It’s been 142 years this week that the Great Chicago Fire broke out, killing more than 250 people and leaving 100,000 homeless.
For nearly 100 years, the fire’s anniversary has been marked with efforts to spread the word about fire dangers — Fire Prevention Week, it now is called.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments responded to 381,000 home fires in 2012. Someone was injured in a home fire every 30 minutes in 2011, roughly eight people died in home fires every day.
Cooking continues to be the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, but smoking materials caused 22 percent of home fire deaths.
The experts say smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries. They say having a working smoke alarm cuts the chances of dying in a fire by half.
A telephone survey five years ago found that 96 percent of U.S. households had at least one smoke alarm, but firefighters responding to home fires over a four-year period found no working smoke alarm in 3 out of every 5 houses.
Nearly two-thirds of reported home fire deaths in 2007-2011 resulted from fires in homes with no working smoke alarms. In more than half of the cases in which smoke alarms were not working, the batteries were missing or had been disconnected.
According to a survey by the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 2 out of 3 Americans has a home fire escape plan, but only 1 in 4 has actually practiced it.
A third of American households that made an estimate thought they would have at least six minutes before a fire in their home would become life-threatening, but the experts say the actual time available is often less.
Take time this week to make sure the smoke alarms in your house are working, and make a plan for what you will do when the alarms go off.
THE ISSUE Fire Prevention Week OUR VIEW