Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Part of performing insurance inspections involves asking homeowners some pretty basic questions. Among these questions are: 1) do you have any smoke detectors, 2) do you have any carbon monoxide detectors, and 3) do you have any fire extinguishers?

85% of all interviews result in a “yes” to #1. Carbon monoxide detectors lag a bit, but my memory puts them at 50-60%.

Fire extinguishers, on the other hand, appear to be more of a generational thing. When the age of the insured is 60+, then I would put the percentage of those having extinguishers at 60%. And not just one extinguisher—if a 60+ insured has one, then he or she often comes out and indicates (without prompting) that there's an extinguisher in the kitchen, basement, attic, and garage.

As an aside—care to guess which group makes up a lot of the 15% who don't have smoke detectors?

As for younger insureds, stating that 25% having a single fire extinguisher would be a generous estimation, but generosity is acceptable to this story. The point is that a gap exists, and it appears to be age-related.

What to make of this gap? An oversimplification is that younger people seem to be more inclined to dial 911, GTFO, and let the authorities deal with a problem. Older folks prefer to have the ability to take action before following the same pattern, even if such an ability is more of an illusion. While one can't put out every fire with a fire extinguisher, I've yet to hear of anyone who can successfully fight a fire with a cell phone. When seconds count and the fire station is minutes away—or when a fire is still small enough to spare a house—at least having the option would seem prudent.