State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci reports a decrease in the number of fire deaths so far in 2014 compared to this period in 2013.  Forty-four Marylanders have lost their lives to fire compared to fifty-five this time last year.  This represents a 20% decrease in fire fatalities.

“Maryland’s fire service is cautiously optimistic with this year’s data, however, everyone must remain vigilant in their fire prevention efforts to continue this trend,” stated State Fire Marshal Geraci.  “An estimated 80% of all structure fires in Maryland occur in what most assume to be the safest place, our homes.”

The month of October experienced the loss of six lives resulting from fire related incidents.  Four adults lost their lives in Carroll, Calvert, and Washington Counties and Baltimore City.  Two young children died in a home fire in Allegany County where the cause for the fire remains under investigation.

To help survive a home fire, the State Fire Marshal recommends the following:

• Working smoke alarms should be located on every level of the home and in each sleeping area.

• Test smoke alarms monthly and replace the batteries at least once a year.

• Develop a home escape plan with a safe meeting place and practice the plan with all family members.  It is extremely important to, “Get Out, Stay Out” of a working fire, never return inside for anything. 

• Smoke alarms combined with a residential fire sprinkler system increase surviving a fire by over 97%.

A new Maryland law became effective on July 1, 2013 involving “battery only” smoke alarms used in residential properties.  When “battery only” smoke alarms have reached their 10-year life span, they need to be replaced with new long-life sealed lithium battery smoke alarms with silence/hush button features.  The silence/hush button feature temporarily disables the alarm so the occupant can ventilate the space from mild smoke conditions typically created during some cooking operations.  The use of these alarms eliminates the need to replace the batteries during the 10 year life of the alarm.  

Recent smoke alarm donation programs offered by Pepco and Delmarva power companies have provided several smoke alarms to the fire service to be installed in the communities they provide service.  On October 30th, Pepco donated 1,000 ten-year long life battery smoke alarms to the Prince Georges County Fire and EMS Department and 1,000 of the same life saving devices were provided to Montgomery County Fire Department.  On November 3rd, Delmarva Power donated 1,200 ten-year long life smoke alarms to the Office of the State Fire Marshal, which were then immediately shared with the fire service organizations providing services on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

If your property is protected with 120 volt electric smoke alarms, they should be replaced every 10 years with new 120 volt smoke alarms w/ battery back-up to ensure proper and timely operation in the event of a fire.

Local initiatives across Maryland now mandate the installation of residential fire sprinklers in every newly constructed single-family home.  Currently 12 Maryland counties, Baltimore City and numerous municipalities have adopted these requirements. Additionally, all townhomes built in Maryland since 1992 require residential fire sprinklers, and to date, no fire fatalities have occurred in any of these protected homes.