Fire in the Home Leads List of Top Concerns for Americans

The "2006 Fire Safety Census," reports that 75 percent of those polled are concerned about fire in the home, 60 percent about terrorist attacks, 51 percent about tornados, 34 percent about hurricanes, 33 percent about earthquakes and 33 percent about...

  • 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," adds 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."

Deep Knowledge Gaps Exist

The Liberty Mutual/IAFF 2006 Fire Safety Census found that many of those surveyed simply do not know about the fire safety measures they should be practicing:

  • Nearly half of those surveyed (44 percent) wrongly believe that power strips protect against electrical fires (in fact, when overloaded, power strips can cause electrical fires);
  • One in four (24 percent) consider space heaters to be "safe" (they are actually a leading cause of home fires in December, January and February);
  • 15 percent mistakenly believe that any type of fire extinguisher can put out a fire (there are different classes of extinguishers for different types of fires);
  • Only 6 percent of those surveyed know that having working smoke alarms in the home can more than double their chances of surviving a fire; and
  • Only three in 10 adults (30 percent) would evacuate their house first before calling the fire department.

"It's clear that everyone should be taking more time to learn about fire safety," says Schaitberger. "There are fundamental safety measures that everyone should be practicing. These precautions really can prevent tragedies, and they're not difficult to do at all."

Top Fire Safety Tips

Based on the survey results, Liberty Mutual and the IAFF have developed fire safety recommendations for families to stay safe and be prepared. Top tips are:

  • Test smoke alarms once a month.
  • Change smoke alarm batteries once a year - at an easy-to-remember time, such as when clocks are changed.
  • Replace a smoke alarm that's more than 10 years old
  • Buy a fire extinguisher, mount it, and learn how to use it. Revisit the instructions every six months.
  • Never leave burning candles unattended or near combustible materials - home fires caused by candles have doubled in the past decade.
  • If a fire alarm sounds, or smoke is visible, evacuate first and then call the fire department.
  • Close doors behind you when leaving the room and building to slow the spread of fire and smoke.
  • Plan an escape route that shows two ways out of each room.
  • Identify a meeting place near the home.
  • Practice an escape plan - during the day and night - at least twice a year.
  • Talk to children frequently about preventing fires and escaping fires.
  • Do not leave a dryer on unattended.
  • Do not leave a stove or oven on unattended.
  • Keep portable heaters at least three feet away from all combustible materials and never leave them on unattended.
  • Never disable a smoke alarm.
  • Do not overload power strips.
  • Turn holiday lights off when not at home.

For more information on the survey and fire safety tips go to The site has four distinct sections for parents, children, educators and fire fighters, and includes fire safety tips and information, interactive lesson plans, and games.

Survey Methodology

Liberty Mutual and IAFF commissioned KRC Research to conduct a quantitative survey with a random sample of adults aged 25 and older nationwide. KRC conducted 1005 phone interviews from August 7-16, 2006. The statistical significant differences are computed at a 95% confidence interval with a +/- 3.1% error margin. Percentages in the report may add to more or less than 100% due to rounding error or occasions when multiple response answers were accepted.