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For Release: October 18, 2011 – Pamela Williams, Office of Communications – (405) 271-5601

Smoke Alarms Cut the Risk of Dying in a House Fire by Half

Each year in Oklahoma, about 70 persons die in house fires. For those house fires where smoke alarm status was known, more than three-quarters of deaths occurred in homes without a working smoke alarm. Yet, working smoke alarms can cut the risk of dying in a house fire by half.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that deaths from fires and burns are the third leading cause of injury deaths in the home in the United States. Nearly 90 percent of all fire deaths occur in the home. 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 are cigarettes, heating devices, electrical failure/malfunction, and flammable liquids. In only 3 1/2 minutes, the heat from a house fire can reach more than 1,100 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 Oklahoma State Department of Health reminds families of the need to develop and practice a home fire escape plan and test alarms regularly during the day and at night while family members sleep. Additional home fire safety tips include the following:

  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. 
  7. Make sure escape routes are clear of clutter by removing items that block doors or windows.
  8. Avoid smoking in bed or leaving burning cigarettes unattended and 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.
  10. 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.

Additional information on fire safety and prevention can be obtained from your local fire department and from these websites:  Oklahoma State Department of Health at http://ips.health.ok.gov, the National Fire Protection Association at http://www.nfpa.org/fpw, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/fire-prevention.

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