FIRE SAFETY TOPICS
YIELDING TO EMERGENCY VEHICLES
DISPLAYING YOUR ADDRESS
DRYER FIRE REPORT
WHAT TO DO AFTER
A HOUSE FIRE
Civilian Fire Injuries
USFA Releases Civilian Fire Injuries in Residential Buildings Report
WASHINGTON D.C. Ė The Department of Homeland Security's United States
Fire Administration (USFA) today issued a report, part of its
Topical Fire Report Series, examining the causes and characteristics
of civilian fire injuries occurring in residential buildings. Nearly
three-quarters of all civilian fire injuries occur in the home. In 2005,
there were an estimated 13,375 civilian fire injuries resulting from an
estimated 376,500 residential building fires.
Thirty-nine percent of residential building fire injuries occurred while
victims were trying to control the fire. An additional 23 percent of
civilians were injured when trying to escape; another 11 percent
happened while victims were sleeping.
"Most civilian fire injuries are preventable," said United States Fire
Administrator Greg Cade. "If a fire occurs in your home, it is important
to exit your home quickly and leave firefighting to professional
firefighters. By establishing and practicing a home fire escape plan,
you can help reduce the chances of fire injury or even death if a fire
were to occur in your home."
Fire Injuries in Residential Buildings in 2005 (PDF, 480 Kb), was
developed by the National Fire Data Center, part of USFA. The report is
based on 2005 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).
The short topical reports are designed to explore facets of the U.S.
fire problem as depicted through data collected in NFIRS. Each topical
report briefly addresses the nature of the specific fire or fire-related
topic, highlights important findings from the data, and may suggest
other resources to consider for further information. Also included are
recent examples of fire incidents that demonstrate some of the issues
addressed in the report or that put the report topic in context.
U.S. Fire Administration ∑ U.S. Department of Homeland Security ∑
Emmitsburg, MD 21727 ∑ (301) 447-1000
Smoke Detectors: Things you need to know
In the early 1990s
Texas A&M University did a full scale scientific investigation into the
effectiveness of optical and ionization smoke detectors in different
types of fires. The study determined that in a smoldering fire, with its
relatively low number of large smoke particles, optical detectors fail
4.06% of the time, while ionization detectors fail 55.8%. For flame
ignition fires, which have a large number of small, energetic smoke
particles, optical smoke detectors had a 3.99% probability of failure
while ionization smoke detectors failed 19.8%.
In 2004, NIST issued
a comprehensive report entitled Performance of Home Smoke Alarms -
Analysis of the Response of Several Available Technologies in
Residential Fire Settings. The report concludes, among other things,
that "smoke alarms of either the ionization type or the photoelectric
type consistently provided time for occupants to escape from most
residential fires", and "consistent with prior findings, ionization type
alarms provided somewhat better response to flaming fires than
photoelectric alarms, and photoelectric alarms provided (often)
considerably faster response to smoldering fires than ionization type
The National Fire
Protection Agency has issued a fact sheet urging the replacement of home
smoke alarms every 10 years.
smoke detectors run on 9 volt alkaline batteries. If these batteries run
out, the smoke detector will become inactive. Smoke detectors are
required to signal a low battery condition, but it is common for houses
to have smoke detectors with dead batteries. As a result, public
information campaigns have been created to remind people to change their
smoke detector batteries regularly. In regions using daylight saving
time, these campaigns usually suggest that people change their batteries
when they change their clocks.
Some detectors are
also being sold with a lithium battery that can run for about 7 to 10
years, though this might actually make it less likely for people to
change batteries since their replacement is needed so infrequently. By
that time, the whole detector should be replaced. Though relatively
expensive, user-replaceable 9 volt lithium batteries (in the same
configuration as the common alkaline ones) are also available. They
should only be used in a fairly new detector.
Smoke detectors with
missing batteries are also a concern. As a result, many detectors sold
today are designed to provide a visual indication of a missing battery.
