New Study Finds Americans Uninformed About Fire Safety


A new national study reveals that for most Americans, home fires rank highest on the list of top disaster concerns, along with terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

The “2006 Fire Safety Census,” conducted by Liberty Mutual and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), reports that 75 percent of those polled are concerned about fire in the home, 60 percent about terrorist attacks, 51 percent about tornadoes, 34 percent about hurricanes, 33 percent about earthquakes and 33 percent about floods.

The telephone survey conducted in August interviewed more than 1,000 Americans ages 25 and older.

“It is clear from the survey that Americans are concerned about any type of disaster affecting them and their families, but it’s interesting to see home fires soar to the top of that list,” says Paul Condrin, Liberty Mutual president, Personal Markets. “That high level of concern is certainly validated. Home fires do indeed cause more deaths than all natural disasters combined, and, according to IAFF, last year 82 percent of the 3,675 fire-related deaths were caused by home fires.”

However, despite the threat posed by home fires, the survey reveals that many Americans are dangerously negligent when it comes to taking fire precautions and are largely uninformed about what to do if a fire occurs. The study also concluded that most Americans are not educating those most vulnerable to fires: children. Eighty-four percent of parents polled admitted that they do not frequently discuss fire safety with their children, even though seven in 10 parents also report their children are less than fully prepared to escape and survive a fire. Statistics show that the fire death risk for children under age 5 is nearly double the risk of the average population, and that children make up 15 to 20 percent of fire-related deaths, according to the study.

“All too often, our members see the tragedies that result from home fires that could have been avoided by taking simple fire safety measures,” says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. “There is more we all can be doing to protect our homes and families from a fire. This survey identifies some areas where we can improve our chances of preventing fires and surviving them, should they occur.”

Risky Behaviors Are Widespread

More than 90 percent of the people surveyed conceded that having a smoke alarm, fire extinguisher and fire escape plan are all important. However, many do not even take minimal precautions. For instance, the study found that 20 percent of Americans do not own a fire extinguisher, while 27 percent do not have a fire escape plan. The leading reason why? A majority of the respondents said they haven’t thought about it.

Additionally, many survey respondents admitted to engaging in risky behaviors that could increase their risk of home fires. While 85 percent of those polled answered correctly that more fires start in the kitchen than any other part of home, 26 percent acknowledged they have left food cooking on a stove top or in the oven unattended, and 16 percent reported that they have disabled a smoke alarm while cooking.

Among other risky behaviors reported by respondents in the study: 41 percent reported leaving the clothes dryer running when not at home; 32 percent reported leaving holiday lights on when not at home; and 12 percent admitted to leaving burning candles unattended.

“These results show that most people have a minimal understanding of fire safety precautions, and that this understanding is limited to smoke alarms and fire extinguishers,” says Condrin. “But, fire safety includes so much more—more that we should be doing, and shouldn’t be doing—to survive home fires and, more importantly, to prevent home fires.”

Liberty Mutual and IAFF commissioned KRC Research to conduct the random sample survey. KRC conducted 1,005 phone interviews from Aug. 7-16. The statistical significant differences are computed at a 95 percent confidence interval with a +/- 3.1-percent error margin. Percentages in the report may add to more or less than 100 percent due to rounding error or occasions when multiple response answers were accepted.

To read more about the survey results, along with a list of fire prevention and safety tips, visit Liberty Mutual’s new interactive Web site,

If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

Security Is Our Business, Too

For professionals who recommend, buy and install all types of electronic security equipment, a free subscription to Commercial Integrator + Security Sales & Integration is like having a consultant on call. You’ll find an ideal balance of technology and business coverage, with installation tips and techniques for products and updates on how to add to your bottom line.

A FREE subscription to the top resource for security and integration industry will prove to be invaluable.

Subscribe Today!

Get Our Newsletters