The State of Home Fire Safety in Massachusetts
Massachusetts recently achieved a remarkable milestone: 2020 was the state’s first year on record where no children died in fires. Children are typically at an increased risk of dying in home fires, so this news is especially encouraging. According to the state fire marshal, several changes contributed to the decrease in deaths—learn about these factors and make sure your family is protected, too.
Fire Safety Education
Child fire deaths in Massachusetts have dropped significantly since the Student Awareness of Fire Education (S.AF.E.) program began in 1996. Through this program, firefighters teach local students about preventing fires at home. Children learn the importance of installing and testing smoke alarms, following safety guidelines while cooking, and not playing with candles, matches, lighters, or tobacco products. Most critically, students are also taught what to do should a fire occur at home—learning to create, practice, and use fire escape plans rather than to hide within the home.
If an educational program like S.A.F.E. is not available in your area, make sure to teach your children about home fire safety. Work together as a family to create a home escape plan that includes multiple ways to exit each room, as well as a family meeting spot in a location which is close but at a safe distance from the house (e.g., the mailbox, the front yard of a neighbor’s home, etc.). Have mock fire drills to make sure everyone understands and remembers the plan.
Home Fire Alarms
Another major contribution to the decrease in deaths: the installation of reliable home fire alarms. Of the 39 fire deaths among Massachusetts adults (age 18+), half occurred in homes without working smoke alarms.
Today’s home fire alarms are more sensitive and sophisticated than ever before, so they can give you extra minutes to escape at a time when every second is critical. At minimum, homes should have smoke alarms installed on each floor, and batteries should be changed twice per year. For the best protection possible, opt for an alarm system with battery backup and 24/7 monitoring.
While not expressly attributed to the decrease in fire deaths, lower rates of smoking are good news for everybody. Smoking remains the leading cause of residential fire deaths in the state.
If you are a smoker, there are many resources to help you quit or cut back. If possible, only smoke outdoors. If smoking indoors, use extreme vigilance to prevent fires—never smoke while feeling drowsy, and avoid smoking while on the couch, in bed, and near flammable items. And of course, take care to keep your lighter and matches out of the reach of children.