Fires in the home can start in an instant and spread in seconds, leaving families with as little as two minutes to escape from a residential fire. However, with smoke alarms, escape plans and good fire safety practices, two minutes is enough time for families to evacuate unharmed. October serves as national fire prevention month to remind everyone about the importance of fire safety and prevention.
Although burns are among the most painful injuries a person can live through, the most common cause of fire-related deaths is smoke inhalation. Cooking is the most frequent cause of house fires and almost two-thirds of all house fire-related deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms.
“Working smoke alarms can decrease an individual’s risk of dying in a house fire by nearly half,” said Nichole Hodges, MPH, CHES, home safety program coordinator, Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Most houses do have at least one smoke alarm, but many do not work because the batteries are missing or dead. Most children who die or are injured in a house fire live in a home without working smoke alarms.”
Not only should smoke alarms be tested monthly, but batteries should be replaced once a year, unless the smoke alarm has a longer-lasting lithium battery. Also, smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years.
“Smoke alarms need to be installed on every level of your home, even in the basement,” said Hodges. “There should be a smoke alarm outside of each sleeping area, and, for better protection, a smoke alarm inside each bedroom as well.”
Along with smoke alarms, Hodges encourages all families to develop and practice a fire escape plan. Fires spread much more quickly today than they did 20 to 30 years ago because of the synthetic materials in homes. Escape plans are especially vital for children younger than 5-years-old and adults older than 70-years-old because they are at higher risk of dying in a house fire and often need assistance to escape.
“Fire escape plans should be practiced until they are second nature,” said Fire Chief Ned Pettus, Jr., City of Columbus, Ohio, Department of Public Safety. “Once your family gathers at your safe meeting place, you can call the fire department."
Chief Pettus also stressed the need for businesses to practice fire safety. Compliance with fire code requirements should be maintained, fire drills conducted, and emergency action plans and exit route maps must be posted and distributed to all employees. He suggested businesses to choose leaders for emergency evacuations and decide how to help disabled co-workers to safety.
The Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) works globally to reduce injury-related pediatric death and disabilities. With innovative research as its core, CIRP works to continually improve the scientific understanding of the epidemiology, biomechanics, prevention, acute treatment and rehabilitation of injuries. CIRP serves as a pioneer by translating cutting edge injury research into education, advocacy and advances in clinical care. In recognition of CIRP's valuable research, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently named the Center for Injury Research and Policy as one of only 13 centers in the United States to be designated as an Injury Control Research Center. Learn more about The Center for Injury Research and Policy at http://www.injurycenter.org.