Fire Safety Leaders Tackle How to Reduce Smoking Fires

May 11, 2006

Acting United States Fire Administrator Charlie Dickinson and National Fire Protection Association President and Chief Executive Officer James Shannon have completed a report on behavioral mitigation to redice the number of fires caused by smoking.

“Smoking continues to be the number one cause of residential fire
deaths, which justifies a new look at research about the role of
behaviors in causing those deaths,” said Dickinson. “Through this partnership with NFPA, hopefully, we can reduce fire deaths from this cause.”

Smoking-material fire deaths are more likely to involve a fire that
begins very close to the victim. The percentage of smoking-material
fatal fire victims who are “intimate” with ignition is three times the
corresponding percentage for fires due to other causes, according to the report. Fatal victims of smoking-material fires are, therefore, less
likely than fatal victims of other kinds of fires to be saved by
strategies and technologies that react after ignition, such as smoke
alarms. For many, if not most, of these victims, there is no substitute
for prevention. The report further noted that one in four fatal victims
is not the smoker whose cigarette started the fire.

NFPA’s Shannon said it “is clear from the report we must continue to educate smokers and their families and friends about the strategies that will have the greatest impact on this tragic ongoing loss of life.”

The project recommends the use of general messages and several specific messages aimed at specific audiences. The recommended messages are:

* If you smoke, smoke outside.
* Wherever you smoke, use deep, sturdy ashtrays. Ashtrays should be set on something sturdy and hard to ignite, like an end table.
* Before you throw out butts and ashes, make sure they are out, and
dowsing in water or sand is the best way to do that.
* Check under furniture cushions and in other places people smoke for
cigarette butts that may have fallen out of sight.
* Smoking should not be allowed in a home where oxygen is used.
* If you smoke, choose fire-safe cigarettes. They are less likely to
cause fires.
* To prevent a deadly cigarette fire, you have to be alert. You won’t be
if you are sleepy, have been consuming alcohol, or have taken medication
or other drugs.

These messages have been applied to existing USFA educational materials and are being adopted into NFPA educational messages as they come up for routine revision.

The full report can be found at:
USFA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.

More on NFPA can be found at

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