What You Should Know About Household Fires

Every year household fires, often caused by smoking, kill thousands of residents and cost billions of dollars in property damages. The National Fire Protection Association states that fire departments across the United States responded to more than 380,000 household fires resulting in 13,300 civilian injuries, 3,030 civilian deaths and $6.7 billion in direct damage.

The majority of these deaths, 82 percent, were a result of home fire. A household fire can include dwellings, duplexes, apartments, townhouses, row homes, and condominiums. It is also important to note that 74 percent of reported home fire deaths result from fires in homes without a working smoke alarm.

Smoke Is Often More Dangerous Than The Flames

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, most victims of fires die from the smoke or toxic gases rather than the burns. Smoke inhalations occur when you inhale oxygen during or nearby a fire. Smoke is the result of combustion or the rapid breakdown of a substance by heat. Breathing in this mixture of heated particles and gases results in a lack of oxygen that causes asphyxiation.

Chemical irritants can worsen this condition even further. Smoke that contains chemicals that disrupt the normal lining of the respiratory tract. This disruption may cause disruptions such as swelling, airway collapse, and respiratory distress. Common examples of chemical irritants you may find include sulfur dioxide, ammonia, hydrogen chloride, and chlorine.

Carbon monoxide is typically the leading cause of death in smoke inhalation injuries due to its interference of oxygen. Here are just a few symptoms you have after smoke inhalation:

  • Coughing

  • Shortness of breath

  • Hoarseness

  • Headache

If a smoke inhalation victim does not show any signs or symptoms, it is likely that a home recovery is all that is necessary. If you do have symptoms or your symptoms worsen, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Fire Safety Tips To Keep In Mind

Smoking, cooking accidents, or unsafe use of woodstove or space heaters are all common causes of household fires. In order to avoid a fire in your home, here are a few important safety tips to follow:

  • Install smoke detectors in or near all sleeping areas and every floor of a home. You should also test those smoke detectors on a regular basis and replace the batteries at least twice a year.

  • Install fire extinguishers and make sure family members know how to use them in case of an emergency.

  • Know the location of all exits including windows. If you live in an apartment, count the number of doorways between your apartment and the two nearest exits.

  • Make sure you know at least two ways out of every room in case smoke or flames block your easiest exit.

  • Plan a meeting location for all family members outside the home and make sure to practice it with them at least two times a year.

  • Keep a folding or chain style ladder stored in each upstairs bedroom.

  • Always have fire-fighting materials handy such as dry powder, fire extinguishers, heavy tarp or water.