Smoke Alarms Missing in Two-thirds of Deadly Residential Fires
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Nearly 3,400 people died each year in fires in
2002 at home, according to a new study released by the Federal
Emergency Management Agency's U.S. Fire Administration. Michael D.
Brown, Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
for Emergency Preparedness and Response and FEMA's Director, called
the special report, Fatal Fires, "alarming".
"Residential structure fires, the very place people should feel
the safest, unfortunately account for the vast majority of fatal
fires," said Brown. "What's most worrisome is that in a full
two-thirds of these fires, smoke alarms are missing or not working."
Smoke alarms, when present need to be tested frequently and
batteries need replacing every six months.
"As we move toward spring with Daylight Savings Time beginning
this weekend, it's time to change those batteries when you change
your clocks. And it's time to do some spring cleaning on your alarm
to make sure it works when you need it most," Brown said.
According to the new FEMA report, structure fires accounted for
74 percent of the 3,300 fatal fires in 2002. Of these fatal
structure fires, 94 percent occurred in residences. Arson was the
leading cause of fatal residential structure fires at 22 percent,
followed closely by smoking at 21 percent. There were 3,380
fire-related deaths in 2002, down slightly from other years. The
report summarizes some of the major characteristics of fatal fires
and is based on data from the National Fire Incident Reporting
"An unacceptable number of Americans are losing their lives and
being injured by fires each year," said U.S. Fire Administrator R.
David Paulison. "We know that smoke alarms, escape plans, child fire
prevention programs, and residential sprinklers save lives. We
continue to encourage everyone to take the steps necessary to ensure
their homes are fire safe today."
A copy of the report can be downloaded from: