By: Lacy Hilliard
October 4-10 is dubbed Fire Prevention Week. A house fire is perhaps one of the most devastating losses a homeowner can endure. During 2007 to 2011 more than 320 households reported a fire each week in the United States.
There are several preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of becoming the victim of a household fire. The National Fire Protection Association offers dozens of tips and guidelines to help prevent fires as well as how to stay safe in the event a household fire does occur. Locally, Johnson County Rescue workers including fire and EMS urge homeowners to make sure their house number is clearly visible from the road. This makes it easier for rescuers to answer emergency calls when faced with navigating Johnson Countys many country roads. In the event of an emergency, the difference between life and death can mean a matter of seconds.
The following tips and statistics were gathered from the National Fire Protection Associations website.
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.
Three out of five home fire deaths happen from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
In 2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 369,500 home structure fires. These fires caused 2,755 deaths, 12,200 civilian injuries, and $7.0 billion in direct damage
Home fires killed an average of eight people every day in 2013.
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 only one or two people. In 2013, 12 home fires killed five or more people resulting in a total of 67 deaths.
Three out of five home fire deaths in 2007-2011 were caused by fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half.
In fires considered large enough to activate the smoke alarm, hardwired alarms operated 93% of the time, while battery powered alarms operated only 79% 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.
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 (32%) of survey respondents who made an estimate thought they would have at least 6 minutes before a fire in their home would become life threatening. The time available is often less. Only 8% 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 156,600 cooking-related fires between 2007-2011, resulting in 400 civilian deaths, 5,080 civilian injuries and $853 million 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 almost three of every five (57%) of home cooking fire incidents. Ovens accounted for 16%.
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.
Microwave ovens are one of the leading home products associated with scald burns. According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, two out of five of the microwave oven injuries seen at emergency rooms in 2012 were scald burns.
Clothing was the item first ignited in less than 1% of home cooking fires, but these incidents accounted for 15% of the cooking fire deaths.
Fifty-five percent of people injured in home fires involving cooking equipment were hurt while attempting to fight the fire themselves.
Failure to clean was a factor contributing to ignition in 17% of reported home fires involving ovens or rotisseries.
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 (33%) of home heating fires and four out of five (81%) 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 started an average of 17,900 smoking-material home structure fires per year during 2007-2011. These fires caused an average of 580 deaths, 1,280 injuries and $509 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 one in five (19%) of home smoking fire deaths.
One out of four fatal victims of smoking-material fires is not the smoker whose cigarettes started the fire.
About half (48%) of home electrical fires involved electrical distribution or lighting equipment. Other leading types of equipment were washer or dryer, fan, portable or stationary space heater, air conditioning equipment water heater and range.
Electrical failure or malfunctions caused an average of 47,800 home fires per year in 2007-2011, resulting in an average of 450 deaths and $1.5 billion in direct property damage.
During 2007-2011 candles caused 3% of home fires, 4% of home fire deaths, 7% of home fire injuries, and 6% of direct property damage from home fires.
On average, there are 29 home candle fires reported per day.
More than one-third of these fires (36%) 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% of the home candle fires and 37% of the associated deaths.
Johnson County is home to dense forestland and therefore, the risk of forest fires is a tangible threat. The majority of forest fires are as a result of human negligence and therefore are preventable. The National Forest Service offers the following tips for both campfires as well as burning debris:
Extinguishing Your Campfire
When youre ready to put out your fire and call it a night, follow these guidelines:
Allow the wood to burn completely to ash, if possible. Pour lots of water on the fire, drown ALL embers, not just the red ones. Pour until hissing sound stops. Stir the campfire ashes and embers with a shovel. Scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers. Stir and make sure everything is wet and they are cold to the touch. If you do not have water, use dirt. Mix enough dirt or sand with the embers. Continue adding and stirring until all material is cool. Remember: do NOT bury the fire as the fire will continue to smolder and could catch roots on fire that will eventually get to the surface and start a wildfire.
Tips for Safe Debris Burning
Comply with Local Regulations: Contact your local fire department in advance to confirm that burning is allowed and to find out whether a permit is required to burn debris.
Check the Weather Forecast Weather fluctuations, such as sudden gusts of wind, could make debris burning spark a wildfire. Call your local fire department the day you plan to burn debris to finalize that the weather is safe enough to burn.
Choose a Safe Burning Site: A safe site will be far away from power lines, overhanging limbs, buildings, automobiles, and equipment. It will have vertical clearance at least three times the height of the pile, as heat from the fire extends far past the actual flames that you see.It will have horizontal clearance twice the height of the debris pile.
Prepare the Site Correctly: The ground around the burn site should be surrounded by gravel or mineral soil (dirt) for at least ten feet in all directions. Keep the surrounding area watered down during the burn.
If using a burn barrel, make sure it is equipped with the proper features. Burn Barrels must be made of all-metal construction in good condition (no rust on the sides or bottom) and properly ventilated with three evenly-spaced, three-inch square vents spaced evenly around the rim near ground level. Each vent must be backed by a metal screen. A Burn Barrel must have a metal top screen with mesh size of one-fourth inch or finer to keep sparks from escaping and potentially sparking a wildfire. When burning, layer the different types of debris and stir often. Be careful of sparks escaping the barrel when you stir it.
Remain With your Fire
Stay with your fire until it is completely out. To ensure the fire has been completely extinguished, drown the fire with water, turn over the ashes with a shovel and drown it again. Repeat several times. Check the burn area regularly over the next several days and up to several weeks following the burn, especially if the weather is warm, dry, and windy.
Keep it Legal
It is illegal to burn plastic, tires, and most other waste products not from a tree or shrub.
Fire can devastate both home and wildlife with astonishing quickness. Taking preventative measures and being prepared in the event a fire does occur may mean the different between loss of property and/or life. For more information about household fires visit www.nfpa.org.