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Nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths in properties without smoke alarms

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Three out of five home fire deaths in 2007-2011 resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms, according to the report “Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires,” released by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The report examines the number of reported fires in U.S. households with and without working smoke alarms, as well as the effectiveness of smoke alarms in preventing fire-related deaths.

“Working smoke alarms in homes are key to saving lives from fire,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of outreach and advocacy. “You may have as little as three minutes to get out before a fire becomes deadly. The early warning provided by smoke alarms gives you critical time to escape safely.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • The death rate was twice as high in homes that did not have any working smoke alarms as it was in home fires with working smoke alarms.
  • More than one-third of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties with no smoke alarms while one-quarter were caused by fires in which a smoke alarm was present but did not operate.
  • In reported home fires in which smoke alarms were present but did not operate, almost half (47 percent) of the smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries and one-quarter (24 percent) had dead batteries.

NFPA recommends:

  • Installing smoke alarms inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.
  • For the best protection, interconnecting all smoke alarms so when one sounds they all sound.
  • Using both photoelectric and ionization smoke alarms or combination ionization and photoelectric alarms, also known as dual sensor alarms. An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires.
  • Replacing all smoke alarms every 10 years or sooner if they do not respond properly when tested.
  • Testing all smoke alarms at least once a month by using the test button.
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