The Times West Virginian


October 30, 2013

Simple steps can lower state’s fire fatality rate

West Virginia has 3.5 times the national fire fatality rate, second to only Washington, D.C., with a rate of 3.7 times the national average.

It’s a disturbing statistic, considering that something very simple can prevent the high fatality rate. While there has not been a definitive study to analyze possible reasons for West Virginia’s high fire-fatality rate, two-thirds of all fire-related deaths happen in homes without functioning smoke detectors.

Lanny Adkins, West Virginia University Fire Service Extension Program coordinator, said this makes ensuring your fire detectors are working and have functioning batteries very important.

In fact, those detectors could be a lifesaver. Even when they’re a nuisance in the kitchen, detectors must be kept in working order with functioning batteries installed.

“Smoke detectors are only beneficial if they’re working,” Adkins said. “One of the biggest mistakes we see is that people tend to remove the batteries from alarms that repeatedly go off, like those in the kitchen.”

Considering the fact that most fires actually start in the kitchen, that’s the place in your home where detectors are the most important. There are certain types that can be “hushed,” or allow for alarm silence for up to seven minutes so a pan on the stove that gets a little smoky won’t set it off.

The most important thing to remember is to keep good batteries in the alarms. A simple way to remember to keep batteries fresh is to replace them when daylight saving time begins and ends.

On Sunday morning, we turn the clocks back. It would be an ideal time to stock up on 9-volt batteries and go about your home replacing batteries and testing detectors. Smoke detectors should be installed up high, such as on the ceiling, as smoke rises. It is recommended that smoke detectors be placed on every floor of a home, with one inside each bedroom and one outside or around each bedroom area.

In addition to having detectors, lives can be saved by simple preparation, too.

“Preparation is essential in the event that a fire does actually break out in your home,” Adkins said.

One good step is to have a rehearsed escape plan in the event of a home fire. Part of the escape plan should include a designated meeting area and a planned escape route from each area of the house.

But any step we take toward making sure we are safer in our homes from the threat of fire is a step we need to take.

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