Smoked Out—Missing, Broken Detectors Blamed For Worcester Deaths

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), three out of every home fire deaths occur when smoke alarms are not present or not working properly. In Worcester, Massachusetts, firefighters experienced this first-hand: Five deaths in 2015 were caused by the lack of home fire alarm systems or improperly functioning alarms. This is something especially frustrating for first responders since the Fire Department not only supplies smoke alarms to older homeowners, but installs them for free. So what’s the disconnect—why are homeowners running the risk of getting smoked out?

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How to Prevent Smoking-related Fires in the Home

You’ve probably heard the stories about people who have fallen asleep with a lit cigarette in their hand and woken up to a house on fire — or who have been pulled out of the charred remains of their home by a fire crew. Those aren’t tall tales: each year, the U.S. Fire Administration documents close to 1,000 cases of individuals killed in home fires started by cigarettes.

cigaretteRecently, a Westfield, Massachusetts woman was killed by cigarette smoking near a home oxygen system. The fire not only took her life, but caused significant damage to the downtown apartment complex. While smoking should NEVER take place near highly flammable materials such as oxygen systems, fires often still occur in homes without obvious risks.

Aside from quitting smoking, there are a few ways you can try to reduce the chances that you will ever have to deal with a home fire caused by a lit cigarette. Read more

Home Fire Safety: Some Smoke Alarms Go Off Too Late

Did you know there has been a dramatic reduction in fire fatalities and injuries over the last 30 years because more people use smoke alarms? These facts are according to the Underwriters Laboratories study, “Smoke Alarms and the Modern Residence Fire.”

In 1977 home fires caused 5,865 deaths and over 31,000 injuries. This was at a time when only 22% of homes had smoke alarms installed, according to information in the UL report.

In 2009, when over 95% of homes had smoke alarms, the annual death rate attributed to home fires dropped to 2,565, a 56% decline, and injuries dropped by more than 59%. The reduction in deaths during this time has not been entirely attributed to the increased use of smoke alarms, though it is considered a leading factor.

Research now shows that today people have less time to escape a home that’s on fire than they did 30 years ago. That’s because manufacturers of home furnishings have shifted from using natural materials like wood, cotton and wool to synthetic materials like polyurethane foam for padding and synthetic fabric covers that typically ignite more quickly.

These synthetic materials also burn more intensely, release their fire-enabled energy faster, and create more smoke than natural materials. We’ve seen how effective smoke alarms can be in warning occupants of fires but now they have to work even harder to get the job done.

Currently, there are two types of smoke detection technologies available for residential smoke alarms: ionization smoke detection, which is generally more responsive to fires with fast-moving flames, and photoelectric smoke detection, which is usually more responsive to smoldering fires.

The most common type of smoke detectors, the ones based on ionization technology, may not protect your family in a fire, according to a video segment  on the TODAY show by National Investigative Correspondent Jeff Rossen. While they work well to detect fires with fast-moving flames, experts say some of the most deadly fires are the smoldering, smoky kind that can fill your home with toxic gases while you sleep.

In those fires, ionization alarms don’t work well, going off way too late – or not going off at all, Rossen notes. “And that means the individuals could have a fire in their home and never receive a warning,” Don Russell, an engineering professor at Texas A&M who’s run hundreds of tests, tells Rossen. Photoelectric is the way to go in those situations.

For the best protection, the National Fire Protection Association recommends you use both ionization and photoelectric alarms, or an alarm that includes both technologies in a single device, called a dual alarm. New smoke detection technologies are also being developed so manufacturers can produce smoke alarms that react more effectively to fires in today’s homes.

Additionally a home fire alarm system with central station monitoring offers another layer of protection.

The NFPA standard requires that alarm monitoring companies verify within 90 seconds if actual incidents are occurring before they can alert 9-1-1. American Alarm’s average response time is 21 seconds, saving valuable time that can mean protecting your home and family.

From September 1 to September 30, 2012, Underwriters Laboratories sampled approximately 1,000 fire alarm system monitoring accounts. In that month, they received over 68,000 signals, including fire alarm, supervisory, trouble, and test signals.

Of the signals handled by central station operators, only 3.4% required action, and only 0.15% resulted in fire dispatch.

Whether you’re asleep, away from home, or in your home, our 24-Hour Security Command Center is always available, monitoring smoke detectors to respond and send help when it’s needed most.

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Fire Alarm Safety By The Numbers

Just how important is it to have fire alarm system installed in your home or place of business?

Safety statistics paint a sobering picture when it comes to illustrating the role that fire systems play in saving lives. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) publishes an extensive amount of data for the public concerning the effect that a properly working fire detection system can have on keeping residents and employees safe in the event of a fire.

One of the most shocking statistics provided by the NFPA is that more than 60% of all fire deaths in the United States occur in buildings where smoke detectors – the simplest, and least expensive of fire safety devices – aren’t installed or aren’t working properly. In fact, almost 40% of home fire deaths are directly attributable to the lack of smoke detectors.

If you have non monitored detectors, dead or missing batteries play a huge role in these preventable tragedies. It’s imperative that you don’t ignore the warning signals from your smoke detector that its battery is failing. As many as 20% of American homes are currently unprotected because of non-functioning smoke detectors. It’s well worth checking the status of your own unit(s) to make sure you don’t become a statistic.

Integrated smoke alarms, such as those that are included as part of a monitored home security system or business security system, will send a signal to your monitoring company to notify the fire department in case of a fire. It is important to have your system checked once a year to make sure it is working properly. Some companies offer this service free of charge to monitored customers.

It’s clear that a functional smoke alarm system is one of the most effective ways to protect your loved ones from the perils of a fire in the home. Installing a monitored home smoke and fire alarm system to complement your existing burglar alarm system is an even better solution for ensuring total safety and peace of mind.