Michigan Agents Push for Improved Smoke Detector Use

December 22, 2005

Michigan insurance agents are calling for more use of smoke detectors in Michigan homes as the peak fire season approaches.

Last year, 119 people died in Michigan house fires. Only 16 percent of the homes where a fire death occurred had a working smoke alarm, according to the Michigan Association of Insurance Agents.

The number of deaths decreased by 20 percent from 2003 totals. But the percentage of fatal fires in homes without working smoke detectors has not improved in recent years.

“Despite the drop in house fire deaths, there has been no improvement in getting homeowners to maintain working smoke alarms,” Gary Mitchell, spokesman for the insurance group, said in a written statement. “We know that smoke alarms save lives, but there has been a very lax attitude about maintaining them.”

Batteries in smoke detectors should be replaced at least twice a year, Mitchell said.

January was the deadliest month for house fires in 2004, with 27 people dying. December is also a treacherous month because of increased use of decorative lighting, candles and extension cords for the holidays.

The use of dry, brittle holiday trees also adds to the hazard, the insurance group said. Nationwide, there are more than 600 holiday tree fires each year.

Trees should be watered regularly, Mitchell said, and should be kept away from direct sources of heat.

Other factors include the increased use of space heaters and the use of old furnaces in homes that may have faulty wiring.

More than half of all house fires happen between midnight and 4 a.m., the insurance group said. Children 9 and under are more than four times as likely to die in a house fire than adults.

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