SPRINGFIELD – This year’s National Fire Prevention Campaign Week is October 9-15, and the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is urging families to take time to follow important steps in fire safety. In its mission to educate residents across Illinois on fire safety, OSFM is focusing on how to use simple strategies to prevent tragedies caused by fires. This year’s theme focuses on the importance of having a family escape plan in the event of a fire emergency.
“Families must discuss what to do in case of a fire alert, and develop a fire escape plan in case a fire alarm goes off in the middle of the night or at any time”, said Illinois State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis. “Working smoke detectors have been a vital element in saving lives; they serve as the most immediate warning to act promptly.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire departments across the country responded to 1,331,500 fires in 2010. Out of those figures, 384,000 were residential fires, an increase of 1.9% from the previous year. These fires resulted in approximately 13,350 civilian injuries and 2,640 civilian deaths. Considering the alarming numbers, OSFM believes that education and fire prevention awareness can help decrease those statistics if the following recommendations are followed:
• At least one smoke alarm should be located on every level of the home, including the basement, as well as in every sleeping room and within 15 feet outside each sleeping area.
• NFPA strongly recommends either installing combination smoke alarms, or both ionization and photoelectric alarms, in the home. An ionization alarm is typically more responsive to a flaming fire, such as a pan fire. A photoelectric alarm is typically more responsive to a smoldering fire, as might occur where a lighted cigarette is dropped on a sofa. Combination smoke alarms have ionization and photoelectric capabilities.
• Whatever type of smoke alarms you choose, they should carry the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
• Interconnected smoke alarms offer the best protection; when one sounds, they all do. This is particularly important in larger or multi-story homes, where the sound from distant smoke alarms may be reduced to the point that it may not be loud enough to provide proper warning, especially for sleeping individuals.
• A licensed electrician can install either hard-wired multiple-station alarms, or wireless alarms, which manufacturers have more recently begun producing. An electrician can also replace existing hard-wired smoke alarms with wireless interconnection capabilities.
Maintenance and Testing
• Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button, and make sure everyone in your home knows their sound.
• If an alarm “chirps,” warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.
• Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they’re 10 years old (or sooner) if they do not respond properly when tested.
• Change the batteries on smoke alarms at least twice a year. Two occasions that can serve as a reminder twice a year is “Change your Clock, Change your Batteries.”
For more information about fire safety, please visit OSFM’s website at www.sfm.illinois.gov.