NASHVILLE (press release)—The State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) announces today that fewer accidental fire-related fatalities occurred in 2014 than in any year in recorded Tennessee history, based on a preliminary examination of all available historic fire records and data by SFMO specialists.
State fire records show that 72 accidental fire deaths occurred in Tennessee during 2014 which compares to 98 similar fire fatalities in 2013. The 2014 figure represents a 27 percent year-to-year decrease compared to 2013, and a 51 percent decrease compared to 2003’s 146 fire fatalities, which was the highest total for fire-related deaths in the previous 14-year sample period. Final fire fatality figures for 2014 are still pending.
“For too many years, Tennessee has had a tragic reputation as having one of the highest fire mortality death rates in the United States. We want to permanently reverse Tennessee’s reputation for fire fatalities,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “The department extends our sympathies to Tennesseans who lost loved ones in fires last year, and we urge Tennesseans to practice good fire safety habits throughout 2015.”
There can be fluctuations of fire fatalities every year, so experts measure progress over time by utilizing mortality rates of fire deaths. This method also takes into account population changes over time to measure the number of fire deaths proportional to a population. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported Tennessee’s 2006-2010 fire death rate to be 17.7 deaths per million which means for every 1 million people in Tennessee, 17.7 deaths occur annually. The 17.7 deaths per million rate gave Tennessee the nation’s 6th highest fire death rate. That has changed as new preliminary results show that the state’s fire death rate has decreased to 13.7 deaths per million, equaling a 25.6 percent reduction for 2011-2014 compared to 2006-2010. This is the single largest reduction of the state’s fire mortality rate in Tennessee’s recorded history. Because NFPA only releases rankings every 5 years, the next ranking will be in 2016.
No single factor has caused the decrease of the state’s fire mortality rate. Instead, SFMO experts believe a variety of larger factors such as an increased public awareness of fires, fewer structure fires in 2014, more smoke alarms and improved outreach and cooperation between the SFMO, local fire agencies and communities have all helped. The “Get Alarmed Tennessee” smoke alarm distribution program perfectly highlights the SFMO’s strategy toward reducing fire deaths.