One popular brand of smoke detector will not allow the user to close the
battery door until a battery has been placed in the alarm; another
contains a spring-loaded protrusion obstructing the attachment holes
when the battery is missing, preventing reattachment to the wall or
ceiling and making a missing battery situation immediately obvious. Some
local governments do not permit the installation of smoke detectors with
In new construction,
most building codes today require smoke detectors that are wired to the
main electricity flow of buildings. Many of these units also include a
battery backup to ensure operation during a power outage.
never be used
in smoke detectors, since common NiMH and NiCd rechargeable batteries
have a short life in between chargesóin other words, they self-discharge
relatively quickly. This is true even though they may provide much more
power than alkaline batteries if used soon after charging (such as in a
Walkman stereo). Also, a problem particularly prevalent in older
technology rechargeable is a rapid voltage drop at the end of their
This is concerning
in devices like smoke detectors since the battery may transition from
"charged" to "dead" so quickly that the low battery warning from the
detector is either very brief, or may not occur at all
.A quality alkaline
battery should be installed and replaced every six months or so. The
used battery will still probably have the majority of its charge, and
can be reused in less critical applications such as a backup for a
digital alarm clock. For those living in areas that observe daylight
saving time, one handy way to remember this important maintenance event
is to replace your smoke detector batteries the same day you adjust your
clocks for the new season.
Smoke detectors are
required to be equipped with a "test" button. Alternatively, artificial
smoke can be purchased, which has the advantage of also testing the
detector itself. Many people simply wave a lit match underneath the
detector to test it, however this is dangerous as it can set the smoke
alarm and the rest of the house on fire. A better way is to blow out a
match and wave the smoking match under the detector.
Protection Association through its fire protection program urges
homeowners to replace smoke detector batteries every six months when
changing your clock for daylight savings time.
Installation and placement
In the United
States, most state and local laws regarding the required number and
placement of smoke detectors are based upon standards established in
Article 72 of NFPA fire code.
Laws governing the
installation of smoke detectors vary depending on the locality.
Homeowners with questions or concerns regarding smoke detector placement
are encouraged to contact their local fire marshal or building inspector
for assistance. However, there are some rules and guidelines that are
relatively consistent throughout the country. In older existing homes,
smoke detectors are generally required on every habitable level and
within the vicinity of all bedrooms. Habitable levels include attics
that are tall enough to allow access. In new construction, the minimum
requirements are typically much greater. All smoke detectors must be
hooked directly to the electrical wiring, be interconnected and have a
battery backup. In addition, smoke detectors are required either inside
or outside every bedroom, depending on local codes. Smoke detectors on
the outside will detect fires more quickly; assuming the fire does not
begin in the bedroom, but the sound of the alarm will be reduced and may
not wake some people. Some areas also require smoke detectors in
stairways, main hallways and garages.
Detectors on the
ceiling should be placed several inches away from any wall. If the
ceiling is not flat, the detector should be placed at or near the
highest point. If the highest point is a small recess, then the detector
should be placed at the next highest level. Detectors placed on the wall
should be several inches, but no more than a foot, from the top.
Detectors should not be placed on a wall if the ceiling has a deep
recess or if the ceiling slopes steeply or for a long distance.
Detectors should be several horizontal feet away from a heating or
cooling register, window, corner, the edge of a ceiling fan's sweep and
doors to a kitchen or bathroom. They should be placed as far as possible
away from combustion sources, like oil and gas-fired furnaces, space
heaters, clothes dryers and water heaters, without compromising coverage
or safety. Smoke detectors in a basement should be placed at the bottom
of the stairs and an additional detector should be placed in or near
sleeping areas in the basement.
It is recommended,
and sometimes required, that smoke detectors not be placed in kitchens
because the small amounts of smoke and particulates generated while
cooking can set them off. Detectors should not be placed in a bathroom
or near a bathroom door because moisture may cause false alarms or
damage the detector. False alarms reduce the effectiveness of smoke
detectors in preventing harm and property damage because people soon
begin to assume that the alarm is false. Heat detectors, which sound an
alarm when the temperature reaches a certain point and/or when it climbs
more rapidly than a certain rate, can be used in kitchens, garages and
areas with combustion sources that would otherwise generate nuisance
Driver Safety: Tips for safely
maneuvering in front of an emergency vehicle
A problem often faced by
firefighters, paramedics and police are drivers who do not become aware
of the approaching emergency vehicles until the last moment, then panic
and stop wherever they happen to be.
