Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston –
An early warning of fire smoke alarms can provide additional
time to escape.
The National Fire Incident Reporting System and the National
Fire Protection Association’s fire department survey from 2009-2013 showed that
there was an average of 940 deaths per year, which translates to 38 percent of
home fire deaths.
Fires in which smoke alarms were present, but failed to
operate, caused an additional 510 people per year (21 percent of home fire
deaths) to be fatally injured. The leading cause of smoke alarm failures were
power source problems.
Virtually all households specify having smoke alarms,
however less than three-quarters of reported home fires and roughly half of
smoke alarms were present. When fires were large enough to actuate them, they
initiated a response 87 percent of the time. Hard-wired smoke alarms were more
probable to operate than those powered solely by batteries.
The death rate in homes with no or non-functional smoke
alarms was more than twice as high (1.18 deaths per 100 fires) as it was in
fires with working smoke alarms (0.53 deaths per 100 fires).
Homes with hard-wired smoke alarms and sprinklers had the
lowest fire death rates. Victims in homes with working smoke alarms were more
likely to have been in the area of origin. They were also more likely to be 65
or older, have a physical disability or tried to fight the fire themselves.
Residents should install smoke alarms in every bedroom,
outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home, and the alarms should
be tested every month. The smoke alarms in your home should be replaced every
10 years. And when a smoke alarm sounds, get outside and stay outside.
A portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by
putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives;
but portable extinguishers have limitations. Because fire grows and spreads so
rapidly, the number one priority for residents is to get out safely.
Here are some safety tips for
using a fire extinguisher:
• Use a portable fire extinguisher when the fire is confined
to a small area, such as a wastebasket, and is not growing larger; when
everyone has exited the building; when the fire department has been called or
is being called; and when the room is not filled with smoke.
• To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the acronym PASS:
Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing
away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.
• For the home, select a multi-purpose extinguisher that can
be used on all types of home fires. Make sure it’s large enough to put out a
small fire, but not so heavy as to be difficult to handle.
• Choose a fire extinguisher that carries the label of an
independent testing laboratory.
• Read the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher
and become familiar with its parts and operation before a fire breaks out.
Local fire departments or fire equipment distributors often offer hands-on fire
• Install fire extinguishers close to an exit and keep your
back to a clear exit when you use the device so you can make an easy escape if
the fire cannot be controlled. If the room fills with smoke, leave immediately.
• Know when to go. Fire extinguishers are one element of a
fire response plan, but the primary element is safe escape. Every household
should have a home fire escape plan and working smoke alarms.
To learn more about smoke detector and fire extinguisher
safety tips, visit the National Fire Protection Association’s website at
http://www.nfpa.org/education or contact the Joint Base San Antonio fire
prevention offices by calling 221-2727 at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, 671-2921 at
JBSA-Lackland or 652-6915 at JBSA- Randolph.