Recent, deadly fires like the ones in Philadelphia and Lansing show how quickly an uneventful day with the family can turn to tragedy. On a relaxed Saturday morning in Philadelphia, firefighters entered a row-house engulfed in flames and smoke to find a woman and three children dead inside. Just a week prior, first responders arrived at a small, burning Lansing residence shortly before midnight, extinguishing the fire and finding Melissa Weston and her two young grandchildren dead inside.
These sad events, one early in the morning and one late at night, illuminate the need for taking action to be safer from fire. Both smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers provide the early warning of a potentially fast-moving fire and suppression while the fire department is enroute. We know few existing homes were built with sprinklers, but we can change outcomes by building new homes with a higher level of fire safety with home fire sprinklers.
Regardless of the time of day, we know that in reported home structure fires with working smoke alarms, the risk of dying drops 54 percent compared to in homes with no alarms or none that worked, and that the presence of home fire sprinklers can increase the chances of surviving a home fire by 87 percent. People age 65 and older are at the highest risk of dying in a home fire, while children, pets, and those with disabilities are also at increased risk.
While newer building techniques provided great benefits over the years, unprotected lightweight construction combined with synthetic materials and open floor plans can result in fires that burn faster and at higher temperatures. The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition reports that flashover—when everything ignites—can happen in as little three minutes, making every second in a fire count. By being alerted quickly with smoke alarms and controlling the fire as soon as it is detected with home fire sprinklers are an integral part of a home fire protection strategy, along with a practiced escape plan, helping to keep unfortunate tales like the above from happening at all.