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LARA Director and the State Fire Marshal Urge Safety Precautions Following an Increase in Fire Deaths Statewide

Media Contact: LARA Communications 517-335-LARA (5272)

November 5, 2019 – To date, a total of 86 people have lost their lives this year across the state as the result of a fire in their homes. In the month of October alone, fatal home fires claimed the lives of seven children and ten adults statewide. In response to these recent fire tragedies, State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer is urging Michiganders to spend time this weekend developing and practicing a fire escape plan with their families. 

The Bureau of Fire Services (BFS) has created a document for Michiganders to review, download, and print to help them develop their fire escape plan. Once the plan is established, it is important that families practice it often since, on average, they will have less than three minutes to escape a home fire due to the toxic gasses, smoke, and lack of oxygen.

“It is tragic and devastating when we lose even one person to a fire,” said Orlene Hawks, Director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), where BFS is housed. “These are our kids, our aunts, our uncles, our parents, our friends. We all need to realize that this can happen to us. If you see smoke, don’t investigate – don’t even fight the fire – just escape.”

Michigan fires in the month of October claimed the lives of 17 individuals, including seven kids.

“It is so important to teach kids what to do if a fire occurs,” Sehlmeyer said. “The last thing we want is for children to hide, thinking that will keep them safe. It is vitally important that we teach our families what to do if the smoke alarms go off and practice how to escape if there is a fire in your home. A family fire escape plan is essential.”

Working smoke alarms provide an early warning of a fire. There needs to be a smoke alarm on every level of every home, including the basement and a smoke alarm in every bedroom or sleeping area. Michiganders are reminded to change the batteries annually if they have 9-volt smoke alarms.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 71 percent of smoke alarm failures are a result of missing, disconnected, or dead batteries. Never remove or disconnect batteries from alarms unless you are putting a new battery in the smoke alarm.

Check every smoke alarm monthly to ensure they are working. If you hear a chirp noise coming from a smoke alarm, it is most likely a warning of a low battery. Three of every five residential fire deaths in the United States occur in homes where smoke alarms have the batteries removed, the batteries are dead, or there are simply no smoke alarms present.

Last year, residential structure fires in Michigan killed 139 people and – according to the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) – Michigan fire departments responded to 13,909 residential structure fires in 2018.

So far in 2019, 86 people have died in residential structure fires and there have been 9,372 residential structure fires across Michigan.

State Fire Marshal Sehlmeyer also recommends the following:

  • Test smoke alarms monthly using the test button.
  • Replace batteries annually or when the smoke alarm begins to chirp, signaling that the battery is running low.
  • Make sure you have a smoke alarm in every bedroom or sleeping area and have one smoke alarm on every level of your home, including the basement.
  • For added protection, consider a connected smoke alarm system, so when one smoke alarm sounds all the smoke alarms sound in the whole home.
  • Hardwired smoke alarms are more reliable than those powered solely by batteries.
  • Newer smoke alarms come with lithium batteries that can last up to ten years.
  • Every ten years replace all your smoke alarms, or sooner if they do not respond properly when tested.

Carbon monoxide detectors are also critically important safety equipment in the home. Carbon monoxide is called the invisible killer as carbon monoxide cannot be seen or smelled. This poisonous gas can come from a variety of sources and can quickly incapacitate and kill its victims. Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed on every level of the home and outside sleeping areas. Carbon monoxide detectors need fresh batteries at least once every year, unless they are powered by sealed ten-year batteries which should then be tested once a month to make sure they are working properly.

For more fire safety information and safety tips, visit the MI Prevention website or the NFPA website.