Each year there are more than 2 million fires in the United States, resulting in 6,000 deaths and 100,000 injuries, according to the United States Fire Administration (USFA).
To improve public education of fire safety procedures, USFA is preparing to launch a new publicity campaign targeting poor smoke detector maintenance, the misuse of wood stoves, fireplaces and space heaters, and arson.
"The most significant number of deaths and injuries by fire are attributed to fires in the home," said Tim Butters, senior fire program manager for the Fire Prevention and Arson Control Division of USFA.
Research by USFA to determine why so many people are dying from fires in their homes points out several potential fire hazards. "Over 70 percent of American homes have smoke detectors, but they are not being checked and the batteries are not replaced," Butters said.
Leaving space heaters unattended or too close to combustible materials is another problem. And failure to clean out chimneys when using fireplaces or wood-burning stoves can result in a serious chimney fire.
USFA advocates installing residential sprinkler systems in homes. "In fires, most people die of smoke inhalation," said Butters. "Our tests show that sprinklers keep the generation of toxic smoke and other gases closer to a survivable level."
Standard fire safety techniques such as planning and practicing two escape routes from every room; using the stop, drop and roll method if your clothes are on fire; and staying low when smoke is present are also promoted.
For more information, contact your local fire department or write: USFA, National Emergency Training Center, Emmitsburg, Md. 21727.