SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — LaTasha and Mac Griffin, who live in Sacramento County, want to keep their children safe at all times. That includes preparing for the unexpected - like the possibility of a home fire.
The Griffins' have smoke alarms in almost every room in their home. There's also a carbon monoxide alarm and fire extinguishers throughout the house.
The Griffins say they talk to their children regularly about what to do if a fire happens at home. Now, they're also making plans to begin home fire drills for their kids.
"If a home fire happens, we always tell them to leave the dogs," said LaTasha Griffins. "We tell them that the dogs will come and find us, just get out the house, get to a neighbor's home and try to call for help. Any chance that I can prevent any death, accidental fire, or anything like that, I will take whatever measure needed."
According to the National Fire Protection Association, home fires happen somewhere in the U.S. every 93 seconds. December, January, February and March are peak months for home fire deaths.
Heating equipment is the leading cause of home fires during winter months. Fire officials say heat sources, like fireplaces, space heaters or candles, should be at least 3 feet away from anything flammable.
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are about 360,000 home fires every year, leading to roughly 2,400 deaths. It's also estimated there are nearly 10,400 injuries per year.
Even though a home fire can happen anywhere and any time, Black people are most at-risk.
CPSC released a report last year, showing, across all races, Black people have the highest rate of fire deaths and injuries — nearly twice the overall death rate and more than twice the overall injury rate.
The data, collected between 2016 and 2018, in the CPSC's Residential Fire Loss Estimates report also shows that although African Americans represent 13% of the population, they represent an estimated 24% of the home fire deaths and 27% of the home fire injuries.
"In light of this data, we must do better collectively, at state and local levels, to inform the public — African Americans in particular — about lifesaving, fire safety messaging," said Bob Adler, Acting CPSC Chairman in a press release.
"One way to do this is to encourage local community leadership to implement outreach strategies that both communicate and encourage proactively these fire safety guidelines at home," Adler added.
Rashid Sidqe is a community leader and advocate in Sacramento. He's also the founder of Lift Up Love Always, a non-profit organization on a mission to "focus on restorative justice, police reform and reducing recidivism in underserved communities by increasing employment and training opportunities with researched driven data."
Sidqe says dispartities exist in home fires, in part, due to structural racism in the U.S. housing system, like historic redlining and lack of investment in marginalized communities.
He also blames the lack of diversity in fire departments, considering Black people make up only 8% of firefighters in the U.S.
"The problem is also due to the conditions some of our Black people are living in," said Sidqe. "The slum lords, that do not take care of these properties, are not being held accountable. When it comes to managing the properties, they do not have smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms or up to date fire codes."
Firefighters with the Sacramento Fire Department responded to at least 850 home fires so far this year. At least six were deadly.
The Sacramento Fire Department is reminding everyone about the importance of home fire prevention and safety. That includes installing and testing smoke alarms monthly.
"It's rare that we see a fire fatality when there's a working smoke detector in the house," said Captain Keith Wade, spokesperson for the Sacramento Fire Department. "Smoke detectors save lives. We need to do better as a fire department, not only here but across the nation, in messaging these communities and letting them know, there's ways to stay safe."
CPSC, along with fire officials, urge everyone to plan and practice fire safety tips to have a fighting chance at avoiding injury and death when faced with a an emergency. That includes:
- Create an escape plan. Make sure there are two ways out of each room, as well as a path to the outside from each exit.
- Make sure everyone in the home knows the plan and practices the plan.
- Pick a family meeting place outside.
- Once outside, stay outside.
- Call 911.
- Ensure that working smoke alarms are inside and outside of every sleeping area and on every level of the home.
- Make sure there are working CO alarms on every level of the home.
- Test all smoke and CO alarms monthly.
- Have working fire sprinklers.