As we discussed in our last post, this week is National Fire Prevention Week with 2017’s theme of “Every Second Counts: Plan Two Ways Out.” The key message for the week: modern home construction has created homes and residences that are especially vulnerable to fatal fires for various reasons.
Safety Measures for Fire Prevention and Fire Safety in Your Home
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends the following practices so that you and your loved ones know what to do should your home catch fire.
There are five things that NFPA wants you and your family to do this week as part of National Fire Prevention Week. These are things to prepare you for a fire in your home, recognizing that in a modern house fire you may have as little as TWO MINUTES to escape to safety.
- Draw a map of your home by using our grid in English (PDF) or Spanish (PDF) with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.
- Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.
- Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
- Make sure the number of your home is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.
- Close doors behind you as you leave – this may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire.
- Once you get outside, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building.
House Fires: Dangerous Products
Research warns that many house fires are caused by appliances within the home catching fire, with the flames spreading fast to cause a deadly danger to those inside the dwelling. All sorts of appliances can start a deadly house fire, including space heaters, ovens, stoves, gas appliances, candles, and toys.
It is amazing the number of dangerous products sold in this country. It is only after these appliances have been distributed and sold to thousands (or millions), they are recalled because they are dangerous and cause fire. Claims and lawsuits are filed after profits are made and victims have died.
See, e.g., our discussions in: “Winter Accidents: Space Heaters,” and “Faulty Appliances Causing More and More Fires Per New Study by Consumer Reports: More Defective Products in the USA.”
House Fires: Faulty Construction or Failure to Repair or Maintain
The design of residential dwellings has changed over the years, and a part of National Fire Prevention Week includes a warning that newer construction means a higher risk of fire. However, any home or residence can catch fire if there has been a flaw in construction or if there has been a failure to repair or maintain the structure.
Heating is the number two cause of house fires according to the NFPA (only cooking and kitchen fires cause more fires in the home). From 2009-2013, heating equipment and space heaters caused 19% of home fire deaths.
Space heaters are the most common cause of heating equipment house fires. Space heaters are considered the cause of 84% of associated house fire deaths and 75% of serious fire injuries caused by home heating.
According to NFPA, the “leading factor” in home heating fires (30%) was “failure to clean, principally from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.”
According to NFPA research, in 2006-2010, there were 7,200 home fires each year caused by air conditioning units (the air conditioner, its fans, or related equipment). Heat pumps caused another 500 house fires each year. The fires were a result of failures within the AC system not being adequately repaired or maintained.
Most of these fire deaths were the result of air conditioner fires starting in the living room, family room, or den (38%) and wall assembly or concealed wall space (35%).
Accident Claims after a House Fire in Indiana or Illinois
When you (or a loved one) is hurt or killed in a house fire here in Indiana or Illinois, the cause of that fire must be investigated and determined. All too often, that deadly fire will have been the result of negligence and the fault of a third party.
Defective Product Claims
For deadly house fires that have been caused by a product, like a faulty appliance, there may be legal claims to assert against the maker, manufacturer, distributor, repair technician, maintenance company, and others legally responsible for the risks associated with that product or device.
These can be based upon laws requiring companies to recall their defective products when dangers are discovered, or upon product liability laws that make those who profited from the flawed product liable for the damage that it has caused.
Negligence of Landlords, Property Managers, or Condo Boards
For deadly house fires that have been caused because of a flaw in the design of the structure, or in the failure to repair or maintain the property, then there may be legal claims against those who failed in their legal duty for upkeep.
This can include a service who is entrusted with periodically inspecting and seasonally maintaining the heating unit or air conditioning system, as well as condo boards who are responsible for maintaining condominiums, and landlords or property managers who are responsible for the repair and maintenance of their rental properties.
Claims here can be based upon negligence, gross negligence, among other legal violations with victims seeking damages including wrongful death damages resulting from the deadly house fire.
House fires are a real danger to all of us here in Indiana and Illinois, and they are a serious threat during our cold winter months. Let’s be careful out there!