While surfing through my favorite fire-related websites, I found some statistics that were disturbing to some state officials (hence the article I read). The United States Fire Administration published its most recent study on fire deaths. As they break these statistics out by state, they found that the national average is 12 out of every million Americans died due to fire each year. This news was quite alarming to West Virginia officials, as they had a death rate of 23.7 per million, making them nearly twice as likely to be killed by a fire as the average American.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, 96 percent of American homes have at least one smoke alarm. Not surprising is the fact that most home fire deaths happen in the small percentage of homes that do not have smoke alarms.
Risk factors for home fires include poverty, senior citizens, rural living residents, smokers, low-education levels and people who live in manufactured homes or substandard housing. West Virginia officials claim that their state has many folks living with many of the above-mentioned risk factors.
Some of the risk factors can't be helped; people age and we will always have senior populations. Some of the risk factors can be controlled. I can't educate everyone in the state, but I can try to improve our knowledge of the life-saving devices called smoke alarms.
You should have a minimum of one on every floor of your home, but you can certainly have plenty more. My modest Livonia home has 10. Install them on ceilings, or high on a wall, but avoid the absolute corner. If Livonia residents can't afford a smoke alarm, they can stop by fire headquarters on Farmington Road, just south of Five Mile, during regular business hours and get a free one; battery included! Smoke alarms should be tested monthly and batteries changed annually. Bring the family along for the educational opportunity that this brings, raising their level of education about smoke alarms in the home.
While the state of Michigan has some of the above-mentioned risk factors (as do all states), we have less of them than some of the states with higher fire deaths. The article that caught my attention was about West Virginia, and I hope they take this eye-opening statistic and find ways to bring those high fire death rates down. But they aren't the worst state in the country. The Washington D.C. area boasts the highest fire death rate at 32.2 per million population, followed by Oklahoma at 26.4. Where is Michigan, you might be wondering? It is in the middle of the pack with a rate of 14.8.
You might also be wondering which state has the lowest fire deaths rate in the country. I did too, and I scrolled down to the bottom of the list and there it was…Hawaii (at an amazingly low rate of just 1.6 deaths per million population). Aloha!
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.