Monday, October 31, 2016

Modern houses burn faster!

Since 1977 number of home fires has gone down by nearly 50%, but amount of total damage has gone up about seven folds.

One can say inflation, bigger homes, higher valuations and homes being built closer together are to blame, but there is actually something else going on.  Shockingly newer/modern houses burn about 8 times faster compared to an older home!

Flashover-intense heat that causes the entire room to be engulfed in flames now occurs less than five minutes after the fire starts, but it used to take about 30 minutes.  Fast fires give less time to respond and contain the fire.  Here is why modern homes burn faster:

  1. Building materials- 2x4 are no longer actually 2x4.  These days 2x4 actually measure 1.5x3.5.  Less material to burn means faster collapse time.  Instead of natural wood we now use particle boards and other man made materials.  Not only that these modern materials are less dense and but they also contain petroleum, so naturally they will burn up quickly.
  2. Open layouts- less compartmentalization will allow fire to spread more quickly.
  3. Synthetic furnishings-Almost everything in our homes (carpets, drapes, cushions, pillows, mattresses) now is made of synthetic materials.  Synthetic materials burn up quicker than traditionally used materials, things we used in the past.
  4. Window construction- what fuels fire is oxygen and much of it will come through windows.  New windows, on average, burn three times faster than old windows.  Average fail time for newer windows is about 4 mins 30 secs.  Average fail time for older windows is little over 16 mins.

What can you do with this information?  Obviously you want a sounds structure, safe home, but you also want to be able to afford it, that’s why we have non-traditional building materials- to build easier, faster, cheaper.  But if you care and can afford, building with metal, concrete, brick, and solid wood, will keep your home and family safer.  Choosing a fire-resistant window is extremely important; steel framing and tempered glass is the best choice when thinking about fire safety.

August issue of National Underwriter had an article written by Sheila E Courtney, Director of Risk Management at PURE.  This blog post is a summary of Sheila's thorough article.

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