Fire Safety: All About Fires
Every day Americans experience the horror of fire. But most people don't understand fire. Only when we know the true nature of fire can we prepare ourselves and our families. Each year more than 4,000 Americans die and approximately 20,000 are injured in fires, many of which could be prevented.
The United States Fire Administration (USFA) believes fire deaths can be reduced by teaching people the basic facts about fire. Below are some simple facts that explain the particular characteristics of fire.
Fire is FAST!
There is little time! In less than 30 seconds a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for thick black smoke to fill a house. In minutes, a house can be engulfed in flames. Most fires occur in the home when people are asleep. If you wake up to a fire, you won't have time to grab valuables because fire spreads too quickly and the smoke is too thick. There is only time to escape.
Fire is HOT!
Heat is more threatening than flames. A fire's heat alone can kill. Room temperatures in a fire can be 100 degrees at floor level and rise to 600 degrees at eye level. Inhaling this super hot air will scorch your lungs. This heat can melt clothes to your skin. In five minutes a room can get so hot that everything in it ignites at once: this is called flashover.
Fire is DARK!
Fire isn't bright, it's pitch black. Fire starts bright, but quickly produces black smoke and complete darkness. If you wake up to a fire you may be blinded, disoriented and unable to find your way around the home you've lived in for years.
Fire is DEADLY!
Smoke and toxic gases kill more people than flames do. Fire uses up the oxygen you need and produces smoke and poisonous gases that kill. Breathing even small amounts of smoke and toxic gases can make you drowsy, disoriented and short of breath. The odorless, colorless fumes can lull you into a deep sleep before the flames reach your door. You may not wake up in time to escape.
Fire Safety Tips
In the event of a fire, remember time is the biggest enemy and every second counts!
Escape first, then call for help. Develop a home fire escape plan and designate a meeting place outside. Make sure everyone in the family knows two ways to escape from every room. Practice feeling your way out with your eyes closed. Never stand up in a fire, always crawl low under the smoke and try to keep your mouth covered. Never return to a burning building for any reason; it may cost you your life.
Finally, having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. And remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.
Where Fires Occur
There were 1,557,700 fires in the United States in 2007. a decrease of 5.2 percent from 2006, Of these:
- 49.4% were Outside Fires
- 34.1% were Structure Fires
- 16.6% were Vehicle Fires
Residential structure fires represent about 25 percent of all fires and 75 percent of structure fires. Approximately 84 percent of all fire deaths and 79 percent of the injuries to civilians in 2007 were the result of residential structure fires. Between 1998 and 2007, there were an estimated 397,650 fires annually resulting in 3,040 civilian deaths and 14,960 injuries each year. These fires resulted in $6.29 billion in property damages.
The South has the highest fire death rate per-capita with 18.4 civilian deaths per million population.
Residential structures include one- and two-family dwellings (including manufactured homes), apartments, hotels, motels, college dormitories, boarding houses, etc. These fires most often start in the:
- Kitchen 23.5%
- Bedroom 12.7%
- Living Room 7.9%
- Chi mney 7.1%
- Laundry Area 4.7%
Apartment fires most often start in the:
- Kitchen 46.1%
- Bedroom 12.3%
- Living Room 6.2%
- Laundry Area 3.3%
- Bathroom 2.4%
Causes of Fires and Fire Deaths
- Cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. It is also the leading cause of home fire injuries. Cooking fires often result from unattended cooking and human error, rather than mechanical failure of stoves or ovens.
- Careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths. Smoke alarms and smolder-resistant bedding and upholstered furniture are significant fire deterrents.
- Heating is the second leading cause of residential fires and the second leading cause of fire deaths.
- Arson is both the third leading cause of residential fires and residential fire deaths. In commercial properties, arson is the major cause of deaths, injuries and dollar loss.
Who Is At Risk?
- Senior citizens age 70 and over and children under the age of 5 have the greatest risk of fire death.
- The fire death risk among seniors is more than double the average population.
- The fire death risk for children under age 5 is nearly double the risk of the average population.
- Children under the age of 10 accounted for an estimated 17 percent of all fire deaths in 1996.
- Men die or are injured in fires almost twice as often as women.
- African Americans and American Indians have significantly higher death rates per-capita than the national average.
- Although African Americans comprise 13 percent of the population, they account for 26 percent of the fire deaths.
What Saves Lives?
- A working smoke alarm dramatically increases a personâ€™s chance of surviving a fire.
- Approximately 88 percent of U.S. homes have at least one smoke alarm. However, these alarms are not always properly maintained and as a result might not work in an emergency. There has been a disturbing increase over the last ten years in the number of fires that occur in the homes with non-functioning alarms.
- It is estimated that more than 40 percent of residential fires and three-fifths of residential fatalities occur in homes with no smoke alarms.
- Residential sprinklers have become more cost effective for homes. Currently, few homes are protected by them.