By Penny Musco
WHILE CLEANING UNDER my daughter’s bed recently, I came across the fire ladder we’d
bought for her second-floor room. My mind flashed back to last year’s fire in a Brazilian nightclub, which killed over 240 people. And nearly 10 years ago, a similar fire in Rhode Island
claimed 100 lives.
I remembered those tragedies because they took over the headlines for days. But I discovered
some even more disturbing statistics, ones I’ve never seen on the front page:
; A home fire is reported every 85 seconds in this country.
; Ninety-two percent of fire-related civilian deaths occur not in a club or store, but in homes.
“The spectacular fires make the news,” says Ernest Mitchell, fire administrator for
the U.S. Fire Administration and a Costco member. “But fires where we’re losing
people happen on a daily basis, and we don’t hear about it.”
Why is the place where we feel safest also where we’re most likely
to die in a fire? Because while most residences have at least one
smoke alarm, three out of five fire fatalities are in homes with no
detectors or no functioning ones. And only around one-
quarter of American households have developed and
practiced a fire evacuation plan.
If these figures shock you, good, say fire prevention experts. They hope they’ll spur you
During Fire Prevention Week (October
5 to 11) the National Fire Protection
Association’s (NFPA) focus is on
alarms, says Judy Comoletti, NFPA
division manager, public education.
How many you need may surprise
you: “One inside every bedroom,
outside each sleeping area and then
on every level of the home, including the basement,” she explains.
Maintaining the detectors
is crucial. Many are deactivated due to “nuisance”
alarms, often set off by
cooking fumes. But
those are especially
crucial, since the
kitchen is where
ON PAGE 70
Are you prepared?
In our digital editions
Click here to watch a smoke-alarm video from the United
States Fire Administration.
(See page 12 for details.)
ON THE ROAD
Review the escape plan
posted on your hotel/motel
door, then count the number of doors between your
room and the nearest exit.
Keep your room key
next to your bed and take
it if you have to leave—
you may need to return if
the smoke and fire are
IN PUBLIC BUILDINGS
Study the evacuation
plan (often posted near the
elevators) at your office.
Know the location
of all exits in stores, restaurants, etc.
When an alarm sounds,
leave immediately, closing
doors behind you.
Use the stairs, never
If there’s smoke, crawl
If you can’t escape, shut
Keeping safe away from home
off heating/cooling systems,