The U.S. has one of the highest fire death rates in the industrialized world. For 1997, the U.S. fire death rate was 15.2 deaths per million population.
Between 1993 and 1997, an average of 4,500 Americans lost their lives and another 26,500 were injured annually as the result of fire.
About 100 firefighters are killed each year in duty-related incidents.
Each year, fire kills more Americans than all natural disasters combined.
Fire is the third leading cause of accidental death in the home; at least 80 percent of all fire deaths occur in residences.
About 2 million fires are reported each year. Many others go unreported, causing additional injuries and property loss.
Direct property loss due to fires is estimated at $8.5 billion annually.
Where Fires Occur
There were 1,795,000 fires in the United States in 1997. Of these:
40% were Outside Fires
31% were Structure Fires
22% were Vehicle Fires
7 % were fires of other types
Residential fires represent 23 percent of all fires and 74 percent of structure fires.
Fires in the home most often start in the:
Living Room 7%
Laundry Area 4%
The South and Northeast share the highest fire death rate per-capita with 17.5 civilian deaths per million population.
84 percent of all fatalities occur in the home. Of those, approximately 80 percent occur in single-family homes and duplexes.
Causes of Fires and Fire Deaths
Cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. It is also the leading cause of fire injuries. Cooking fires often result from unattended cooking and human error, rather than mechanical failure of stoves or ovens.
Careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths. Smoke alarms and smolder-resistant bedding and upholstered furniture are significant fire deterrents.
Heating is the second leading cause of residential fires and ties with arson as the second leading cause of fire deaths. However, heating fires are a larger problem in single family homes than in apartments. Unlike apartments, the heating systems in single family homes are often not professionally maintained.
Arson is the third leading cause of residential fires and the second leading cause of residential fire deaths. In commercial properties, arson is the major cause of deaths, injuries, and dollar loss.
Who is Most at Risk
Senior citizens and children under the age of five have the greatest risk of fire death.
The fire death risk among seniors is more than double the average population.
The fire death risk for children under age five is nearly double the risk of the average population.
Children under the age of ten accounted for an estimated 18 percent of all fire deaths in 1995.
Over 30 percent of the fires that kill young children are started by children playing with fire.
Men die or are injured in fires twice as often as women.
What Saves Lives
A working smoke alarm dramatically increases a person's chance of surviving a fire.
Approximately 90 percent of U.S. homes have at least one smoke alarm. However, these alarms are not always properly maintained and as a result might not work in an emergency. There has been a disturbing increase over the last ten years in the number of fires that occur in homes with non-functioning alarms.
It is estimated that over 40 percent of residential fires and three-fifths of residential fatalities occur in homes with no smoke alarms.
Residential sprinklers have become more cost effective for homes. Currently, few homes are protected by them.
Facts provided by the United States Fire Administration
|Fire Escape Planning
Fire Escape Planning
A fire escape plan is essential if you are to survive a fire in your home. The plan, when practiced, will help you to react rationally when confronted by a fire emergency. This is very important if the fire occurs during the night.
Certain factors must be considered when developing your own fire escape plan. Firstly, what type of dwelling do you live in? Is it a house or a an apartment? Think about the location of bedrooms and their proximity to exits. Are the bedrooms on the first floor and easy to exit from? Or are they on the second floor with two ways out? Or are they on the third floor or higher with no convenient second exit? How about the physical abilities of the residents in relation to where they sleep? Are they active and mobile or physically challenged or unable to walk?
Regardless of how familiar you are with your home, draw a floor plan. Include all doors and windows that could be used as a second means of escape. Include outside features, such as adjoining roof areas, balconies or porch roofs, which could be used in case of fire. Again, recognize the limitations of the people within each room.
Know two ways out of each room in case your main exit becomes blocked with smoke. Ensure that secondary escape routes are accessible and that the occupants are physically capable of using it. If windows are to be used for escape, you must make sure that they will open easily.
