CONCORD, NH– The year 2014 seems to have been plagued with tragic events in New Hampshire and across the country. There also were many needless deaths from fire, an alarming 52 lives were lost to fire according to media reports in just this past week of Christmas across our nation. In New Hampshire for the year 2014 the State Fire Marshal’s Office investigated 25 deaths of which 12 were directly from fire – 5 for carbon monoxide poisoning and 8 other deaths as homicides, suicides, trauma with fire and natural death with fire after. The 12 fire deaths and 5 carbon monoxide deaths are all preventable. We can and need to do more regarding all of these tragedies to prevent the injuries and loss of life. Let’s make – and keep — some resolutions for 2015 to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our homes from fire.
There are a few simple things you can do to protect your household from becoming part of the tragic fire loss tally. Resolve that you will have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on each level of your home and that you will know what to do when the alarm sounds. Resolve to develop an escape plan and practice it. Young children and the elderly are our most vulnerable population, and by educating them you can increase their chances of surviving if a fire event occurs. If your smoke alarm was installed before January 1, 2004, resolve to replace it; smoke alarms have a life expectancy of up to 10 years. When replacing a battery operated smoke alarm, replace your old smoke alarm with one that has a long-life battery sealed in the alarm to discourage tampering or hard wire it to the house electrical system.
If you are considering building a new home or renovating an existing home, resolve to tell your contractor that you want residential fire sprinklers installed. Sprinklers are the most effective way of protecting your family from fire because they will allow you the time needed to escape. Sprinklers are like having a firefighter with a hose line on duty in your home 24 hours a day and 365 days a year! There is a story to be told for every fire in New Hampshire that would have been stopped by a single sprinkler head thus saving the family from a potential tragedy! There are also stories of fire sprinkler saves where we have seen a family moving back in the same day as the fire. Sprinklers save lives.
Resolve to keep fires from starting in the first place so that smoke alarms and sprinklers don’t have to be activated. Resolve to never leave cooking or burning candles unattended, resolve to fully extinguish smoking materials, and resolve never to overload extension cords. The severity of home fires has changed in recent years. The changes come in part from what goes into a modern home, including the highly combustible furniture, electronics with flammable plastic housing, and children’s plastic toys. Changes in the way homes are constructed also play a role: larger open living areas, lightweight engineered lumber frames and flammable finishing materials contribute to the more rapid spread of fire in homes. We are constructing homes with more flammable materials, and then filling them with more combustible contents and open space than ever before. Resolve that you will write to your congressional delegation in 2015 and ask them to strengthen the fire safety requirements for consumer and building products. Resolve to work with your local legislators to strengthen your building and fire codes, including a requirement for residential fire sprinklers in all new construction.
Most fires are preventable, and the majority of all fire deaths occur in the home. Think about the many ways you can protect your family, and resolve to make smart choices about behavior to prevent fires from starting. Think about what you would do if a fire were to occur, and resolve to practice an escape plan. Think about using smoke alarms and sprinklers to give yourselves and your loved ones more time to escape should a fire occur, and resolve to invest in these life-saving technologies. And then carry out all of your New Year’s resolutions! We all must do our part to prevent and save lives from fire. Remember that Fire Is Everyone’s Fight – and it is a battle that we can win, individually and together!
Best wishes for a safe, healthy and Happy New Year!
NH State Fire Marshal