipment fires was failure to clean. This usually involved creosote build-up in chimneys.
• Portable or fixed space heaters, including wood stoves, were involved in one-third of home heating fires and four-out-of-five home heating deaths.
• Just over half of home heating fire deaths resulted from fires caused by heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.
• In most years, heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires, fire deaths, and fire injuries.

Smoking materials
• Smoking materials started an average of 18,300 smoking-material home structure fires per year during 2009-2013. These fires caused an average of 560 deaths, 1,260 injuries and $553 million in direct property damage per year.
• Most deaths in home smoking-material fires were caused by fires that started in bedrooms (40%) or living rooms, family rooms or dens (35%).
• Sleep was a factor in roughly one-third of the home smoking material fire deaths.
• Possible alcohol impairment was a factor in 19 percent of home smoking fire deaths.
• One out of four fatal victims of smoking-material fires is not the smoker whose cigarette started the fire.

• Electrical failures or malfunctions can cause fires in wiring, cords, lighting and any other type of equipment that uses electricity.
• Electrical failure or malfunctions caused an estimated 44,900 home fires in 2013, resulting in 410 deaths and $1.3 billion in direct property damage.

• During 2009-2013, candles caused 3% of home fires, 3% of home fire deaths, 6% of home fire injuries, and five percent of direct property damage from home fires.
• On average, there are 25 home candle fires reported per day.
• More than one-third of these fires started in the bedroom; however, the candle industry found that only 13% of candle users burn candles in the bedroom most often.
• Nearly three in five candle fires start when things that can burn are too close to the candle.
• Falling asleep was a factor in 11 percent of the home candle fires and 30 percent of the associated deaths

This year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign includes the following smoke alarm messages:

• Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.
• Interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. This way, when one sounds, they all do.
• Test alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button.
• Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old or sooner if they don’t respond properly.
• Make sure everyone in the home knows the sound of the smoke alarm and understands what to do when they hear it.
• If the smoke alarm sounds, get outside and stay outside. Go to your outside meeting place.
• Call the fire department from outside the home.

The Fort Detrick Fire and Emergency Services Department will have informational static displays throughout the week at both installations during Fire Prevention Week. Additionally we have partnered with the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation this year and will be present at the Oktoberfest Event on October 28 from noon to 5 p.m. There will be fire engines, fire prevention goodies both fun and educational, games for the kids and Sparky the Fire Dog will be on hand as well to promote “Don’t Wait, Check the Date, replace Smoke Detectors Every Ten Years!”

Through these educational, family-oriented activities, residents and employees can learn more about the importance of having a proper working and in date smoke alarm in every bedroom.

To find out more about Fire Prevention Week programs and activities at Fort Detrick and Forest Glen Annex, please contact (301)-619-6000 or (301)-619-6029.

To learn more about smoke alarms and "Don’t Wait, Check The Date, replace Smoke detectors Every Ten Years!" visit NFPA’s Web site at www.firepreventionweek.org and www.sparky.org/fpw.
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