New Florida Smoke Alarm Law for Homeowners Aimed At Preventing Fire Deaths

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Kidde Worry Free Smoke Alarms

There is a new Florida law aimed at preventing fire deaths . Smoke alarms installed in homes must be powered by either electricity or so-called “permanent” batteries.  Before the change, fire alarms in new or remodeled homes had to be connected to the house’s electricity. Now, builders and residents replacing old smoke alarms have another option: a device with a tamper-proof battery that lasts 10 years. The new alarms, like a particular model by Kidde, mean people don’t have to worry about missing or disconnected batteries or the annoying sound of a low battery . The state fire marshals’ association supports the technology as a way to reduce the chance of people’s removing traditional batteries and dying in fires. A quick scan of Amazon.com shows a new smoke alarm with a 10-year battery runs about $20. Proponents of the law say that’s a big savings over most electrically wired, or “interconnected,” models.  Meanwhile, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department spokesman Tom Francis says any working alarm is better than none. The department distributes smoke alarms to any single-family home resident who requests one.

Finding this tragic story on Channel 4’s website, makes me wonder if they had any type of smoke detector and if they did – did it work?  Hopefully with this new law, people will be more inclined to make sure their smoke alarms are working and have batteries installed.   A father and son are out of the hospital after narrowly escaping a fire that destroyed their Northside home last Friday.The 52-year-old male and his 14-year-old son,  spent several days in the burn unit at UF Health in Gainesville after their home on Begonia Road in Northwest Jacksonville caught fire around 10 a.m. Friday,.  Investigators believe the fire was accidental, and that if the two victims had been in the house a minute or two longer, they would not have survived.  The son said he woke up on the couch in total darkness — his home filled with pitch black smoke. He started screaming for his father, who was sleeping in the back room on the other side of the home. His dad came running to help, and then crawled getting him. They made their way to the door but they said they couldn’t even see it because the smoke was so thick.  The father said it was so hot that his arm was instantly scorched with third-degree burns. The heat also burned the top of his head. His son’s hands received second-degree burns.

Did you know that three out of five home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.
In 2007-2011, smoke alarms were present in almost three-quarters (73%) of reported home fires and sounded in half (52%) of the home fires reported to U.S. fire departments. Homes include one- and two-family homes, apartments or other multi-family housing, and manufactured housing. When smoke alarms were present in fires considered large enough to activate them, they operated 86% of the time. More than one-third (37%) of home fire deaths resulted from fires in which no smoke alarms were present at all. One-quarter (23%) of the deaths were caused by fires in properties in which smoke alarms were present but failed to operate. Smoke alarms operated in fires that caused two out of five (40%) home fire deaths. One percent of the deaths resulted from fires that were too small to activate the smoke alarm.

The risk of dying in reported home structure fires is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms.
The death rate per 100 reported home fires was more than twice as high in homes that did not have any working smoke alarms (1.18 deaths per 100 fires), either because no smoke alarm was present or an alarm was present but did not operate), as it was in homes with working smoke alarms (0.53 per 100 fires).

The death rate from reported fires in homes during 2007-2011 that had at least one smoke alarm (0.61 deaths per 100 fires) was one-third (36%) lower than in homes that had no smoke alarms at all (0.95 deaths per 100 fires). Installing smoke alarms is the first step. It is important to be sure they are working. Surprisingly, the death rate was much higher in fires in which a smoke alarm was present but did not operate (1.94 deaths per 100 fires) than it was in home fires with no smoke alarms at all.

Smoke alarm failures usually result from missing, disconnected, or dead batteries.
When smoke alarms should have operated but did not do so, it was usually because batteries are missing, disconnected or dead. People are most likely to remove or disconnect batteries because of nuisance activations. Sometimes the chirping to warn of a low battery is interpreted as a nuisance alarm.

Half of the households surveyed in a 2010 Harris Poll done for NFPA reported they had smoke alarms in their kitchen. Two out of every five (43%) households reported their smoke alarms had gone off at least once in the past year. Almost three-quarters (73%) said the activation was due to cooking. Eight percent mentioned low battery chirps.

Smoke alarms save lives. If there is a fire in your home, smoke spreads fast and you need smoke alarms to give you time to get out.  Be safe and be aware.

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