Alcohol and Fire

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Jeff Silvey
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Alcohol and Fire

Postby Jeff Silvey » Sat Feb 28, 2009 8:16 am

Focus on Fire Safety: Alcohol and Fire

Alcohol intoxication may increase the risk of starting a fire by impairing one's judgment and coordination. A smoker, under the influence of alcohol, is more susceptible to falling asleep and dropping a lit cigarette on upholstery or clothing. The effect of alcohol may cause a failure to notice the smell of smoke or hear a smoke alarm, and escaping from a fire can be hampered by the loss of motor coordination and mental clarity, even when warning signs are heeded.

Case Study: Contribution of Alcohol to Fire Fatalities in Ontario

*Over a 7-year period (1995-2001), 19% of fire fatalities were alcohol impaired.
*Fatalities increase from noon to midnight and then decline. Alcohol-related deaths begin climbing at 4 pm and peak at 5 am.
*Alcohol related fatalities are relatively constant throughout the year.
*Nearly 70% of all alcohol-related fire fatalities were between the ages of 25 and 54.

Case Study: Contribution of Alcohol to Fire Fatalities in Minnesota

*From 1996 to 2002, 36% of Minnesota’s fire fatalities had alcohol levels of 0.1 or higher.
*13% of children under age 15 died in fires during the 1995-2002 time period. None were alcohol impaired, but alcohol may have contributed to a number of these deaths by virtue of an alcohol-or drug-impaired caregiver.
*69% of the alcohol-impaired fire victims in Minnesota were aged 35-54.
*Although the elderly (75+) are at high risk from fire, only 8% of the elderly victims in Minnesota were alcohol impaired.
*The cause of 26% of fire deaths was smoking. Of these deaths, 62% were alcohol impaired. There is a strong connection between smokers, drinkers, and fire deaths.

Understanding the Risk

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol use and the resulting impairment may be the strongest independent factor for death from fire. One study found that intoxication contributed to an estimated 40% of deaths due to residential fires. By altering ones cognitive, physiological, and motor functions, alcohol increases the chance of starting a serious fire while at the same time reduces the chance of survival from a fire or burn injury.

Young children, older adults, and those who are dependent on a caregiver are most vulnerable to fire deaths and injuries due to their dependence on others. According to the American Medical Association, the presence of an adult with no physical or cognitive disability who was unimpaired by alcohol or other drugs reduced the risk of death in this group.

Men have been found to consistently outnumber women among fire casualties and do so with even greater disparity for fire victims under the influence of alcohol. In addition, the younger adult population (ages 15 – 24) seems to incur the greatest number of alcohol-impaired fire casualties. Drinking behaviors that are characteristic of each gender and various age groups may explain these findings.

Researchers have suggested that alcohol-related unintentional injuries have more to do with alcohol drinking patterns than the total amount of alcohol consumed per capita. Who drinks, where they drink, what they drink, and under what social, cultural and religious circumstances they drink are perhaps more significant factors than the amount of alcohol consumed. A lone drinker at home is probably at greater risk of a fire emergency than a group of people drinking in a bar or restaurant. Moreover, the number of drinks consumed in a single sitting seems to matter a great deal.

Alcohol and College Students

In cases where fire fatalities have occurred on college campuses, alcohol was a factor. There is a strong link between alcohol and fire deaths. In more than 40% of adult fire fatalities, victims were under the influence at the time of the fire. Alcohol abuse often impairs judgment and hampers evacuation efforts.

Tragic scenarios, too often repeated

Chapel Hill, North Carolina…in the 1996 fraternity fire that killed five students, four of them had blood alcohol levels of over 0.14. This fire broke out following a party the evening before, as had the fire in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania where three males were killed.

Amherst, Massachusetts…a fire the day following a party destroyed the fraternity. There were large numbers of empty beer cans. The smoke alarms had all been covered with bags so they would not activate during the party.

Minimize Your Risk

It is possible to minimize fire risk by increasing the awareness of those who drink and those who are surrounded by regular drinkers. Understand the dangers and don't become a fire statistic!
In my line of work

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Re: Alcohol and Fire

Postby Bigdog » Tue Mar 03, 2009 2:11 pm

Jeff - in case no one has said so - I really appreciate these articles you post on safety issues. They are very enlightening.
If you can't fix it with a hammer, you've got an electrical problem.

My wife says I don't listen to her. - - - - - - - - Or something like that!


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Jeff Silvey
Team Cub Mentor
Team Cub Mentor
Posts: 4216
Joined: Tue Jun 07, 2005 2:30 pm
Zip Code: 46055
Tractors Owned: -
1950 Demo,1956 w/ FH, 1959 w 59" mower,
Cub L-54 Blade,152 Plow
189 plow, LF 194 Plow, Woods 42" Mower,
Choremaster Garden tractors & Implements
Antique Gas engines
Circle of Safety: Y
Location: IN, McCordsville

Re: Alcohol and Fire

Postby Jeff Silvey » Tue Mar 03, 2009 3:39 pm

Thanks BD. Yes a lot of people on this forum have PM me expressing their feeling's to me about my articles they like them.
Dennis even PM to keep up the good work. That's one reson that I'm a safety committee at work because I care about my fellow brothers & sisters in the fire service. The committee just recommended to the Chief that we buy a certain set of gear. So we are buying 150 sets @ 1450.00/ set =217,500.00. It was alot more than that about 30,000.00.
Thats why I post fire safety or anyother safety on this forum because I care about the people on here.
In my line of work


