Smoke Alarm Statistics
In Los Angeles, 16 people died in house fires that had no working smoke alarms in just the first seven months of the year. The reaction has been to step up awareness and action relative to getting smoke alarms into homes that do not have them.
The Los Angeles Fire Department hopes to distribute up to 6,000 smoke alarms in the operational period of September 2014 thru September 2015.
But, what are the statistics related to smoke alarms and a person’s safety relative to fire? The reality is that smoke alarms are quite common and already exist in most homes (estimated at 96% by surveys conducted for the NFPA by Harris and Kelton). Assuming that figure to be correct, that leaves approximately five million homes without smoke alarms.
Overview (From the National Fire Protection Association):
Three out of five home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.
In 2007-2011, smoke alarms were present in almost three-quarters (73%) of reported home fires and sounded in half (52%) of the home fires reported to U.S. fire departments. Homes include one- and two-family homes, apartments or other multi-family housing, and manufactured housing. When smoke alarms were present in fires considered large enough to activate them, they operated 86% of the time. More than one-third (37%) of home fire deaths resulted from fires in which no smoke alarms were present at all. One-quarter (23%) of the deaths were caused by fires in properties in which smoke alarms were present but failed to operate. Smoke alarms operated in fires that caused two out of five (40%) home fire deaths. One percent of the deaths resulted from fires that were too small to activate the smoke alarm.
The risk of dying in reported home structure fires is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms.
The death rate per 100 reported home fires was more than twice as high in homes that did not have any working smoke alarms (1.18 deaths per 100 fires), either because no smoke alarm was present or an alarm was present but did not operate), as it was in homes with working smoke alarms (0.53 per 100 fires).
The death rate from reported fires in homes during 2007-2011 that had at least one smoke alarm (0.61 deaths per 100 fires) was one-third (36%) lower than in homes that had no smoke alarms at all (0.95 deaths per 100 fires). Installing smoke alarms is the first step. It is important to be sure they are working. Surprisingly, the death rate was much higher in fires in which a smoke alarm was present but did not operate (1.94 deaths per 100 fires) than it was in home fires with no smoke alarms at all.
Smoke alarm failures usually result from missing, disconnected, or dead batteries.
When smoke alarms should have operated but did not do so, it was usually because batteries are missing, disconnected or dead. People are most likely to remove or disconnect batteries because of nuisance activations. Sometimes the chirping to warn of a low battery is interpreted as a nuisance alarm.
Half of the households surveyed in a 2010 Harris Poll done for NFPA reported they had smoke alarms in their kitchen. Two out of every five (43%) households reported their smoke alarms had gone off at least once in the past year. Almost three-quarters (73%) said the activation was due to cooking. Eight percent mentioned low battery chirps.
Smoke Alarms Save Lives