FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
DATE: October 2, 2020
CONTACT: Amy McLaughlin, Community Risk Reduction Specialist
Paul J. Parisi, State Fire Marshal
NH State Fire Marshal’s Office reports that working smoke alarms
not confirmed present in any of the 2020 fire fatalities
Most unintentional fatal fires in New Hampshire take place between 6pm and 6am.
Closing bedroom doors before bed and making sure your smoke alarms work
are preventive measures that could be key to surviving a fire.
This year, New Hampshire has experienced eight fire fatalities in seven home fires, where there were no confirmed
working smoke alarms. These fires have taken place across the state – Bristol, Claremont, Colebrook, Fitzwilliam,
Rochester and Salisbury – and will have a lasting impact on those families and respective communities. This year,
from March to May 2020, was the second deadliest three-month period in the past ten years for unintentional fatal fires
for the state.
October 4-10th is National Fire Prevention Week. New Hampshire State Fire Marshal Paul J. Parisi would like to emphasize
that smoke alarms are essential to protecting your family’s life during a fire event. The early notification of a fire in the house
is essential for allowing people time to get out. “Many people think a fire won’t happen to them. While we truly hope it doesn’t,
we would be remiss in not calling attention to what we are continuing to see in our state. Fire does not discriminate and when there IS a fire,
smoke alarms are the biggest factor when it comes to giving people time to get out alive.”
Another critical step in allowing yourself and your family time to get out is closing your bedroom door. If you have family members
in the house and want to hear them in the middle of the night, we encourage you to invest in an audio monitor instead of leaving
the door open. Closing the bedroom door will allow time to react to a fire and will also keep temperatures in that bedroom down
closer to 100 degrees instead of a thousand degrees. Fire Marshal Parisi helps explain why this is important. “Years ago, we had
more time to escape a house fire. Legacy furnishings and natural materials took much longer to ignite and engulf a room with fire
and smoke. Modern furnishings are typically made of synthetic materials that burn faster, hotter, and produce much more toxic smoke.
The time from initial ignition to total room engulfment has dropped from 17 minutes 20 years ago to approximately three minutes today!
Closing your door can buy time for help to arrive if you become trapped.”
Over the last 5 years, New Hampshire has seen 49 deaths from unintentional residential fires. In over half of those fires the residents
did not have working smoke alarms. To date in 2020, none have been confirmed to have working smoke alarms. In comparison, nationally,
about 40% of unintentional residential home fire deaths had no working smoke alarms (source: NFPA).
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends installing interconnected smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each
separate sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. In New Hampshire, it’s the law to have them installed in
all of those locations. Using either 10 year, sealed lithium battery units or hard-wired units are your best protection.
If you need smoke alarms for your house, you are urged to contact your local fire department, as many NH departments have free smoke
SMOKE ALARM INFORMATION
- There are a couple of different types of smoke alarms.
- Ionization – generally more responsive to flaming fires
- Photoelectric – generally more responsive to smoldering fires
For the best protection, both types of alarms or a combination unit should be installed in homes. Call your local fire
department for any specific questions.
- Test alarms monthly by pushing the test button on the exterior of the alarm. See manufacturer’s instructions
- Smoke rises; install smoke alarms on a ceiling or high on a wall, following manufacturer’s instructions.
- Replace batteries at least once a year. If an alarm “chirps,” this is a warning that the battery is low and you should
replace the battery right away.
- Smoke alarms should be interconnected in a home. This way when one alarm is activated the remaining alarms also sound.
This allows a notification to all areas in the home.
- Replace all smoke alarms, including those that use ten-year batteries and/or hard-wired alarms, when they are ten years old
or sooner if they do not function properly when tested.
- Alarms that are hard-wired must be installed by the homeowner or a qualified electrician.
- If cooking fumes or shower steam set off nuisance alarms, replace the alarm with an alarm that has a “hush” button, which
will reduce the alarm’s sensitivity for a short period of time.
- An ionization alarm with a hush button or a photoelectric alarm should be used if the alarm is within 20 feet of a cooking appliance.
- Smoke alarms that include a recordable voice announcement, in addition to the usual alarm sound, may be helpful in
waking children through the use of a familiar voice.
- Smoke alarms are available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. These alarms use strobe lights. Vibration equipment
can be added to these alarms to shake the bed of a hearing-impaired person.
- Smoke alarms are an important part of a home fire escape plan.