Best Practices to Prevent Home Fires

July 2003

The Problem

According to the CDC, the U.S. currently has the fourth highest overall fire death rate of all industrialized countries. In 2000, 85 percent of all U.S. civilian fire deaths occurred in homes. On average, a civilian died in a fire nearly every two hours, and someone was injured every 23 minutes

Residential fires disproportionately affect young children, older adults, African Americans, Native Americans, and the poorest Americans. When working and properly installed, smoke alarms decrease the chances of dying in a house fire by 40 to 50 percent. However, about one-quarter of U.S. households lack working smoke alarms. In a typical home fire, people have only about two minutes to get outside safely once the alarm sounds.

Alcohol impairment contributed to 40 percent of the residential fire deaths, and cigarettes caused about a fourth of fire deaths.

Prevention Strategies

    • Target smoke alarm installation programs to areas at high risk for residential fires, the elderly, and families with young children.
    • Develop fire safety education programs to include:
      1. installation and maintenance of smoke alarms,
      2. design and practice of a fire escape plan,
      3. safe use of heating devices,
      4. proper storage of flammable materials,
      5. storage of matches and lighters away from children, and
      6. proper treatment of burn injuries.
    • Support enforcement of residential fire safety codes.
    • Support enforcement efforts to deter use of illegal fireworks.
    • Promote fire safety curriculum in schools, youth organizations and senior education programs.


(Search these sites for information related to the prevention of Home Fires)

*There may be links on this site that are external to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The MDH is not responsible for the content of external sites, nor does it endorse or guarantee the services or information described or offered on external sites.

Fire Deaths and Injuries Fact Sheet, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Learn costs due to fires as well as prevention strategies.
Injury Control Resource Information Network: Access data, other resources, and information on education and training.
Injury and Violence Prevention Links: Access other sites that are related to injury and violence prevention.
NFPA (National Fire Protection Association): Utilize a number of resources including fire safety and injury prevention catalog materials for sale, public education tips and research articles.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Get information about the extent of the problem of a specific injury and prevention solutions.
National SAFE KIDS Campaign : Find information specifically related to the prevention of unintentional childhood injury.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: Link to free and reproducible consumer publications on a variety of injury-related topics, including some Spanish language materials.
U.S. Fire Administration: Access a variety of fire prevention materials at no charge.

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