NFPA urges increased fire safety this winter

Published on January 7, 2009
Joins USFA in plea following several fatal fires

Statistics and additional information are available at NFPA’s pressroom.

January 7, 2009 - The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) today urged Americans to take extra fire safety precautions this winter in the wake of several multiple fatality fires over the past few weeks that were highlighted in a press event held by the United States Fire Administration (USFA) in Washington, DC.

“These recent tragic fires have painfully underscored that we are right in the middle of the peak season for home fires,” said NFPA President Jim Shannon. According to NFPA, December, January and February are the leading months for home fires. In 2007 there were an estimated 399,000 home fires resulting in nearly 3,000 deaths. Cooking is the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries. Smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths. Heating ranks second in home fire deaths overall, but in one- or two-family dwellings it is the leading cause.

“We join with US Fire Administrator Greg Cade and fire chiefs across the country in asking residents to make sure they have working smoke alarms and adhere to basic fire safety practices. Many home fires can be prevented and if a fire does occur, smoke alarms provide the early warning necessary to get out alive,” added Shannon.

NFPA recommends the following key fire safety tips:

  • Watch your cooking
    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
    Keep fixed and portable space heaters at least three feet from anything that can burn. Turn off heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Smoke outside
    Ask smokers to smoke outside. Have sturdy, deep ashtrays for smokers.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach
    Keep matches and lighters up high, out of the reach of children, preferably in a cabinet with a child lock.
  • Inspect electrical cords
    Replace cords that are cracked, damaged, have broken plugs, or have loose connections.
  • Be careful when using candles
    Keep candles at least one foot from anything that can burn. Blow out candles when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Have a home fire escape plan
    Make a home fire escape plan and practice it at least twice a year.
  • Install and test smoke alarms
    Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Interconnect smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound. Test smoke alarms at least once a month and replace batteries once a year or when the alarm “chirps” to tell you the battery is low. Replace any smoke alarm that is more than 10 years old.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms
    Install CO alarms in a central location outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home.
  • Install sprinklers
    If you are building or remodeling your home, install residential fire sprinklers. Sprinklers can contain, and may even extinguish, a fire in less time than it would take the fire department to arrive.

The fires that sparked the call for more caution include:

  • On Christmas Eve, four died in a house fire in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. All of the victims were children and officials cannot be certain whether smoke alarms worked.
  • Four adults and three children died in a southwest Philadelphia home the day after Christmas when gasoline was used to fuel a kerosene heater. There were no working smoke alarms in the home.
  • In Baltimore, two people died in a fire above a grocery store. A young couple died in the blaze and investigators found no working smoke alarms in the building.
  • In Washington, DC on New Year's Day, six individuals died in a house fire on Jackson Street, Northeast. While the cause was listed as accidental/electrical, officials are not sure smoke alarms worked properly.
  • Eight people died this week in a residential fire in Oswego County, New York. The cause is still under investigation.
  • This week, three people, including two teenage girls, died after an early morning house fire in Ringling, Oklahoma. Officials say the fire started while at least two of the victims were still in bed. Officials say once flames broke out at 4 a.m., the girls, along with another relative, never made it out of the home.

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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.