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Do You Have Enough Smoke Alarms?

Published: October 6, 2010

Home fires occur suddenly and often without warning. Here are important recommendations from the National Fire Safety Association (NFSA) to help you and your family prevent—and survive—dangerous fires.

Smoke Alarms: A Sound You Can Live With

Smoke alarms, the focus of NFSA’s Fire Prevention Week 2010 (October 3-9), save lives by ensuring that everyone has time to safely escape a home fire.

Too often, however, missing or broken alarms lead to tragic consequences. Data show that nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms at all, or with ones that don’t work.

Basic smoke alarms come in two types: ionization units that are generally more responsive to flaming fires (such as a pan fire), and photoelectric devices designed to detect fires that begin by smoldering for a long time (such as a lighted cigarette dropped on a sofa). While each is effective, NFSA experts say that installing both versions offers more comprehensive home fire protection. Newer alarms that incorporate both technologies are also available.

NFPA Safety Tips: Test your smoke alarms at least once a month. Smoke alarms should be in every bedroom, outside sleeping areas, and on every level of the home, including the basement. Interconnected smoke alarms offer the best protection; when one sounds, they all do. Practice an escape plan with two ways out from every location.

Prevention Basics

Many home fires are preventable. Act now to stop fires before they start.

1. Cooking is the #1 cause of home fires and injuries. U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 150,200 fires involving cooking equipment per year.

NFPA Safety Tips: Stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling, or broiling food. Turn off the stove if you leave the kitchen, even for a short time. When simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it often and remain in the home until cooking is complete. Use a timer to remind you of food on the stove.

2. Smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths. In 2007, there were about 140,700 smoking-material fires in the U.S.

NFPA Safety tips: If you smoke, smoke outside. Douse butts and ashes in water or sand.

3. Heating is the second leading cause of home fires, fire deaths and fire injuries. Space heaters alone account for 32% of home heating fires.

NFPA Safety Tips: Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment. Only use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Never use your oven for heating.

4. Electrical failures or malfunctions contribute to roughly 50,000 reported fires each year.

NFPA Safety tips: Replace or repair loose or frayed cords on electrical devices. Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under carpets. Cover unused wall sockets with plastic safety covers.

For more fire facts, safety tips, and kid’s games and activities featuring Sparky the Fire Dog, visit http://www.nfpa.org

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