COMMENTARY: Concerns regarding local home fire safety

I would like to express some thoughts regarding the recent fire that took place on Sand Dune Drive, in Rehoboth Beach.

According to the National Fire Protection Association in 2016, 475,500 structure fires occurred in the United States resulting in 2,950 civilian deaths and causing 7.9 billion dollars in damage.

Regardless of these statistics the American public ignores the dangers and fail to take proper precautions to prevent these tragedies from occurring.

Part of this attitude is a result of what experts determine as “the American Paradigm”. This is primarily the belief that the incident will always happen to someone else. Secondly, the belief that fires are an unfortunate circumstance when they occur and cannot be prevented.

This is a dangerous way for our society to exist. First of all, there are victims every day that have had their lives devastated because the incident did not happen to someone else. Also, fire is not always an unfortunate circumstance that just happens, because they can likely be prevented or at least have the significance of the incident be reduced.

Again, according to the National Fire Protection Association, 12.4 Americans per 1 million of population die in fires every year. This ranks the U.S. in the middle of the pack of global countries regarding fire death rates. We are not a leader, by any means, as we would like to think of ourselves.

Improvements can be made by changing attitudes and therefore, changing behaviors.

It all starts with preparation. Having working smoke alarms is vital. Checking the some alarms and alarm system, together with practicing an effective escape plan will greatly reduce your chances of dying in a fire.

Also, the use of residential home sprinklers dramatically reduces the chances of a significant fire. Regardless of myths and misinformation being circulated by opponents of residential sprinklers they are an effective tool to reduce the loss of life and property damage.

The use of a residential sprinkler system together with effective smoke alarms reduce the chance of dying in a fire by as much as 90 percent according to the National Fire Protection Association.

All of these facts being considered I find it totally irresponsible that a fire of such magnitude, as the one of March 13, could take place in a residential structure with today’s resources available.

With the use of a residential sprinkler system it is likely the fire would have been contained to a small area. To think this would have prevented the loss of two homes and damage to others tells me personally this is not an unfortunate act of God but a preventable occurrence.

I have personal friends whose lives were at risk the morning of March 13. Why? Because of the belief that a tragedy would happen to someone else. Why? Because someone bought into the myths residential sprinklers are expensive, not necessary, cause damage and infringe upon our rights to make poor decisions or other misconceptions brought about by opponents of residential sprinkler installation.

I plead with my fellow citizens, be informed, take responsibility and help prevent incidents from occurring such as the one experienced in Rehoboth Beach on March 13.

Michael W. Lowe is the Delaware State Fire School senior instructor.

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