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Why Homes Today Burn Faster, and are More Toxic Than Ever Before

It is a problem that has fire professionals concerned. Homes today burn 8 times faster than homes of just 50 years ago, and the implications are serious. Faster fires, and more toxic fumes means the fires are more dangerous than ever before, residents have less time than ever to escape safely, and emergency personnel have the same amount of time to reach the blaze. It all adds up to very serious problems.

Faster Flashover

Five decades ago, it took 17 minutes for homes to reach flashover. Flash over is the point at which the fire superheats the fumes in the air, structure and its contents to the point where it spontaneously combusts. The human body cannot survive the conditions of flashover. Today, flashover occurs in around 166 seconds.

More Smoke, More Toxins

Not only are homes burning faster, they are burning dirtier than ever. Today’s home fires are produce 200 times the amount of smoke and toxic fumes as home fires a generation ago. Since more fire related deaths occur due to smoke than as a result of flame, and those deaths occur sooner in the fire process.

Here’s Why.

There are several factors contributing to faster fires. One of the biggest problems is the materials with which our furnishings and other products are made. Furniture and clothing 50 years ago were made of natural materials and fibers versus the products of today which are made primarily of synthetics. Synthetic materials are hydrocarbons, or a solid form of gasoline. Natural materials burn from the outside in, while synthetics combust. Another problem is that homes are filled with more possessions than ever before, which equals more fuel.

The structures themselves also contribute to faster burning fires. Many homes have open floorplans which allow fires to spread unhindered and not compartmentalized by walls. Homes today also have a much tighter air envelope, allowing the home to fill with smoke and heat much more quickly.

Monitored Smoke and Fire Alarms and Other Solutions

Fires do not move in slow motion, but human reactions typically do. Once a fire ignites, a smoke detector typically detects smoke within 30 seconds. Once the alarm sounds, it takes time for our minds to take in the information. In nearly every case, the mind wants to decide whether the threat is real rather than assume the threat is real and react immediately. Going through this very normal process takes time; it also takes time away from getting out safely and summoning help.

One of the most important things you can do is have a monitored smoke and fire alarm system. Getting help as soon as possible is critical in today’s fast moving fires. Additionally, take other practical steps such as limiting the amount of possessions in the home and opting in to legacy furniture versus furniture made from synthetic materials.

Knight Security is Harrisburg’s premier security company, providing home and business security systems across Central PA. Call today to discuss your options in fire safety systems.

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Keith Maley

Knight Security Systems, Inc. is a local, family owned business based in Harrisburg, PA. We specialize in security, fire, camera's, access control systems and other low voltage products for your home or business. We have been in business since 1979.
Keith Maley
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