While reviewing fire fatality data, the MFIS Foundation began noticing a high number of disabled community members being impacted by fire. Since 2017, nearly 20% of fatal home fires impacted disabled members of the community. This accounted for 18% of the total fatalities in the same time period. Unfortunately these fires are occurring throughout all hours of the day and the victims are found in the same location where the fire started 52% of the time. These locations included the living room and bedroom. Making the problem difficult is that most fires involving the disabled community are hidden in the community occurring in single family homes valued below Michigan’s median of $150,000.
The numbers one known cause for fires impacting disabled community members is smoking. This accounted for 55% of the causes since 2018. The most common rooms of origin included living rooms accounting for 47% of fires and bedrooms accounting for 33% of the fires. Making matters much worse, only 37% of fires that impacted disabled community members were reported as having working smoke alarms when the fire department arrived on the scene.
On a state where one in five people are listed as disabled, it is no surprise that these community members are impacted by fire. Disability groups include ambulatory, cognitive, hearing, and vision. In a sample of 80 homes with disabled occupants, it was determined that 43% of occupants did not have a plan in place to escape in the event a fire occurs. It is imperative that disabled community members have a plan and working smoke alarms as they may require additional time to safety escape. The sample study found 80% of the homes visited had less than 2 working smoke alarms while 44% were lacking a single working alarm. In addition, 32% of disabled occupants admitted to smoking inside the home.