Analysis of 40 years’ data concludes that the key to improving fire safety is implementation of codes and standards. In buildings where fire safety is strictly regulated, such as hospitals, schools and hotels, catastrophic fires are now rare. In apartment buildings, the rate of deaths per fire has fallen, whereas in less regulated 1-2 family homes it has increased. Smoke alarms are the biggest success story in home fire safety, driven by a combination of regulation and public education. Smoking-related fire risk has been reduced by standards for cigarette lighters and candles, whereas the impact of Reduced Ignition Propensity Cigarettes is unclear. Cooking however remains a leading cause of home fires, resulting in more fires and more fire deaths in recent years than in the 1980’s. Key challenges for the future identified are: the ageing population, increasing wildfires, fire risks of new technologies and the permanent challenge of ensuring implementation of fire safety codes and regulations.
“Fire Safety in the United States since 1980 through the lens of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem”, M. Ahrens & B. Messerschmidt, US NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) and Fire Protection Research Foundation, 63 pages, 2021 https://go.nfpa.org/l/14662/2021-05-24/8hkgts