Fire Prevention Week: Sounding the Alarm to Save Lives

By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – October 10, 2014 – Comment

Every year, Fire Prevention Week reminds me of the importance of reliable water service for fire protection. In this way, water saves lives. But first, let’s discuss something else that saves lives in the event of a fire… 

This year’s Fire Prevention Week (October 5-11) key message, “Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives”, reminds us how important it is to test our smoke alarms often. During a fire, smoke spreads fast, and we rely on working smoke alarms to get us out as soon as possible. Roughly 2 out of 3 fire-related deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms or alarms that are not working. To prevent this from happening in your home, follow these smoke alarm safety tips provided by the National Fire Protection Agency: 

  • Install smoke alarms inside and outside each bedroom/sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.
  • Large homes may need extra smoke alarms.
  • It is best to use interconnected smoke alarms. When one smoke alarm sounds, they all sound.
  • Test all smoke alarms at least once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working.
  • There are two kinds of alarms: Ionization smoke alarms are quicker to warn about flaming fires, and photoelectric alarms are quicker to warn about smoldering fires. It is best to use both types of alarms in the home.
  • A smoke alarm should be on the ceiling or high on a wall. Keep smoke alarms away from the kitchen to reduce false alarms. They should be at least 10 feet (3 meters) from the stove.
  • People who are hard-of-hearing or deaf can use special alarms. These alarms have strobe lights and bed shakers.
  • Replace all smoke alarms every 10 years.

Now back to the role that water plays during a fire after the smoke alarm has done its job. Water can be an effective extinguisher for large fires, which is why it is important to maintain water infrastructure. If fires spread, water via fire hydrants is typically the last recourse for defending our homes, and neighboring homes.

In an approximate ten-year period, the number of annual home fires has declined by about 19,000, and the number of deaths caused by home fires has declined by 150. Moreover, these numbers continue to decrease almost every year. Reliable water infrastructure has undoubtedly contributed to this trend. The availability of pressurized fire hydrants allows emergency workers to extinguish blazes with greater and greater speed.

We can all do our part, from being well informed and prepared at home, to keeping water lines well maintained and efficient, with the hope that every Fire Prevention Week for years to come will celebrate better and better statistics in fire prevention and survival.