The National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®) has announced “Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape™” as the theme for Fire Prevention Week for 2022, reinforcing the critical importance of developing a home escape plan with all members of the household and practicing it regularly. In addition, this October represents the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week, the nation’s longest-running public health observance on record.
According to NFPA data, home — the place people feel safest from fire — is actually where they are at greatest risk, with three-quarters (74 percent) of all U.S. fire deaths occurring in homes. When a home fire does occur, it’s more likely to be serious; people are more likely to die in a home fire today than they were in 1980.
Local fire departments in the United States responded to around 1.35 million fires in 2021, according to a September 2022 report from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). These fires killed an estimated 3,800 civilians and injured around 14,700 while causing nearly $16 billion in damage.
House fires made up around 20% of fires in 2021, but were responsible for an estimated 64% (2,440) of civilian deaths and 54% (8,000) of civilian injuries. The NFPA's report shows that from 2020 to 2021, the number of one- or two-family home fires dropped 5% and injuries decreased by 7%. In the same time period, deaths rose by 9% and property damage increased 3%.
The Most Common Causes of House Fires
House fires are, and continue to be, a leading cause of death and property loss across the country. Understanding the most common causes of house fires can help prevent the destruction of buildings and property and, ultimately, save lives.
Cooking is the leading cause of house fires in the U.S. To prevent cooking fires, it is recommended you refrain from using the oven when you are sleepy or inebriated, frequently check on anything you are cooking and keep your stovetop clear of anything flammable.
To prevent heating fires, replace older space heaters with newer models that turn themselves off when overheated or tipped; have chimneys and furnaces cleaned and inspected annually; and ensure all fireplaces have sturdy screens and you properly dispose of any ashes.
Electrical Systems and Equipment
Having your home inspected by a qualified electrician is key in preventing electrical fires. You should also keep an eye out for signs of faulty wiring protect your home against arc fauts and utilize surge protection systems.
Candles are responsible for about 20 house fires each day. To protect your home, only burn candles under supervision, keep candles a minimum of one foot away from anything that could catch fire, keep candle wicks trimmed to one-quarter of an inch and extinguish all candles before leaving the house or going to sleep.
To prevent smoking-related fires, the U.S. Fire Administration recommends you smoke outside, always extinguish cigarettes completely, never smoke around medical oxygen and never smoke in bed.
This traditional holiday décor can become a fire hazard if appropriate precautions aren't taken. You should ensure your live tree is fresh (the needles are hard to pull from the branches and don't crumble in your fingers), keep the tree away from heat sources like vents and radiators, check the water level of fresh trees daily and make sure the tree isn't blocking any doorways or other exit routes.
Additional Tips to Prevent Fires at Your Home
“Today’s homes burn faster and hotter than they used to, minimizing the amount of time they have to escape safely,” said Carli. “In a typical home fire, you may have as little as two minutes to get out from the time the smoke alarms sounds.”
The Fire Prevention Week 2022 theme, “Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape,” promotes potentially life-saving messages that can mean the difference between life and death in a fire. Developing a home escape plan with all members of the household and practicing it regularly ensures that everyone knows what to do when the smoke alarm sounds and uses that time wisely.
Following are key messages behind this year’s “Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape” theme:
Make sure your home escape plan meets the needs of all your family members, including those with sensory or physical disabilities.
Smoke alarms should be installed inside every sleeping room, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level of your home. Smoke alarms should be interconnected so when one sounds, they all sound.
Know at least two ways out of every room, if possible. Make sure all doors and windows open easily.
Have an outside meeting place a safe distance from your home where everyone should meet.
Practice your home fire drill at least twice a year with everyone in the household, including guests. Practice at least once during the day and at night.
As the biggest annual campaign at NFPA, Fire Prevention Week works to educate people about the leading risks to home fires and ways they can better protect themselves and their loved ones. Local fire departments play a key role in bringing Fire Prevention Week to life in their communities each year and spreading basic but critical fire safety messages.
To learn more about Fire Prevention Week, its 100th anniversary, and this year’s theme, “Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape,” visit www.nfpa.org/fpw.
Who is Rabih Hamawi?
Attorney & Counselor
Rabih Hamawi is a principal at the Law Office of Rabih Hamawi, P.C. and focuses his practice on representing policyholders in fire, property damage, and insurance-coverage disputes against insurance companies and in errors-and-omissions cases against insurance agents. He may be reached at (248) 905-1133.