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State Fire Marshall says dozens of lives saved by smoke detectors in 2011

Des Moines, IOWA — The Iowa Department of Public Safety, State Fire Marshal Division reports 2011 ended with 186 people saved from fire death or injury by working smoke alarms.  Most of the fires from which the citizens escaped, occurred in the evening when the occupants were sleeping.  The simple sound of a fire alarm saved their lives.

The two most common causes of these fires were improperly discarded smoking materials or careless smoking, and unattended cooking or stove fires.  “As Iowans are trying to pinch pennies, people are staying home to eat instead of dining out.  Inexperienced cooks are trying to make fast foods at home and it’s resulted in a large spike in kitchen fires,” says Special Agent Supervisor Kyle Gorsh.

While the 186 lives saved by smoke alarms is a positive increase from the 146 lives saved in 2010, it should not overshadow the fact 46 people died from fires in 2011.  That is an increase of thirteen deaths compared to the 33 fire deaths from 2010.

State Fire Marshal Ray Reynolds says, “We occasionally hear news stories in which a person wakes up on their own and alerts other family members to a fire.  These instances are pure luck.  While we’re always happy to hear of lives saved from fire, we hope your fire prevention plan doesn’t rely on luck alone.”

The State Fire Marshal Division offers these important fire safety tips to prevent fires in your home as well as prepare your family to respond if a fire does occur:

  1. Never leave cooking materials unattended and assure you have shut the burner off when walking away from the stove; even for a minute.
  2. If you smoke, consider smoking outside your home and place cigarette butts in a metal can filled with sand.  Be sure cigarettes are completely extinguished before discarding.  We also recommend you consider the health benefits of not smoking.  Creating a healthier you and a decreased risk of fire is a win-win!
  3. Practice exit drills with your family to make sure everyone knows how to escape a fire and where to meet once outside the home.
  4. Install smoke alarms on all levels of the house and in every bedroom and hallway.  If using battery smoke alarms, consider using lithium batteries for extended life.
  5. Sometimes small fires can be extinguished with a ten pound, ABC rated fire extinguisher.  Fires grow rapidly so never over commit to extinguishing a fire.  Know how, and when to retreat out of your home if you are using a fire extinguisher.
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