Americans are most concerned about home fires, yet 3 in 5 don’t own a fire extinguisher

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The Zebra

The nation's leading independent insurance comparison site

The Zebra is an independent insurance advisor and quote comparison site with headquarters in Austin, Texas. Utilizing its real-time quote comparison …

A home is supposed to be a place of security and comfort, yet an unexpected emergency can change everything in an instant. Home incidents such as fires, natural disasters, break-ins and gas leaks can cause death and harm, as well as post-trauma and emotional distress—and that’s before you factor in the costs of an emergency home repair.

So what is a homeowner’s worst nightmare? We ran a survey to see which home emergencies are the most worrisome to Americans. Our findings revealed that:

  • 35% of Americans agree that a home fire is the largest home emergency concern
  • Only 43% of Americans own a fire extinguisher, and only 59% have a smoke detector
  • 1 in 3 Americans don’t have any popular safety features in their homes

While 80% of households have homeowners or renters insurance policies to help cover the costs of a home emergency, many home insurance policies will not cover damage if appropriate home safety features aren’t installed or working properly. Read on to discover how popular safety features can prevent a homeowner’s worst fears from coming true.

Fire is the home emergency that concerns most Americans, especially in the Western U.S.

Of the home emergencies listed below our survey found that 35% of Americans agree that home fires are the most concerning, followed by natural disasters and home invasions. 

An estimated 358,500 home fires occur every year in the U.S.; in 2018, fire departments responded to a fire every 24 seconds. In 2017, fire deaths were most likely to occur in West Virginia, Alaska, and Arkansas.

Worries were location-dependent: Those surveyed who lived in the Western U.S. were most concerned with home fires. Below, we break the data down further to show regional home emergency fears.


Despite fire concerns, only 2 in 5 Americans own a fire extinguisher

Many home insurance policies require the installation of home safety features, yet our survey found that three in five homes weren’t outfitted with the proper fire prevention tools. 

Only 43% of those surveyed owned fire extinguishers, which can smother small fires in a home before they spread. Further, only 59% had smoke detectors installed. An additional study by The Zebra revealed that most households with smoke detectors aren’t testing them regularly.

Most home fires start in the kitchen; kitchen fires involving grease are the hardest to contain

The kitchen is the likeliest place for a home fire to occur; in fact, 50% of all residential fires begin in the kitchen. This is especially dangerous as only 56% of home fires remain confined to their object of origin. 

Because the greatest fire risk is in the kitchen, keep a fire extinguisher within 30 feet of your stove. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the fire extinguisher is and test it regularly to make sure it’s working.

Many homeowners insurance policies require a smoke detector on every floor of the home. Fire sprinklers can also be a life-saving feature for your home: They can reduce the risk of death in a house fire by as much as 80%.

Protect yourself, your family and your property in the event of an emergency by installing recommended safety features and testing them regularly. You should also update your homeowners insurance policy quarterly to make sure all of your items and assets are covered.


This study was conducted for The Zebra using Google Surveys. The sample consisted of no fewer than 1,500 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. This survey was conducted in May 2020.


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