New smoke alarms report underscores critical importance of fully functioning alarms

Smoke alarms serve as the first line of defense in a home fire, alerting people in time to escape safely. But in order to adequately protect people, they need to be working properly.

NFPA recently published its latest edition of Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires, which showed that smoke alarms were present in three-quarters (74 percent) of the reported home fires between 2014 and 2018. Almost three out of five home fire deaths were caused by fires in properties with no smoke alarms (41 percent) or smoke alarms that failed to operate (16 percent).

People who were fatally injured in home fires with working smoke alarms were more likely to have been in the area of origin and involved in the ignition, to have a disability, to be at least 65 years old, to have acted irrationally, or to have tried to fight the fire themselves. These victims were less likely to have been sleeping than those who died in fires in properties without working smoke alarms.

The death rate per 1,000 home structure fires was 55 percent lower in homes with working smoke alarms than in homes with no alarms or alarms that fail to operate.

Missing or non-functional power sources, including missing or disconnected batteries, dead batteries, and disconnected hardwired alarms or other AC power issues, were the most common factors when smoke alarms failed to operate.

Overall, this report reinforces there is still much more work to do in making sure everyone has working smoke alarms in their homes and, ultimately, in reducing the deadly potential that home fires incur. NFPA offers a wealth of free smoke alarm information and resources that can help better educate communities about how to install, test and maintain smoke alarms properly. Make sure to take full advantage of them!

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Susan McKelvey
Communications Manager

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