I just read a blog post at ferfal.blogspot.com regarding a nightclub fire that broke out and killed 100 people back in 2003 at “The Station” in Rhode Island. FYI, the post includes a YouTube video of that night too.
While tragic for sure, it got me to thinking about my family’s fire safety outside of the home. While I like to think that we’re fairly well prepared at home–we have plenty of battery operated smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, CO detectors, etc–we really don’t consider fire safety when out and about.
After all, most of us spend a majority of our awake time outside of the home, such as at work, driving cars, and occasional leisure activity shopping or playing outdoors. Come to think about it, we’re probably more likely to be the victim of a structural fire than a natural disaster. Here are a few stats regarding fires from Answers.com:
In the United States in 2009 there were total of 1,348,500 fires.
- 480,500 were structure fires (down 7% from 2008), causing 2,695 civilian deaths, 14,740 civilian injuries, and $10.8 billion in property damage.
- 219,000 were vehicle fires (down 7% from 2008), causing 280 civilian fire deaths, 1,610 civilian fire injuries, and $1.4 billion in property damage.
- 649,000 were outside and other fires (down 7% from 2008), causing 35 civilian fire deaths, 700 civilian fire injuries, and $328 million in property damage
Overall, it seems fires claimed about 3000 lives in the USA that year (and that was apparently down form the previous year). Although I had difficulty finding very specific information regarding the United States for the same time-frame, according to this report from LiveScience, the USA didn’t even make the top 10 list of mortality by natural disasters (at something less than 300 deaths). Having said that, 2009 seems to have been a calm year for disasters in the United States; other years certainly caused more deaths.
Regardless, death caused by fires are routinely in the thousands of lives per year, guaranteed. That’s huge… and something to pay attention to! That isn’t to say you and your family shouldn’t be prepared for a natural disaster; however, if you like to play the odds then put your money on fires over natural disasters any year.
Since Ferfal gives a few tips as to what one should do to stay safer while away from home I won’t bother with re-hashing them here. I will, however, emphasize that you really should take your family’s fire safety to heart both while at home and away. I would venture to guess that the vast majority of the structural fires reported every year are at home and a result of careless actions such as smoking in bed, using frayed wiring, and so on.
In a situation where seconds really do count, give yourself as much warning as possible. At home, install more than the minimum required smoke alarms–battery-operated smoke alarms are a must–in bedrooms and hallways for sure; include the kitchen and garage if possible. While at work take the lead and choose to be the responsible person for your building / department / area and check and test extinguishers and alarms regularly.
Your actions should should also be deliberate. At home, your family should know precisely where they will go if they had to evacuate in every room, especially the bedroom. For instance, the other day I had my children physically show me that they can open their bedroom window and remove the screen if they had to. Of course, 30 minutes later they had the window open and screen removed even though I told them not to mess with it again, but that’s another problem. At work (or anywhere outside the home) you should mentally take note of where fire exits are located as well as where fire extinguishers are.
Your fire safety is really YOUR responsibility. Choose to be safe and home and at work and make it a mental exercise in each new environment. After all, seconds do count.