RALEIGH – After one of the deadliest years on record for fire fatalities in North Carolina, Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Causey urges residents to stay focused on fire safety and prevention in 2019.
In 2018, 133 people lost their lives in North Carolina because of fire — 50 more people from the year before. In most of these fires, a working smoke alarm was not present.
“The risk of death due to fire can be diminished with the proper use of smoke alarms,” said Commissioner Causey. “It shouldn’t take tragedies like the recent deaths in Charlotte to remind us of the importance of working smoke alarms and a home fire escape plan.”
To reduce the number of fire fatalities in 2019, Causey will be leading a statewide effort to provide more education on heating fires, oxygen-related fires, and the leading cause of house fires: cooking. OSFM will also be asking state legislators for additional funding to implement more community risk reduction programs and to hire more fire investigators to assist local fire departments.
In more than 40 percent of the fire fatalities (54) in 2018, investigators were not able to determine a cause due to a lack of evidence. However, investigators believe the majority of those fires were caused by heating sources inside the home.
Each year during December, January, and February, there is an increase in the number of home fires related to heating. According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating is the second leading cause of home fires, deaths, and injuries in the US.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, working smoke alarms save lives and cut the risk of dying in a fire in half. Commissioner Causey is adamant that smoke alarms be installed, tested and maintained in every home.
Causey recommends the following advice related to smoke alarms:
- Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room, outside each separate sleeping room, and on every level of the home, including the basement.
- An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires, and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, a combination of alarms or dual-sensor alarms are recommended.
- To keep smoke alarms working well, follow the manufacturer’s instructions in the package or online for cleaning.
- Make sure everyone in your home understands the warning of the smoke alarm and knows how to respond. Smoke alarms with non-replaceable batteries (long-life) batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. Replace smoke alarms when they are 10 years old. If the alarm chirps warning that the battery is low, replace the entire unit right away.
Causey recommends the following advice regarding home escape plans:
- Draw a map of each level of the home, showing all doors and windows, and discuss the plan with everyone in your household, including visitors.
- Practice your home fire escape drill twice a year with everyone in your home. Practice using different ways out. Practice what to do in case there is smoke (get low and go and get out fast).
- Establish a permanent outside meeting place (such as a tree, light pole or mailbox) that is a safe distance from your home.
- After you’ve practiced your home escape drill, evaluate it and discuss what worked and what could be improved.
- When a smoke alarm sounds, get out fast. You may have only seconds to escape.
- If there is smoke blocking the exit, use your second way out. Before opening a door, feel the door and its knob. If either is hot, leave the door closed and use your second way out. If there is smoke coming around the door, leave the door closed and use your second way out.
- Get out and stay out. Go to your established meeting place. Never go back for people, pets or things. If you can’t get to someone needing assistance, leave the home and call 911 or the fire department. Tell the emergency operator where the person is located.
- If you can’t get out, close the door and cover the vents and cracks around doors with cloth or tape to keep smoke out. Call 911, tell the emergency operator where you are and signal for help at the window with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight.
For more information about fire prevention and safety, visit the North Carolina Department of Insurance Office of State Fire Marshal or National Fire Protection Association.