October 6, 2006 - BOSTON - As Fire Prevention Week begins October 8, a new national study reveals that for most Americans, home fires rank highest on the list of top disaster concerns, along with terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
The "2006 Fire Safety Census," released today by Liberty Mutual and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), reports that 75 percent of those polled are concerned about fire in the home, 60 percent about terrorist attacks, 51 percent about tornados, 34 percent about hurricanes, 33 percent about earthquakes and 33 percent about floods. The telephone survey interviewed more than 1,000 Americans 25 years old and older during August 2006. The results are profiled online at www.befiresmart.com, Liberty Mutual's new interactive fire safety and prevention website.
"It is clear from the survey that Americans are concerned about any type of disaster affecting them and their families, but it's interesting to see that home fires soar to the top of that list," says Paul Condrin, Liberty Mutual president, Personal Markets. "That high level of concern is certainly validated. Home fires do indeed cause more deaths than all natural disasters combined, and, according to the IAFF, last year 82 percent of the 3,675 fire-related deaths were caused by home fires."
Despite this high anxiety around home fires, the survey further reveals that many Americans are dangerously negligent when it comes to taking fire precautions and are largely uninformed about what to do if a fire occurs - steps that can dramatically impact their chances of surviving a fire.
Additionally, most Americans are not spending the time to educate those most vulnerable to fires: their children. Eighty-four percent of parents polled admitted that they do not frequently discuss fire safety with their children, even though seven in 10 parents also report their children are less than fully prepared to escape and survive a fire. Statistics show that the fire death risk for children under age 5 is nearly double the risk of the average population, and that children make up 15 to 20 percent of fire-related deaths.
"All too often, our members see the tragedies that result from home fires that could have been avoided by taking simple fire safety measures," says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. "There is more we all can be doing to protect our homes and families from a fire. This survey identifies some areas where we can improve our chances of preventing fires and surviving them, should they occur."
Risky Behaviors Are Widespread
More than 90 percent of the people surveyed conceded that having a smoke alarm, fire extinguisher and fire escape plan are all important. However, many are still not putting even these bottom-line safety measures into practice:
- 20 percent of Americans do not own a fire extinguisher; and
- 27 percent of Americans do not have a fire escape plan.
The leading reason as to why: They haven't thought about it.
Additionally, many survey respondents admitted to engaging in risky behaviors that could increase their risk of home fires. While 85 percent of those polled answered correctly that more fires start in the kitchen than any other part of home, 26 percent acknowledged they have left food cooking on a stove top or in the oven unattended, and disturbingly, 16 percent reported that they have disabled a smoke alarm while cooking.
Respondents also divulged other risky behaviors around the house: