Every so often, I'll come across a news story that includes statements from homebuilder's associations similar to this one, which was made during a recent report from a local ABC news affiliate: "The homes built today all have smoke detectors that are wired, and we have the national statistics that show that 99.4 percent of lives are saved because you're awake, you're woken up, you get out of the house."
The statistic, when used in this context, is misleading. There's no doubt that smoke alarms are necessary tools that can significantly reduce fire deaths and injuries. These devices, however, do nothing to extinguish a fire. The 99.4-percent figure estimates the likelihood of surviving a home fire when smoke alarms are present, which is not the same thing as reducing the risk of death.
Here's something to consider: Each year, more than 2,300 home fire deaths occur in more than 365,000 reported structure fires. Therefore, the likelihood of surviving a home fire is approximately 99 percent without regard to the presence of smoke alarms or any other fire safety provisions. Does that mean 2,300 deaths are acceptable? Most people would say no.
Home fire sprinklers have the ability to reduce the risk of home fire deaths. In fact, NFPA statistics indicate that if you have a reported fire in your home, the risk of dying decreases by about 80 percent when sprinklers are present.
Counter the sprinkler myths by learning all of the facts. Visit NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative website for more information.