By Presidential Proclamation, the week of October 9-15, 2016 has been deemed Fire Prevention Week. This year’s campaign “Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years” represents the final year of the National Fire Protection Association’s “three-year effort to educate the public about basic but essential elements of smoke alarm safety.”
In 2015, the 365,500 home fires reported were just a fraction of the 1,356,500 total fires in the U.S., but home fires resulted in the majority of civilian deaths (2,650). Information on the National Fire Protection Association site lists cooking equipment as “the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries, while smoking materials remain the leading causes of home fire deaths.”
The good news is as smoking decreases in the U.S., fire deaths from smoking materials have decreased 73% between 1980 to 2011. New regulations making mattresses and upholstered furniture more fire-resistant, two of the most common items ignited in a home fire, have helped in the decline, as have fire-safe cigarette requirements.
How can you protect your home and loved-ones from a house fire? First, make your home and property smoke-free. This is especially true if someone needs medical oxygen as it is highly flammable. If you or someone who lives with you smokes, make an area outside preferably, your designated smoking area. Provide cans with sand to put out the smoking material, and never throw it in the trash until you are certain it is totally out.
If the smoker refuses to quit or smoke outside, allow smoking in only one room of the house. Provide wide, deep ashtrays that won’t tip or ignite and place them on a study table, never the arm of a chair. Check the area after smoking for any dropped cigarette butts or other smoking ash. Dispose of smoking material in a metal can until it is cool, and never in the trash or garbage can.
While so much of the information pertains to cigarettes and other combustible smoking materials, electronic cigarettes and vapor devices can also ignite and cause a fire. Between 2009 and 2014 “the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) published an alert that identified 25 separate e-cigarette fires and explosions that were reported in the media.” In 2015 there were 15 incidences alone, with “13 described as explosions and two as ignitions.” If using this type of device, always follow the manufacturers directions and never leave it plugged in unattended in your house or vehicle.
And finally, make sure all your smoke alarms are in good working order. You should have an alarm in each bedroom and outside each sleeping area, as well as in each living area and on every level. The NFPA suggests that you test the alarms are least once a month by pushing the test button, and that batteries are replaced at least once a year. If you need help with the smoke alarm, Sparky the Fire Dog, will be happy to help in the video below.