In 2016, there were around 352,000 home fires that cost U.S. homeowners more than 2,700 lives and almost $6 billion in damages, according to a study on homeowner safety and preparedness by Porch.com.
A lot of the worst issues surrounding home fires, the report argues, are largely avoidable such as replacing the batteries in a smoke detector, having a fire extinguisher ready and easily accessible. But Porch wanted to know how many people don't just already know that and actually take such steps to protect their lives and properties.
When it comes to smoke detectors, not everyone practiced what is considered the most basic fire safety measure of refreshing batteries. A detector's batteries are supposed to be changed every year and the entire device should be replaced once every 10 years.
“While a vast majority of people were diligent enough to have replaced their batteries at least once within the last year,” the report stated, “we found younger generations may have missed the memo.”
Porch reported that 7 percent of baby boomers, 15 percent of Gen Xers, and a quarter of Millennials admitted to never having swapped out the batteries in their smoke alarms.
According to the survey, about 62 percent of Americans reported having a fire extinguisher at home and that they knew where it was. But 8 percent said they had one but had no idea where it was. Nearly a third of Americans reported having no fire extinguisher, which means about 40 percent would not have an extinguisher handy in the event of an emergency.
Even among those who do know where their fire extinguisher is, Porch found that fewer than half of Gen Xers and Millennials know how to actually use it. About two-thirds of Boomers said they're confident they could wield a fire extinguisher properly.
Yet despite the trend towards less preparedness the younger the respondent, Porch found that having children had a big effect on fire safety preparation.
“Compared to fewer than 59 percent of adults without kids, nearly 65 percent of people with children in their homes said they were equipped with a fire extinguisher and could find it when they needed it,” the report stated. “Perhaps even more importantly, people with kids were also more likely to feel confident in their ability to work their fire extinguishers (48 percent) than those who didn't have children (43 percent)—though we still found 28 percent of parents were less than convinced they'd know what to do if a situation called for it.”
Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers aside, Porch found most adults underprepared for emergencies. According to our survey, only 3 percent of people have every item recommended by Ready.gov in their emergency kits; a third have none of them.
“Most common across all generations was a flashlight and first-aid kit, though often it was older generations and parents who were the most prepared compared to younger people,” the report stated. “Millennials, who were the least likely to be equipped with portable power banks for electronic equipment, non-perishable food, or local maps, earned the lowest grade overall on the readiness of their kits.”