Survey finds concerns about economy may increase incidence of home fires

Published on October 2, 2008
Fire Prevention Week Survey shows nearly half of Americans planning to use alternative heating sources this winter

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 2, 2008 — The American Red Cross and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) today released results of a survey showing the majority (79%) of Americans are concerned about the rising cost of heating their homes, and many will use an alternative heating source to reduce their bills this winter. The survey identified additional behaviors related to appliance maintenance and cooking that could also present home fire hazards this winter.

“As we head into, what by all accounts is likely to be a very costly heating season, these survey results and Fire Prevention Week provide a critical opportunity for us to remind people about the things they can do to prevent home fires and keep their families safe and warm this winter,” said NFPA President James. M. Shannon. “If people use alternative heat sources to reduce energy costs, it is critical they use devices that are new or in good working order, and they turn off units when they go to bed or leave the room.”

“We hope this survey will encourage more people to take the simple steps necessary to protect their families and homes from fire,” said Gail J. McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross. “Of the more than 74,000 disasters the American Red Cross responds to each year, approximately 93% are fire-related, but unlike natural disasters, most home fires can be prevented.”

Heating and Cooking Fires
According to NFPA reports, cooking and heating are the leading causes of home fires. The survey revealed the majority of Americans are concerned about the rising cost of heating their homes (79%), and that 48% of households will use an alternative heating source to reduce their bills this winter. Alternative heating sources include portable space heaters, stoves, ovens and fireplaces. A third (36%) of people with fireplaces reported they never cleaned or inspected their chimneys. The survey also found 23% of respondents did not consider it essential to make sure someone is home when food is cooking on the stove.

Young Adults at Risk
Young adults, ages 18-24, were more likely than other respondents to state they will use the oven to keep the kitchen warm this winter (17% versus 7% for all households). Young adults were also less likely to take precautionary steps such as removing the lint from the dryer filter after every load (one in three do not remove the lint after every load).

Smoke Alarms and Fire Escape Plans
Respondents also revealed another unsafe behavior, which is disabling (37%) smoke alarms when they go off in a non-testing situation. More than half (53%) of the households surveyed have not taken any of three common actions in most home fire escape plans, which includes discussing with family members how to get out of the home, deciding on an outdoor meeting place and practicing the plan.

“On any given night in America, the Red Cross is out responding to hundreds of home fires, providing comfort, shelter and aid to help families pick up the pieces,” said Red Cross President McGovern. “That’s why the Red Cross is working during Fire Prevention Week, and each and every day, to help people prevent fires and stay safe in the event of a home fire.”

During the month of October, Red Cross chapters will distribute information, provide educational presentations and partner with first responders to share fire safety and prevention messages in communities across the country.

NFPA has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week for more than 85 years. Each year, NFPA selects an official theme to support the week which is celebrated each October. This year, Fire Prevention Week is October 5 – 11 and the theme is It’s Fire Prevention Week: Prevent Home Fires. NFPA creates official campaign materials as well as a Web site providing fire departments, families, kids and educators with information to implement a successful community-wide campaign. For more information, visit www.firepreventionweek.org.

NFPA and the American Red Cross offer these and other safety tips:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you must leave, even for a short time, turn off the stove.
  • Give space heaters space by keeping them at least 3 feet from anything that can burn. Turn off heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.

For additional fire safety tips, visit www.firepreventionweek.org or www.redcross.org/homefires.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Research findings from a telephone survey of 1,003 U.S. Adults 18 years and older on September 25-28, 2008 conducted by CARAVAN®.  Margin of error is +/- 3.1%t at the 95% confidence level.  If you report data from the survey, source it as orginating from American Red Cross/National Fire Protection Association 2008. A full data set can be accessed here.

About the American Red Cross Home Fires Campaign
The American Red Cross Home Fires campaign seeks to educate people about the role the Red Cross plays in local home fire responses, and teach people the skills they need to prevent and protect themselves should they experience a fire. More than 93 percent of the 74,000 disasters the Red Cross responds to each year are fire related. The American Red Cross has teamed up with the world’s largest home improvement retailer, The Home Depot®, to share fire safety and prevention information with local communities. During the month of October, The Home Depot will host free in-store clinics focusing on fire safety in all U.S. stores. The clinics begin at 1 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, visit www.homedepotclinics.com or www.redcross.org/homefires.

About the American Red Cross
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization – not a government agency – and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.

About  Fire Prevention Week
For more than 85 years, Fire Prevention Week has been observed by fire departments in the U.S. and Canada to mark the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The President of the Unites States has issued a proclamation designating a national observance during Fire Prevention Week every year since 1925. It is the longest running health and safety observance on record, according to the National Archives and Records Administration Library Center. For more information, visit www.firepreventionweek.org.

About the National Fire Protection Association
NFPA has been a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education. Visit NFPA’s Web site at www.nfpa.org.

Contact:Lorraine Carli, Public Affairs Office: +1 617 984-7275

NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)
1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02169-7471 USA
Telephone: +1 617 770-3000 Fax: +1 617 770-0700