Establish a meeting place away from the building so that all members of the family can be accounted for. Arrange with a neighbor to use their telephone to call the fire department. In this way every person in your home will know what to do if and when fire strikes.
Each of us must prepare ourselves in case a fire occurs in our home. Emergency phone numbers for the police department, and Fire-Rescue should be kept handy to the phone for quick reference in an emergency. It is advisable for older adults to have telephones in their sleeping areas. Eyeglasses and other appliances, such as hearing aids, should be kept on the night table when you go to bed. All necessary medication should be close at hand as well. If you use a wheelchair, walker or cane to move about, then these items should be kept close at hand.
At home and work
Develop and Practice A Fire Escape Plan
Draw a floor plan of your home showing all possible exits from each room.
Where possible, plan two exits - a main route and an alternate exit route from each room.
Make certain that everyone understands that if they hear the smoke alarm, or someone shouting "FIRE", they should immediately evacuate the home.
Designate a meeting place outside your home in the event of fire.
If you live in an apartment building, develop your escape plan taking into account fire escape procedures provided by the building management.
Make sure your baby-sitter understands your fire escape plan.
What Is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is generated through incomplete combustion of fuel such as natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene, coal, and charcoal, gasoline or wood.
This incomplete combustion can occur in a variety of home appliances. The major cause of high levels of carbon monoxide in the home is faulty ventilation of furnaces, hot water heaters, fireplaces, cooking stoves, grills and kerosene heaters. Other common sources are car exhausts, and gas or diesel powered portable machines.
Faulty or improper ventilation of natural gas and fuel oil furnaces during the cold winter months accounts for most carbon monoxide poisoning cases. Correct operation of any fuel burning equipment requires two key conditions. There must be:
* An adequate supply of air for complete combustion.
* Proper ventilation of fuel burning appliances through the chimney, vents or duct to the outside.
How Carbon Monoxide Affects The Body
Hundreds of people die each year, and thousands more require medical treatment, because of carbon monoxide poisoning in their home. The human body depends on oxygen for the burning of fuel (food) to provide the energy that allows cells to live and function. Oxygen makes up approximately 21% of the atmosphere, and enters the lungs during breathing. In the lungs it combines with a blood component called hemoglobin. When saturated with oxygen, it is called oxyhemoglobin.
After being carried by the bloodstream to the cells of the body, oxyhemoglobin releases oxygen to the body tissues. Carbon monoxide is dangerous because it bonds much more tightly to the hemoglobin than does oxygen. Once hemoglobin combines with carbon monoxide to form carboxyhemoglobin, its ability to combine with oxygen is completely lost.
As more carboxyhemoglobin is formed, the amount of oxygen carried to the cells and organs in the body decreases. Carbon monoxide starves the blood of oxygen, literally causing the body to suffocate from the inside out. When the carboxyhemoglobin concentration reaches a certain level, people get nauseous, become unconscious, and ultimately die. How quickly symptoms appear depends upon the concentration, or parts per million (ppm) of carbon monoxide in the air and the duration of exposure. A person's size, age and general health are also factors in how quickly effects of the gas will become evident.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning is often confused with the flu. Children with carbon monoxide poisoning have mistakenly been treated for indigestion. It is important that you discuss with all family members the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Different carbon monoxide concentrations and exposure times cause different symptoms.
EXTREME EXPOSURE: Unconsciousness, convulsions, cardio respiratory failure, and death
MEDIUM EXPOSURE: Severe throbbing headache, drowsiness, confusion, vomiting, and fast heart rate
MILD EXPOSURE: Slight headache, nausea, fatigue (often described as 'flu-like' symptoms)
For most people, mild symptoms generally will be felt after several hours of exposure of 100 ppm's of carbon monoxide.
