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Updated: July 15, 2019

According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), 80% of all fire deaths in North America are the result of home fires. And according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 51% of all deaths from residential fires occur from 11 pm to 7 am, when most people are sleeping. And because most house fires are preventable, we felt that it’s important to share as much helpful information as we can to help you and your family to stay safe.

Fire-Fatality-Statistics

Fire Fatalities Statistic
Source: International Association for Fire Safety Science

Fire Safety Facts

  • FEMA found in in 2017 that 3,400 Americans died in fires and over 14,670 were injured.
  • It takes less than 30 seconds for a small flame to turn into a major fire. In 5 minutes a fire can get so hot that everything in the room ignites at once, which is called a scorchover.
  • Fires start bright, but quickly produce black smoke and can make it impossible to see and make you lost in your own house.
  • Fire’s heat is a killer as inhaling super hot air (which can get to 600 degrees or more) can scorch your lungs and burn skin.
  • The smoke and toxic gas kill more people than flames. Asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths with 3 deaths from inhaling smoke to every 1 death from burns. Breathing in even small amounts of smoke and toxic gas can make you drowsy, disoriented, and short of breath.
  • According to the American Red Cross, home fires are most common in December and January, and on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Children under 5 and adults over 65 are most likely to die in a home fire.
  • What are the Most Common Causes of Fires?

Causes-of-Fires-Residential

According to FEMA, the 7 most common causes of fires are:

  • Cooking – 50.3%
  • Heating (such as furnaces, hot water heaters, etc.) – 9.6%
  • Carelessness – 6.6%
  • Electrical malfunction (damaged cords, overloading outlets, etc.) – 6.5%
  • Open flame (bonfires, fireplaces, candles, etc.) – 4.3%
  • Arson – 4.2%
  • Appliances – 3.6%

Where Do Most Fires Start?

  • Kitchen – the most common cause is the stove.
  • Bedroom – many bedroom fires start due to smoking in bed.
  • Chimney – the buildup of creosote on the inside of chimneys is flammable and causes many fires.
  • Living room – common causes of fires in the living room include smoking, sparks from the fireplace lighting nearby objects such as blankets or a Christmas tree.
  • Laundry room – lint buildup inside of the dryer is the most common cause of laundry room fires.
  • Outside – grills that are too close to flammable materials such as overhanging trees and decks are the cause of most outside fires.
  • Attic – FEMA states that the leading cause of attic fires is electrical malfunction.

The Most Important Steps in Fire Security

There are a lot of things you can do to protect yourself and your family from fire, but there are two things that are the most important (one is free and the other isn’t cheap).

Close Your Bedroom Door

The number one thing you can do to increase fire safety while you sleep is close your bedroom door. According to the Underwriter Laboratories Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI), when a fire spreads, a closed door will keep a room under 100 degrees. An open door can cause the room to heat up over 1,000 degrees. Closing the door prevents feeding the fire with oxygen. In fact, it’s recommended that if you have to leave your home due to a fire, close your doors if possible to slow the spread. Metal door handles can be extremely hot during a fire, so it’s recommended to push them closed with your feet (with shoes on).

The FSRI’s “Close Your Door” initiative was the result of over 10 years of research. Closing your door not only reduces the ability of the fire to spread but also reduces toxic smoke levels, improves oxygen levels, as well as decreases temperatures. And because of synthetic materials, furniture, and construction, fire spreads faster than before. 40 years ago, you had on average 17 minutes to escape. Now it’s 3 minutes.

Home Fire Sprinkler System

Though it may be cost-prohibitive for many people, installing a home sprinkler system can save lives. According to the NFPA, home sprinkler systems reduce the risk of dying in a home fire by 80% and fire damage by 97%. Smoke detectors are very important, but they do nothing to suppress a fire. Home sprinklers will both alert you, help suppress the fire, and give you and your family valuable to time to get out of the house if need be. California, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. require all new one and two family homes to have sprinkler systems.

Consider that you have on average 3 minutes to get all of your family members out of the house once a fire starts, and that if you’re in the deep sleep phase of sleep where many people will take a while to wake up to the sound of the smoke detector. And if you’re a deep sleeper, or if you’ve been drinking that night or really tired, your decision-making skills and reaction times once you wake up to a smoke alarm may be slower than normal, which reduces the amount of time you have to get your family out. And it’s possible that even if you test your smoke alarms every month, the batteries can die in between testings. Home sprinkler systems give you a powerful additional layer of protection.

If you have someone living in your house who isn’t mobile (the very young, old, bedridden, and wheelchair users), and can’t escape quickly even if they hear a smoke alarm, a sprinkler system is a really smart option.

Home sprinklers work by activating when the air temperature above fire rises. They also emit a loud sound alerting occupants.

Sleep Fire Safety

Sleep Fire Safety Infographic – Start Sleeping

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