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August 24, 1999

Don't Get Burned!

USFA Says U.S. Fire Related Death Rate One of the Highest

WASHINGTON, DC (SafetyAlerts) -- Despite an encouraging decline in the annual number of fire deaths in the United States, the U.S. fire related death rate is still one of the highest among industrialized nations.

The United States Fire Administration (USFA), part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, reports that a recent study of 14 industrialized countries showed only Hungary has a higher per capita fire related death rate than the U.S.  Last year the USFA reported that:

  • The U.S. has one of the highest fire death rates in the industrialized world. For 1997, the U.S. fire death rate was 15.2 deaths per million population.
  • Between 1993 and 1997, an average of 4,500 Americans lost their lives and another 26,500 were injured annually as the result of fire.
  • About 100 firefighters are killed each year in duty-related incidents.
  • Each year, fire kills more Americans than all natural disasters combined.
  • Fire is the third leading cause of accidental death in the home; at least 80 percent of all fire deaths occur in residences.
  • About 2 million fires are reported each year. Many others go unreported, causing additional injuries and property loss.
  • Direct property loss due to fires is estimated at $8.5 billion annually.

The USFA anticipates that based on recent trends, approximately 3,400 Americans will die of fire related causes in 1999. The NFDC collects, analyzes and disseminates data and information on fire and other emergency incidents.

While the U.S. possesses a wealth of advanced fire technology, most of it is installed in public places and most fire deaths occur in the home.

Below are some simple safety tips that can help you prevent fires in your home.

Kitchen Areas

  • All electrical appliances and tools should have a testing agency label.
  • Have appliances repaired if they aren't working right.
    Don't overload the outlets.
  • Water and electricity combined cause shock. Have dry hands; don't stand in water. If an appliance gets wet, have it serviced.
  • Don't store things over the stove. People get burned reaching. Turn pot handles so children can't pull them down. Wear tight sleeves when you cook. Loose-fitting garments can catch fire.

Living or Family Room

  • Use large ashtrays.
  • Before you go to bed, look under cushions for burning cigarettes.
  • Use a metal fireplace screen. Have the chimney checked and cleaned regularly.
  • Put lighters and matches where small children won’t find them. Use special outlet covers to keep children's fingers out.
  • Allow air space around the TV and stereo to prevent overheating. If the TV doesn't work right, it can be a fire danger. Have it checked out.
  • Keep portable heaters away from people and combustibles.


  • Buy a smoke detector and install it outside your sleeping area.
  • Plan two escapes from each bedroom.
  • Don’t smoke bed.
  • Don't overload electrical outlets.

Basement, Garage, and Storage

  • Store gasoline and other flammables in tight metal containers. Don't use flammable liquids near heat, a pilot light, or while smoking.
  • Have heating equipment checked yearly.
  • Clean up your workbench. Keep flammables away from sparks.
  • If a fuse blows, find the cause. (Replace a fuse with one of the correct size.)
  • Sort and remove rubbish. Don't store things near the furnace or heater.

What to do If you have a fire

  • Get out immediately, Don't try and grab your possessions they can be replaced you can’t.
  • Have a pre determined place to meet all the occupants of the residence so every one can be accounted for.
  • Call the Fire Department, Don’t assume some one else has.
  • Give any information you can to the fire department regarding the location of the fire and what is burning.

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