We encounter drivers who
stop in the middle of an intersection or in the left lane. This
complicates the situation when other vehicles have done their best to
pull to the right or out of the intersection. Motorists who fail to
pull to the right make the available roadway very narrow for emergency
vehicles to get through.
understand the sudden surge of surprise motorists normally experience at
the sound and sight of a fire truck, ambulance or police car rapidly
approaching with siren and flashing lights. But itís important to think
ahead. Train yourself to instinctively pull to the right at the
sound/sight of emergency vehicles, just as you automatically slow and
stop for school buses when their yellow and red lights begin flashing.
When driving, take a hint
from other drivers. When you notice vehicles pulling to the right edge
of the road on both sides, do the same and stay there until all
emergency vehicles have passed.
What all drivers SHOULD
calm and move your vehicle appropriately, as noted below. DONíT PANIC!
canít go wrong by pulling to the
right and come to a
stop. Thatís the general rule in all cases. When you are in the right
lane, pull onto the shoulder if there is room and stop or at least slow
way down if you are on an open high-speed road.
you are in the left lane and traffic in the right lane is moving onto
the shoulder, move right into their lane. If you can not go right
because of an obstacle, such as a car in the right lane when youíre in
the left lane, the next best thing is to STOP. The driver of an
emergency vehicle can then anticipate where to move his vehicle. If you
are continuing to travel, someone else might not see the response
vehicle or respond inappropriately. If you are moving, you are at risk
you are at an intersection with a stop sign or red light and a response
vehicle is coming up behind you, stay where you are if you cannot pull
to the right.
you are on a one-way street, pulling to the right is still best, but
sometimes, due to traffic, you may pull to the left curb and yield the
middle lane(s). This is one appropriate exception to the ďpull rightĒ
What all drivers should
stop in the middle of the lane when there is room to pull right.
pull to the left in the center yellow lane or left turn lane.
drive through a red light or stop sign when an emergency vehicle
approaches from behind.
make a left turn quickly to a driveway or street.
race ahead to get through a green light or turn before the response
vehicle gets there.
disregard and continue to travel despite the response vehicle.
are expected to respond to an emergency and provide assistance. A
faster response, helps to minimize damages and promotes a shorter
'down-time' for those involved. Our emergency response apparatus are
maintained as best as possible, but, they are limited to their
maneuverability and quickness. Our apparatus operators are required to
have a higher class of driver's license and attend Emergency Vehicle
Operator training. An earlier column, in this letter, touched upon what
drivers can do to assist emergency responding apparatus. This column
will touch upon how the property owner can assist shortening the
Being able to
quickly locate an address is paramount to having an expedient emergency
response. Some locations have very poor address identification. Some
locations have no address identification. This dilemma greatly
increases the response time, due to emergency crews not being to
accurately locate the scene address. This dilemma has prompted the
following requested guidelines;
A. Location numbers
should be 3-4 inches in height and made of a reflective material that
contrasts with the background color, to which they are affixed
B. Location numbers
should be easily visible, not obstructed by any plants, structures, or
possible, painting location numbers on the curb and/or driveway, where
the driveway for the residence or structure, meets the street, is
D. When the
location is over 50 feet from the street, or when less than 50 feet, but
not visible due to obstructions, or an unimproved driveway, the location
number should be displayed on a post, fence, wall, or mailbox at the
property line, adjacent to the main driveway or walkway to the residence
E. When displaying
on a mailbox, numbers, of a minimum of one inch in height, should be
affixed to both sides of the mailbox serving the primary structure.
When the mailbox is clustered with other mailboxes or is across the
street from the primary structure, the numbers should be placed on the
front of the mailbox. It is important to understand that clustered
mailboxes and/or 'corner mail centers' make location identification
virtually impossible. In the case of clustered mailboxes, "D" is
F. Where several
residential or other structures are served by a short common driveway or
private right-of-way, which is not a recognized street, the primary
location address should be at the entrance, on the driveway. The
successive apartment, lot and/or space number should be displayed on the
residence or structure within five feet of the primary entranceway. If
the primary vehicle approach is not on the primary entranceway side of
the residence or structure, the location number should be posted on the
side of the residence facing the street.
These are simply
suggestions to assist emergency responders in identifying your
location. Easier location identification leads to faster emergency
assistance. Remember, it may be your life, or structure they are
attempting to save.