Many reported cases of carbon monoxide poisoning indicate that while victims are aware they are not well, they become so disoriented that they are unable to save themselves by either exiting the building or calling for assistance. Infants and children are especially vulnerable to carbon monoxide due to their high metabolic rates. Because children use more oxygen faster than adults do, deadly carbon monoxide gas accumulates in their bodies faster and can interfere with oxygen supply to vital organs such as the brain and the heart. If left unchecked, a child's exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to neurological disorders, memory loss, personality changes and mild to severe forms of brain damage.
Different Types Of Carbon Monoxide Detectors
As with smoke detectors, consumers should avoid any brand that does not bear the mark of Underwriters Laboratories Inc. and/or Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada. You should consider ease of installation, the location of installation and the power source of an alarm when choosing a plug-in, battery powered or hardwire model. Battery Backup-some plug-in carbon monoxide alarm models have a back-up power source that allows the unit to function in the event of a main line power failure. During a power outage, people are likely to use alternate sources of power, light and heat (e.g. kerosene heaters, gas-powered portable generators and fireplaces) which may be out of tune and may produce deadly carbon monoxide gas.
There are three main types of technology utilized in carbon monoxide detectors today: Chem-optical, Electrochemical, and Semiconductor.
Chem-optical technology alarms are also known as gel cell or biomimetic technology alarms. These alarms utilize a type of sensor that mimics the response of hemoglobin, in the blood, to carbon monoxide. Alarms using this kind of sensor are usually battery powered. One main drawback that remains is that the sensor can non-reversibly accumulate carbon monoxide and other contaminants over time, which can eventually lead to false and/or nuisance alarms. Some chem-optical (gel cell) alarms on the market today contain an expensive replacement battery and/or sensor, which must be replaced periodically.
Electrochemical technology alarms are usually battery powered and are much more complex than semiconductor. Platinum, as a catalyst, and acid, as an electrolyte, break down carbon monoxide gas and release electrons, which induce a small current and activate the alarm. This type of sensor is very accurate in its initial calibrated state, but is susceptible to contamination and swaying from its original set point over time and exposure. The technology is very expensive to manufacture and will typically have a limited lifetime of about 2-5 years. Some manufacturers' models will require its battery and/or sensor to be changed periodically. Other manufacturers' models have sealed housing that requires the entire unit to be discarded once the battery power supply is depleted.
Semiconductor sensors are mechanically simple and are electronic in nature; therefore they have a long life (typically 10 years) and are very reliable. Current designs demonstrate excellent immunity to other gases that may be present. Semiconductor sensors utilize a controlled quantity of tin dioxide as a sensing element. The sensing material is heated by a small electric heating element and carbon monoxide gas is catalytically broken down at the surface of the sensing element. Electrons are released in this process and are absorbed by the sensing element. This increase in charged particles lowers the resistance of the sensor. In an alarm using semiconductor sensors, electronics are used to measure the sensor resistance and from this to calculate the carbon monoxide concentration.
What To Do In The Event Of An Alarm
You should consult their owner's manual for a carbon monoxide alarm procedure. However, the following is a general procedure:
If a carbon monoxide alarm sounds a low level warning or hazard level alarm, you should leave your home immediately and call their local emergency service or 911 for help. The Fire Service has the proper protective equipment and gas meters to properly verify the alarm. A head count should be taken to check that all persons are accounted for once outside in the fresh air. You should not re-enter the home until it has been checked by the Fire Service and aired out. Once the source of the problem has been identified the appliance in question should be turned off and not used until the problem has been corrected by a qualified technician or utility company.
Where To Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Since oxygen and carbon monoxide are approximately the same density, they mix equally well in air. Therefore most alarms measuring carbon monoxide can be placed anywhere in a room. Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen anywhere and at any time in your home. However, most carbon monoxide poisoning cases occur while people are sleeping. For that reason it is recommended that you install at least one carbon monoxide alarm with an audible alarm near the sleeping areas. Install additional alarms on every level, especially where you have appliances capable of producing carbon monoxide, to provide maximum protection.
REMEMBER - CARBON MONOXIDE IS DEADLY
EARLY WARNING COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE
Page Last Updated: Dec 04, 2007 (20:15:35)