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Michigan fire safety: How to protect your family from house fires

Fire safety from Help Me Hank.
Fire safety from Help Me Hank. (WDIV)

To date, a total of 86 people have lost their lives this year across the state as the result of a fire in their homes.

Michigan fires in the month of October claimed the lives of 17 individuals, including seven kids.

Last year, residential structure fires in Michigan killed 139 people and – according to the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) – Michigan fire departments responded to 13,909 residential structure fires in 2018.

So far in 2019, 86 people have died in residential structure fires and there have been 9,372 residential structure fires across Michigan.

Tip for protecting yourself and your home from fires:

  • Test smoke alarms monthly using the test button.
  • Replace batteries annually or when the smoke alarm begins to chirp, signaling that the battery is running low.
  • Make sure you have a smoke alarm in every bedroom or sleeping area and have one smoke alarm on every level of your home, including the basement.
  • For added protection, consider a connected smoke alarm system, so when one smoke alarm sounds all the smoke alarms sound in the whole home.
  • Hardwired smoke alarms are more reliable than those powered solely by batteries.
  • Newer smoke alarms come with lithium batteries that can last up to ten years.
  • Every ten years replace all your smoke alarms, or sooner if they do not respond properly when tested.

How to get free smoke alarms

  • MI Prevention: This is a State of Michigan sponsored that provides smoke alarms to those in need.
  • American Red Cross: This is another program that allows people to request a smoke alarm at no charge (they partner with MI prevention).

Fire risk by region

The risk of dying in a fire was greatest for people living in the Midwest and South when compared to populations living in other regions.

In the South, this may be partially attributed to the intermittent need for occasional heating. Rather than including central heating systems, as used in northern areas, many households in the South use portable heating devices that may be more likely to lead to a fire problem.

Conversely, the Northeast and West had a much lower risk of fire death. In fact, their risk from fire death was 20% less than the population as a whole.

U.S. overall fire death rate trends

The overall 10-year fire death rate trend decreased 6% from 2008 to 2017. The table and chart below show the decline in the fire death rate trend.

In 2017, the relative risk of dying in a fire for children ages 14 and under was 50% less than that of the general population.

Some children are curious about fire. There are simple steps you can take to keep you and the people you love safer from fire and burns.

  • Keep children 3 feet away from anything that can get hot. Space heaters and stove-tops can cause terrible burns. Keep children at least 3 feet away from stoves, heaters or anything that gets hot.
  • Keep smoking materials locked up in a high place. Never leave cigarette lighters or matches where children can reach them.
  • Never play with lighters or matches when you are with your children. Children may try to do the same things they see you do.

Make an escape plan

It is important to have a plan when there are children in your home. Children sometimes need help getting out of the house. They may not know how to escape or what to do unless an adult shows them.

  • Have a plan for young children who cannot get outside by themselves. You will need to wake babies and very young children and help them get out. In your plan, talk about who will help each child get out safely.
  • It is important to find two ways out of every room in your home, in case one exit is blocked or dangerous to use.
  • Choose a meeting place outside your home. Children should know what to do when they hear a smoke alarm and there is no adult around. Help them practice going to the outside meeting place. Teach them to never go back inside a building that is on fire.

Close before you doze

In a house fire, are you safer sleeping with your bedroom doors open or closed? See the dramatic, life-saving difference a door can make.


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