Question of the Week

October 28, 2003


"The U.S. has one of the highest fire death rates in the industrialized world....Each year, fire kills more Americans than all natural disasters combined. At least 80 percent of all fire deaths occur in residences. Between 1992 and 2001, an average of 1.9 million fires were reported each year. Many others go unreported, causing additional injuries and property loss."

"Fire drills are a big part of being safe in school: they prepare us for what we need to do in case of a fire. But what if there was a fire where you live? Would you know what to do if there was a fire in your home? Talking about fires is scary - no one likes to think about people getting hurt or their things getting burned. But you can feel less worried if you are prepared."

We all know the drill at school, or do we? Do you know where you would go if the fire alarm went off at school? Do you know the fastest and easiest way out of the building from all of your classes? What if that way were blocked by fire or heavy smoke? Then where would you go?

"CHICAGO, Oct. 17 - Six people died of injuries in a fire on Friday at a 35-story building in the Loop in the heart of downtown. Several more were taken to hospitals, many in serious or critical condition.....Fire officials said 13 people were found in the building, some in smoke-filled stairwells, after the fire was controlled. Some were conscious and breathing, but others were not, officials said."

Do you work? Do you know two possible ways out of that building in case of fire? What about at the mall? At a club? Have you ever looked around to see how you might get out in a hurry if there were an emergency? What about at home? Do you know what the smoke alarm sounds like? What would you do if you heard it? What if you didn't hear it?

"July 31 - Underwriters Laboratories sets the standards for smoke alarms. It has just released a report that agrees with what 7 On Your Side found in our investigation - parents cannot rely on smoke alarms to wake up their children. So what's the solution? Two months ago, we set up cameras in Heather and Ray's Salazar's home after their nine and four-year-old daughters had fallen asleep. We activated the family's smoke alarms, and waited for the girls to wake up. They never did. The same thing happened at Lisa Killeen's home in Fremont. Her three kids slept away, with four smoke alarms blaring....
"Rafael Pelayo M.D., Sleep Specialist: 'Oh, it's not surprising because we know the level of sound required to wake up a sleeping child can be very high, higher than what a typical smoke alarm is.' The typical smoke alarm puts out 85 decibels. Doctor Pelayo says it takes at least 110 decibels to wake up a sleeping child. But Underwriters Laboratories, the group that sets the standards for smoke alarms, had never tested them on children. Just today, the group acknowledged, parents can't always count on them.... Underwriters Laboratories has no idea when further research will be complete. But you should still continue to use smoke alarms. They do save lives. Research shows they've reduced the number of fire deaths by half."

Would your smoke alarm wake you if you were sleeping? Would your parents--or those you live with who might be lighter sleepers--know to check that you were awake and getting out safely?

What about the smoke alarm itself? Even the lightest sleepers won't be awakened by an alarm that does not work.

"WASHINGTON D.C. - The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is urging all residents to replace their smoke alarm batteries and check their units on Oct. 26, when clocks are turned back to end Daylight Savings Time. Taking part of the "extra hour" to do so can have lifesaving consequences. 'In many of the house fires where lives are lost, an operating smoke alarm could have made a difference. A smoke alarm reduces the risk of dying in a house fire by 50 percent,' said Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response. 'We urge people not to think "it won't happen to them" and to take the easy and inexpensive steps necessary to safeguard themselves and their families.' Some 2,700 people lost their lives in residential fires in 2002 and another 14,000 were injured. FEMA offers these additional fire safety tips..."

While many fires are accidental, others could be prevented. Candles? Campfires? Cigarettes? Matches? Lighters? Other causes?

"Every year, children start nearly 100,000 fires that hurt people and cause a lot of damage."

With current dry conditions in much of the West, we now have a tragic example of what happens when fires get out of control.

"LOS ANGELES, Oct. 27 - With fires racing uncontrollably across much of Southern California, firefighters on the northwestern edge of Los Angeles staged a desperate effort on Monday to defend the city and the coastal community of Malibu from the deadly rush of flames...."

More fire information for teens and adults:

More fire information for kids:
"USFA stands for the United States Fire Administration. The USFA is part of the federal government. One of our jobs is to help prevent fires. We want everyone to be safe from fire, including you! The Kids Page is full of tips that can help you and your family be safe from fire...."

Questions of the Week:
What do you need to know to be safe from fires indoors and out? What are the most common causes of fires? What can you do to help prevent fires in your home, school, work, and outdoor environment? Think of the different buildings you are in throughout the week. Would you recognize the fire alarm if you heard it? Would you hear it? How would you get out of each place safely in the event of a fire?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

Request Question of the Week by email 
QoW Archives: 9/2002 - 8/2003 9/2003 - 8/2004 9/2004 - 8/2005 9/2005 - 8/2006 9/2006 - present

Custom Search on the AE Site