By now, I’m sure you have heard of the tragic fire that occurred on Christmas Day 2011 in Stamford, Connecticut claiming the lives of two adults and three small children.   A fireplace ember is what is said to have started the blaze and everyone knows that accidents can happen.  I am haunted however by a quote I read in the LA Times

“Although a modern safety and fire-detecting system was being installed, officials said, there was no evidence that it was in use. The fire trapped the children and their grandparents on the upper floors.”

This is a tragedy that occurs all too often.   According to a NFPA 2008 telephone study, ninety-six percent of all homes have at least one smoke alarm.  That is a significant number, yet we still have so many tragedies.  Why?

Well, as it turns out, this tragedy is like so many others.  Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms

Do you have smoke detectors in your home?  Are they functioning properly?  Do they have an alternate power source in case you lose power?  Have you changed the batteries recently?  Are they interconnected so that they all sound together? 

Answering yes to all these questions is certainly a step in the right direction, but is it enough?  

It is a fact that working smoke alarms save lives.  They provide the early warning necessary that is often the difference between life and death.  However, smoke detectors do nothing to prevent fires.  Only a proactive step by you can do that.  Make sure that you are doing everything you can to protect your family, your home and yourself from fire hazards.    

Did you know that according to the US Fire Administration in 2010 statistically there was a residential fire every 87 seconds in the United States?  Excluding cooking fires, almost one-third of all these fires were electrical in nature!  Basic safety measures like having smoke detectors can greatly reduce your risk of death from a devastating home fire.  But what about the fire hazards that lurk behind your walls?  Over 80% of residential electrical fires occur because of wiring that is behind your walls, the things you can’t see! 

Do you use extension cords for permanent wiring?  Do you have a circuit breaker that keeps tripping?  Do your lights sometimes dim unexpectedly?  This is not normal!  How can you tell if these annoying electrical problems are a fire hazard?  Only a trained technician, using sophisticated tools intended to detect heat and loose connections behind the walls, can assess whether or not your electric system is functioning safely.  Just because you plug it in and it works doesn’t mean it is safe.  We often take electricity for granted and are not alerted to a problem until it is too late.  Do not make this mistake with your family or your home.  

Stephen Bender is President of Bana Electric Corp., providing CurrentSAFE ( , servicing the greater New York and Connecticut area.  Stephen holds an Electrical Engineering degree from RPI and has been a Master Electrician for over 18 years. 

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