From The Mayor's Desk ...
As the father of two daughters, I know how much parents worry about the safety of their children. Sometimes it's all we can think about. Many of the terrible scenarios that flood our imaginations are things completely out of our control. But what if I told you that one of the greatest risks is something we can prevent?
It's true. Last week, we released the second annual assessment of children's fatalities in our city. It found that - after motor vehicle accidents - the second-leading cause of death, and the number one threat in our homes, is fire. From 2001 through 2006, 95 New Yorkers died in residential fires, and tragically, more than two-thirds of those deaths were children age 12 and under.
The deaths of every one of those 66 children produced untold pain and heartbreak - and tragically, more than three-quarters of them could easily have been prevented. About a quarter of these fires started from children playing with matches and lighters - often in their own bedrooms. And nearly half of the deaths resulted from careless adult behavior such as leaving burning candles unattended, overloading electrical outlets, or failing to extinguish cigarettes.
Our Administration has taken important steps to protect children from fire. Every City agency has been united in this mission. For instance, the Buildings Department works to ensure that all landlords comply with regulations requiring smoke detectors. The Health Department educates first-time mothers about the most common fire risks. And the Fire Department has roughly doubled its fire safety education efforts - which, in turn, has helped reduce overall fire fatalities in our city to an historic low.
But ultimately, the first line of defense begins with all of us - in our homes. That's why it's important to keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children, and to teach them that fire is not a toy. It's also critical to completely extinguish cigarettes before throwing them away - and never leave a lit candle unattended.
The most important safety tip is one we stress whether you have children or not - and that's to make sure you have a working smoke detector on every level of your home, especially near all sleeping areas. Our child fatality report found that working smoke detectors were present in only one-fourth of the homes where deadly fires happened.
Finally, if a fire does occur, get everyone out of the house as quickly as possible - and help contain the blaze and possibly save lives by closing the doors behind you. Then, use the nearest phone to call 911. Every family should develop and discuss a fire escape plan - and practice it. It only takes a few minutes, but it could make your home - and our city - significantly safer for our children, and for all New Yorkers.