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For Release:  September 23, 2010
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
(405) 271-5601

Properly Working Smoke Alarms Can Save Lives
Observe Fire Prevention Week, October 3-9

Each year in Oklahoma, approximately 70 persons die in house fires.  Two-thirds of reported house fire deaths occurred in homes with no smoke alarms or smoke alarms that were not working, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) Injury Prevention Service. To increase public awareness about fire safety, the OSDH and partners are observing Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 3-9. This year’s theme is: “Smoke Alarms: A Sound You Can Live With.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that deaths from fires and burns are the third leading cause of fatal home injury in the United States.  Children 4 years of age and younger, adults 65 years of age and older, persons with disabilities, and persons living in rural areas are among those who are at increased risk of injury or death resulting from a fire.

The most common sources of house fires in Oklahoma are cigarettes, heating devices, cooking, electrical failure/malfunction, and flammable liquids. More than half of the homes where a deadly fire occurred did not have working smoke alarms. In only 3 1/2 minutes, the heat from a house fire can reach over 1100 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature can reach over 300 degrees in rooms that are not even on fire; this is hot enough to melt plastic and kill the people in those rooms. Fire produces gases and fumes that can make you sleepy, weak, and confused. You cannot smell these fumes, so if you are asleep the smell will not wake you — but a smoke alarm will.

The OSDH offers the following home fire safety tips:

  1. Install working smoke alarms on every level of the home and near every sleeping area.
  2. Install smoke alarms according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Use smoke alarms with long-life lithium batteries, or replace batteries in regular alarms annually or when the alarm chirps.
  4. Test all smoke alarms at least once a month to ensure they are working properly.
  5. Develop and practice a fire escape plan at least twice a year.  Know at least two ways to exit every room, and have a designated safe place outside the home where family members can meet. Never go back inside a burning home.
  6. Make sure the fire escape plan allows for any specific needs of family members such as infants, small children, older adults, and persons with mobility limitations.  Make sure escape routes are clear of clutter – move items that block doors or windows.
  7. Never leave cooking food unattended on the stove.  Keep flammable items away from the cooking area and avoid wearing clothes with long, loose-fitting sleeves while cooking.
  8. Avoid smoking in bed or leaving burning cigarettes unattended; keep burning ashes away from furniture and curtains.
  9. When using a space heater, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and keep it away from anything that can catch on fire.

Additional information on fire safety and prevention can be obtained from your local fire department or these Web sites: http://ips.health.ok.gov, http://www.nfpa.org/factsheets, and http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/fireprevention.htm.

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