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Is Your Home's Open Floor Plan Deadly?

2013-08-12 11:11:00

Article by Jennifer Nelson, Insure.com
Additional comments by Denise Magness, EVP, Personal Lines Manager, Warner and Company Insurance

Experts call it a fire crisis. New, open floor plans and larger square footage, lightweight residential construction methods and green building materials are making it harder and more dangerous for firefighters to safely extinguish house fires and for occupants to safely escape them.  

Firefighters see  more early collapses, rapidly spreading  fires, and more intense fires than they've seen in the past 30 years explains Peter Struble, practitioner in residence in the Fire Science Program at Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences at the University of New Haven and the fire chief in Wallingford, Conn.

One reenactment by Underwriters Laboratories built two homes and set a room full of legacy furniture from the '50s to '70s on fire along with a room with modern furniture. The legacy furniture reached flashover in 29.25 minutes; the room with modern furnishings took 3.25 minutes.  It's estimated that most homes built within the past 20 years contain these dangerous, lightweight materials.

The lightweight construction materials are more cost-effective and environmentally friendly, but they allow fires to spread much more rapidly.  This  reduces the time homeowners have to escape a fire -- and reduces the time firefighters have to safely extinguish it. 

What do you need to do? "For starters, be sure to have a family fire escape plan in place and talk about fire safety as a family.   Secondly, make sure you always have working smoke detectors in your home and plenty of them" says Denise Magness, Personal Lines Manager at Warner and Company Insurance.

"Hopefully,  those in the residential construction industry and consumers will pay more attention to fire safety when designing homes and when selecting construction materials to help keep our families and firefighters safer.    As far as insurance goes, we can probably  expect to see higher insurance premiums for new homes – and thus tomorrows older homes in the future" says Magness.