Hope Springs Eternal: The Strange Optimism People Have About House Fires

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A new American Red Cross survey shows that roughly two in five people think it’s more likely that they’ll win the lottery than lose their home in a fire. But the real odds are the opposite: the chance is greater of dying from exposure to fire or smoke (nearly one in 1,500), compared to winning the lottery (typically one in millions).

“Home fires are the nation’s most frequent disaster, tragically taking seven lives each day and injuring many more,” said American Red Cross President & CEO Gail McGovern. “Sadly, home fires can happen anywhere, and to any family, and can be caused by everyday activities like making a home-cooked meal. We are encouraging everyone to please test your smoke alarms monthly and practice your home fire escape plan together.”

96 PERCENT ENGAGED IN FIRE-RISK ACTIVITIES Almost all people surveyed said they’ve engaged in ordinary activities that are among the leading causes of home fires. For example:

  • More than 70 percent of people said they’ve left the kitchen while cooking on the stove.
  • Nearly three in five adults have walked away from their grill while cooking.
  • Nearly one-third of people left the room or fell asleep while burning candles.

To help prevent home fires, the Red Cross urges everyone to always supervise cooking equipment and candles, and follow additional safety tips at redcross.org/homefires.

1 IN 10 DIDN’T BUY SMOKE ALARMS DUE TO COST Working smoke alarms can cut the risk of dying in a home fire by half. But one in 10 adults reported not purchasing an alarm because of the expense. This represents nearly 33 million Americans—which is greater than the population of Texas.

What’s more, while most people surveyed (98 percent) said they believe smoke alarms can save lives, nearly half said they’ve disconnected an alarm or taken the batteries out when it went off.

“We want everyone to stay safe from home fires, and these survey results illustrate the critical importance of our Home Fire Campaign to install free smoke alarms and educate families,” McGovern said. “Already, the campaign has reached more than 1.7 million people and saved more than 550 lives. But our work is far from over, and we need your support to reach more families in need.”

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