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Re: Alcohol and Fire

Postby John(videodoc) » Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:51 pm

Here is some information that will make you think,
Only 25% of this nations alcoholics will die from "classical alcoholism" disorders. i.e.--Cirrhosis or alcoholism in general
More than 25% of all hospital admissions appear to be a result of unchecked alcoholism.
Alcoholics and drug addicts make up approximately 40% of the nations hospitalized census at any given time.
Currently in the United States there are 10-15 million alcoholics, another 10 million individuals are on the edge of alcoholism-of these, 3 million are teenagers. Over 60% of these people will never be diagnosed with alcoholism, but will continue to seek and receive treatment for the side affects of their addiction.
It's estimated that every year 100,000 people in the United States will crossover that line between problematic drinking/ using, into the realm of alcoholism.
Approximately 30% of this nations successful suicides were alcoholic, and 60% of the nations attempted suicides have serious problems with drugs and/or alcohol.
60% of our local county jail inmates are there due to alcohol related problems. This figure is on a steady rise.
Industry loses over $116.76 billion dollars annually due to absenteeism, errors, accidents, reduced, productivity and treating injuries sustained in the work place, due to alcoholism and drug addiction.
Nearly 20,000 people will be killed yearly due to alcohol related car crashes. Not to mention the thousands of others left maimed, paralyzed or injured. Approximately 65 out of every 100 people in the US will be involved with an alcohol-related car crash in their lifetime.
Annual alcohol related deaths seen in the Emergency Rooms across our nation exceed 250,000.
Those treated for alcoholism properly will over a period of 2-3 years, see reduced health care costs, thus paying for the cost of treatment in a relatively short period of time.
1 out of 4 Americans state that alcoholism and drug addiction has negatively impacted their lives.
Children of alcoholics have a 4 times greater chance of becoming an alcoholic. Those adult children of alcoholics who choose not to drink, have a 50% chance of marrying an alcoholic.
Genetic influence towards addiction has been documented in 40% of those alcoholics seeking treatment. Even if the mother is just a moderate drinker, this may cause hyperactivity, impulsiveness, learning disorders, or short attention span problems in their youth.
Fetal Alcohol syndrome is the third most common form of birth defects, It is however the only one that is preventable.
Over 40,000 newborns annually will suffer from Fetal Alcohol syndrome (FAS) or Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE).
Alcohol related car crashes are the #1 killer of people aged 15-24. This age group makes up over 20% of the licensed drivers in the US, however they represent 42% of the alcohol related car crash deaths.
Annually 600 people are killed in alcohol related boating accidents (approximately 65% of all boating accidents). Along with that, 60% of all drownings involve alcohol.
Alcoholics are 10 times more likely to die in a fire than a non-alcoholic.
Alcoholics are 5-13 times more likely to die in a fall, than a non-alcoholic. (This represents 40% of all falls)
Alcoholics are 6-15 times more likely to die as a result of a suicide than a non-alcoholic.
80% of all documented spousal abuse, and 38% of all child abuse involves alcohol.
54% of those convicted of violent crimes were drinking/ using before the committed offense.
Women will begin to show the physical side affects of alcoholism in shorter time than men. Along with that, women alcoholics have the highest rates of suicide.
74% of the alcoholic women report having been sexually abused at one time or another in their life.
Black women are 36 times more likely to develop physical complications from chemical use than Caucasian women. Native American women are 6 times more likely than Caucasian women to develop physical complications from their chemical use.
The earlier a person starts to drink in life, the greater the possibility of them becoming alcoholic. In 1975 the average age of first use of alcohol was 16, in 1995, the average age of first use of substances has dropped to 12 years old.

In the age group 16-24, well over 10,000 will die annually from the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction.

A typical alcoholic will get up to 50% of their daily caloric intake from alcohol, thus causing mal-nourishment.

Only 3-5% of the active alcoholic population, are the "gutter drunk-brown bagger." The majority of the alcoholics have jobs, families, and homes when their disease begins to demonstrate the physical and social/occupational impacts of addiction.

Depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicidal tendencies usually go hand in hand (80% of the time).

Typically, alcoholic spouses will develop a full range of UN-diagnosable psychosomatic illness/symptoms requiring medical attention.

Brain damage begins to occur while people are in the "Social Drinking/ using" lifestyle and progresses as their drinking/ using progresses. Alcohol also causes the brain to age at an accelerated rate.

Alcohol in any amount will increase a persons cholesterol, thus causing a greater risk of heart disease/attacks.

Alcohol use may cause obesity and will cause poor nutrition.

Alcohol causes blood pressure to rise. A moderate drinker (no more than 6-8 drinks per week) has a 3 times greater chance than a non-drinker to suffer a stroke.

Due to the sometimes unknown synergistic effects alcohol may cause some medications to become ineffective or enhanced effects, which can be dangerous. These medications would include anti-biotic, anti-coagulants, depressants, anti-depressants, and stimulants. Alcoholics typically take longer to recover from anesthesia.

Withdraw from alcohol is the most dangerous of all chemicals/substances. Properly trained medical professionals should monitor it. In the worst cases a person could die while going through withdrawal from alcohol.

One last thing for you to consider is, 1 in 36 people who need treatment, get treatment. 1 in 12 who get treatment, stay sober with no returns to use, 11 out 12 eventually return to use, and will either seek out treatment again, or die indirectly or directly due to use of chemicals.

Just some sobering information, pun intended. Not a political statement. :shock: :mrgreen:

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