By Tom Kiurski
The United States Fire Administration has workers who are experts in figuring out statistics — and the information they glean is readily available on its Web site for us to use to teach our citizens. Statistics can tell us a lot about fire safety and being armed with this info can help keep your community safer.
1) The first statistic we will look it that that the United States ranks fourth in fire deaths among the 25 developed countries for which statistics are available. This tells us that we, as a country, do not have fire safety at the top of our priority list. If your audience feels they have an average level of knowledge and safety features in their home, keep this statistic in mind — there is likely to be plenty of room for improvement!
2) Four out of five U.S. fire deaths occur in the home. This tells us that the place that our citizens feel most comfortable is one of the least fire-safe places to be. Adults should be advised to make their home safer by installing and maintaining plenty of smoke alarms and developing a home fire escape plan with their family, practicing it twice a year.
Encourage them to walk through the home and look for ways to be more fire safe, like moving accumulated articles from around the furnace and heaters, not overloading electrical outlets and using and storing candles safely.
3) Most victims of fires die from smoke inhalation and not from burns. Many groups that I talk to about fire safety feel that they may not need smoke alarms in their homes as they are "light sleepers." I am sure you have met these folks, too. Stress that carbon monoxide is present in all smoke, and it works by making people sleepy and disoriented before it finally kills if they fail to leave the area.
Homes must have carbon monoxide alarms along with smoke alarms to have full protection. Many fire victims die in rooms that are remote from the fire or by having malfunctioning gas appliances due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
4) Fires started by lighted tobacco products (mainly cigarettes) are the leading cause of home fire deaths. Encourage your audience that if anyone in the family smokes, they should take it outside. If they must smoke inside, they should have plenty of large, sturdy ashtrays and be urged not to empty them until they are cool. Suggest that they make it a rule to never smoke in bed or while taking medication that may make them sleepy.
5) Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fires, so make sure adults in your community take fire safety in the kitchen seriously. Tips to offer when cooking include not allowing themselves to become distracted, staying in the kitchen and keeping small children occupied. The kitchen is a great place for a fire extinguisher if your citizens know how to use one. In addition, they should be encouraged to keep the lid to the pan they are cooking in handy where they can to enable them to quickly cover it if an unwanted fire breaks out. Cooks should be advised to never put water on a grease or oil fire.
6) Children under the age of five constitute a group at a high risk for fire-related injuries and death. Tell parents to ensure matches and lighters aren't within arm's reach to children where they can reach them, and include an adult caring for them in case of fire. And while it's fairly clear, there's no harm in remind parents that many youngsters cannot climb out of a crib or open a window on their own to escape a fire.
If you follow the advice in this article with your community, they will be ahead of the curve on fire safety.