Experts advocate for home safety during Fire Prevention Week |

Experts advocate for home safety during Fire Prevention Week

According to the National Fire Protection Association, deaths due to home fires experienced a spike in 2021. One reason for home fire deaths rising in recent years is the way new homes are constructed.
The National Fire Protection Association/Courtesy Photo

During Fire Prevention Week, the American Red Cross of Colorado and Wyoming and the National Fire Protection Association urge everyone to practice their two-minute home fire escape plan and test their smoke alarms to stay safe from the nation’s most frequent disaster.

Two minutes is the amount of time that people have to safely escape a home fire before it’s too late, according to fire experts. These crises account for most of the more than 60,000 disasters that the Red Cross responds to each year across the U.S.

Since October 2014, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, working in tandem with community partners, has saved at least 1,393 lives — including eight in Colorado and Wyoming — by educating families about fire safety, helping them create escape plans and installing free smoke alarms in high-risk areas.

According to the National Fire Protection Association’s data, people are at greatest risk from fires in a home, with 75% of all U.S. fire deaths occurring in homes.

“While we’ve made great strides in reducing the public’s risk to fire on many fronts, the latest number of home fire deaths reinforces that today’s home fires present real challenges,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of the Outreach and Advocacy division at the National Fire Protection Association. “Educating the public about the increased speed at which today’s home fires grow, along with the importance of knowing how to escape quickly and safely, is critical to reducing that risk.”

Where people used to have more than 10 minutes to escape a typical home fire from the time the smoke alarm sounds, today they may have as little as two minutes.

Multiple factors contribute to this much smaller window of escape time, including the way newer homes tend to be constructed and the fact that modern home furnishings are often made with synthetic materials that burn faster and generate toxic smoke, which makes it extremely difficult to see and breathe.

“To many, the concepts of home escape planning and practice may sound so simple that their value is underestimated, but the reality is that these advance preparations can truly mean the difference between life and death in a home fire — now more than ever,” said Carli. “Ask anyone who’s experienced a home fire and they will tell you how dark, scary and disorienting a home fire can become within moments. Having a practiced plan with all members of the household builds the muscle memory needed to get out as quickly and safely as possible.”

The latest Fire Loss in the U.S. report by the National Fire Protection Association shows that home fire deaths hit a record high in 2021, the most reported since 2007. According to the report, people are more likely to die in a home fire today than in 1980. These statistics underscore a concerning trend: While the number of U.S. home fires has continued to decline over time, the home fire death rate has experienced regular spikes.

Emergency home fires are 23% more frequent during cold months than warmer times of year, as residents use wood-burning stoves, space heaters and other potentially flammable means to heat their houses. 

A house fire in the Winter Park Highlands area consuming most of a home and an attached garage in 2016.
Courtesy photo / Schelly Olson

“As the threat of home fires increases with colder temperatures, Fire Prevention Week serves as an important reminder to prepare now,” said Gino Grecko, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross of Colorado and Wyoming. “Practice your two-minute home fire escape drill and test your smoke alarms monthly to help keep your family safe.”

How to practice a two-minute drill 

Practice your plan with everyone in your household; also teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like and what to do in an emergency. Visit for more information, including a printable escape plan and safety tips for cooking and home heating — the leading causes of home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The association is sponsoring Fire Prevention Week with the theme, “Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape.”

Home fire safety tips
  • Include at least two ways to exit every room in your home in your escape plan.
  • Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet.
  • Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Test alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year, if your model requires it. If residents cannot afford to purchase smoke alarms or are physically unable to install one, the Red Cross can help. Visit for assistance.
  • Check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they likely need to be replaced because components such batteries can become less reliable. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions.
  • Tailor your escape plan to everyone’s needs in your household. If you or a loved one is deaf or hard of hearing, install a strobe light and bed-shaker alarms to help alert you to a fire. Visit for more information.

The National Fire Protection Association has also included a list of Halloween safety tips for the upcoming season:

  • Use glow sticks or battery-operated candles for jack-o’-lanterns and other Halloween decorations.
  • When choosing costumes, stay away from long trailing fabric.
  • Provide children with flashlights to carry for lighting or glow sticks as part of their costume.
  • Teach children to stay away from open flames, including jack-o’-lanterns with candles in them.
  • Keep Halloween decorations away from open flames and other heat sources, such as light bulbs and heaters.
  • Remember to keep exits clear of decorations so nothing blocks escape routes. Make sure all smoke alarms are working.

Fire Prevention Week, lasting from Oct. 9-15, is the longest-running U.S. public health observance on record. This year is the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week. To learn more about this year’s campaign, visit:

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

The Sky-Hi News strives to deliver powerful stories that spark emotion and focus on the place we live.

Over the past year, contributions from readers like you helped to fund some of our most important reporting, including coverage of the East Troublesome Fire.

If you value local journalism, consider making a contribution to our newsroom in support of the work we do.