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Preventing Fire Deaths and Injuries: CDC Activities

Programs: Smoke Alarm Installation and Fire-Safety Education

Since 1998, CDC has funded smoke alarm installation and fire safety education programs in high-risk communities—those with fire death rates higher than state and national averages and median household incomes below the poverty level. An informal sample of program homes found that 3,143 lives potentially have been saved thus far. Program staff have enrolled nearly 250,000 homes and installed more than 487,800 long-lasting smoke alarms in high-risk homes, targeting households with children ages five years and younger and adults ages 65 years and older. CDC funded 14 states from 1998 to 2000. Based on the success of these programs, CDC awarded five-year cooperative agreements to 13 states in 2001 to install long-lasting, lithium-powered smoke alarms and to provide fire-safety education in homes in high-risk communities. They include: Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington. In 2002, 3 additional states (Arkansas, Massachusetts, and Montana) were awarded funding for these activities, bringing the total number of CDC-funded states to 16. In 2006, 17 5-year cooperative agreements were awarded to continue this program; award recipients are Alabama; Alaska; the Bridgeport, CT Fire Department; the Children's Hospital of Michigan (Detroit); the Dallas, TX Fire Department; Georgia; Kansas; Kentucky; Maryland; Massachusetts; Mississippi; Oklahoma; North Carolina; South Carolina; the St Louis, MO Fire Department; Virginia; and Washington.

Accomplishments: Funded Partnership Saves Lives

An estimated 3,143 lives potentially have been saved since 1998 as a result of CDC-funded smoke alarm installation and fire safety education programs high-risk communities. Program staff identified high-risk homes and targeted households with children age five and younger and adults age 65 and older. Program staff have enrolled nearly 250,000 homes and installed more than 487,800 smoke alarms.

  • In Arkansas, three children had been left home alone for only a few minutes when a fire started. The two older children, ages nine and five, heard the smoke alarm and followed the escape plan they had learned through a CDC-funded fire safety and smoke alarm program. The youngest child, age four, crawled under a bed; neighbors who heard the smoke alarm rushed in and saved the child.
  • In Oklahoma, a young boy awoke to the sound of the smoke alarm that had been installed in his home the year before through a CDC-funded program. A candle that had been left burning near a recliner had set the chair on fire. Upon hearing the alarm, the boy awakened his mother and they both escaped without injury. The fire destroyed the house; the smoke alarm saved its residents.
  • Also in Oklahoma, firefighters in Oklahoma City expressed concern for a particular neighborhood after repeatedly responding to fires in homes without smoke alarms. The firefighters went door-to-door in the community to install smoke alarms and distribute educational materials provided by the Injury Prevention Service at the Oklahoma State Department of Health. In one month, they canvassed a square mile and installed 50 smoke alarms. Not long after their campaign, a six-year-old child in one of the homes started a fire while playing with matches. The smoke alarm alerted the mother, and the residents of the home escaped without injury.
  • In Virginia, the life of an 83-year-old Franklin resident was saved by a smoke alarm the Franklin Fire and Rescue Department installed through a CDC-funded program. Two weeks after installation, the smoke alarm woke the woman, who was home alone. The alarm’s warning gave her enough time to escape her burning home without injury.
  • Also in Virginia, as part of a CDC-funded program, a firefighter installed a working smoke alarm for a family whose alarm had no battery. A few weeks later, the father woke early to light an oil space heater. Under medication for surgery at the time, he forgot to open the damper to the chimney. He returned to bed, and the heater soon began discharging soot throughout the home. Smoke from the heater quickly reached the next room, which contained the newly installed alarm. The alarm woke the family and they immediately turned off the heater before opening doors and windows to air out the home. The father stated that if the alarm hadn’t sounded, the family would have suffered smoke inhalation, carbon monoxide poisoning, or worse.
  • In Washington, through a CDC-funded program, firefighters installed a smoke alarm in the mobile home of a Shoreline mother and her three-year-old son. Weeks later the alarm woke the mother, who found a portion of her home ablaze. She grabbed her sleeping child and escaped before the home became fully engulfed. She was treated for smoke inhalation and released; her son was unharmed.
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