Smoke detectors really save lives

This is the time of the year when home safety experts warn us the danger of fire goes up. Colder weather means heating equipment shut off for months is put back in service. The Christmas season means some of us go all-out in decorating, sometimes overloading circuits and wires with hundreds, even thousands of decorative lights. Natural Christmas trees, if they get dried out, can be fuel for a house fire.

What if, despite all our precautions, fire breaks out in our homes? Will we and our loved ones be able to get out safely?

Our chances of escaping a fire are increased exponentially if we are alerted to it quickly. Hundreds of people die of smoke inhalation or because they are trapped by flames.

Smoke, heat and carbon dioxide/carbon monoxide detectors can give us the head start we need to survive fires in our homes. Statistics from the State Fire Marshal’s Office in the Minnesota Department of Public Safety make detectors’ value brutally clear.

Sixty-eight people died in fires in Minnesota in 2017. Fifty-seven of those deaths occured in dwellings. The deadliest month was December, when fires claimed 11 lives.

Statistics on whether working smoke detectors were present in homes struck by fires are collected by the agency. Its numbers show that in 23 percent of the residential casualties, smoke alarms were absent or non-operating. In 38 percent of the deaths it was not known if smoke alarms were present or operating. Seventeen deaths, or 25 percent, occured where there were smoke alarms in operation. In some cases alcohol was involved, or the fire spread too quickly to get out, or the victims had medical or mobility issues.

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms can give you a chance to escape a fire or the danger of asphyxiation from CO. Get one or more. Ensure they are in good operating condition. It could save your life.