Pa. fire deaths have increased; working smoke alarms save lives
According to data compiled by the U.S. Fire Administration, Pennsylvania is currentlyleading the nation in fire deaths, despite ranking only fifth in population. As of July 11,there have been 91 deaths in the state, with two occurring in the larger Pittsburgh area since June 27 (Coraopolis and Meadville). This is a dramatic and disturbing increase over 2017, which saw a total of 112 fire deaths in Pennsylvania across the entire year. Simply put, 2018 has been full of tragedyon a much greater scale.
There are many potential factors in fires and fire deaths, but one of the most common factors is a lack of working smoke alarms. Fire departments, inspectors and other experts have long preached that smoke alarms are the most important appliances that can be found in one’s home, and the truth is that the presence of a working smoke alarm will, often, save lives. Fatal fires — especiallyin private residences — can often be traced back to a lack of working alarms.
Firefighters frequently encounter homes with installed yet inoperative smoke alarms. There are several reasons for this, but the most common is simply because residents forget to change the batteries regularly. Nobody should face tragedy and death because he or she did not remember to replace a simple battery.
Fortunately, there is a solution. Smoke alarms with sealed-in, nonremoveable batteries capable of lasting for 10 years are widely available from different manufacturers and are a proven, tested technology. These alarms are effectively impossible to disable and require virtually no maintenanceduring their life spans. Put simply, they are much less likely to leave a home defenseless than older alarms with removeable batteries. This 10year technology should be the standard for all battery-poweredsmoke alarms.
The numbers do not lie: According to the National Fire Protection Association, three of every five home fire deaths occur in a home without smoke alarms or working smoke alarms. Working smoke alarms are critical in stemming the tide of fire deaths in Pennsylvania, both this year and in the future. All residents, landlords and anybody who maintains a home in Pennsylvania should ensure their smoke alarms are in proper working order and, if possible, should opt for 10-year alarms with sealed-in batteries.
DON KONKLE Executive Director Pennsylvania Fire & Emergency Services Institute