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Center for Injury Research and Policy

Home Safety

Your home is a refuge from the outside world, but too often the home is also a place where injuries occur.

Baby boy standing and holding baby safety gateAccording to the CDC, injuries in and around the home affect individuals across the lifespan, with those at either end of the age spectrum at elevated-risks for falls, burns, scalds, poisonings, choking, drowning, lacerations, etc. Childhood unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 19 years, representing nearly 40 percent of all deaths in this age group. From suffocation and burns to medication poisoning and falls, many of these injuries occur in the home. Adults age 80 and older have the highest death rates compared to other age groups by an enormous margin (65.3/100,000). According to the CDC, more than 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries alone each year.

Work is focusing on infant sleep-related deaths from SIDS and asphyxiation and strangulation in bed, falls in young children and older adults, house fires, scald burns and medication poisoning.

Success Story

Fall Prevention in Children

Falls account for almost 2.8 million injured children each year, according to the CDC. Fortunately, falls can be prevented. Stair gates prevent young children from falls on and around stairs in the home. However, gates cost $10–50 at regular retail stores which may be out of reach for low-income families.

In 2016, thanks to an award from the Injury Free Coalition for Kids and the Toys “R” Us Pacesetter’s program, our Children’s Safety Center at the Johns Hopkins Harriet Lane Clinic distributed stair gates free of charge to families in need.

Learn More about our Safety Center Models for Baltimore and Beyond

Our Work in Action

The CAPABLE Program

Dr. Sarah Szanton and colleagues developed the Community Aging in Place—Advancing Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE), a client-centered home-based intervention to increase mobility, functionality, and capacity to “age in place” for low-income older adults. CAPABLE is comprised of an occupational therapist intervention (R01 AG13687, Gitlin, PI), a client-centered nurse intervention, home safety, and access handyman services. Each service synergistically builds on the others by increasing the participants’ bio-psycho-functional capacity to function at home. This is theorized to avert costly health utilization by increasing medication management, problem-solving ability, strength, balance, nutrition, and home safety, while decreasing isolation, depression, and fall risk.  READ MORE HERE

Caregiver helping senior woman down stairs in home settingHelping Families Stay Safe

Since 1997, our safety centers have served as a model for addressing the problem of pediatric injury by educating more than 35,000 parents and caregivers of babies and children in Baltimore. The CDC recognizes the Center safety center model as a public health success story.

Two safety centers are available to parents and caregivers in Baltimore City: the Children’s Safety Center and the Mobile Safety Center. The Children’s Safety Center is a partnership between the Center and the Johns Hopkins Department of Pediatrics. This safety center is located in the Harriet Lane Clinic and is for the exclusive use of Harriet Lane Clinic patients and families and those participating in research projects. The Children’s Safety Center offers services ranging from infant safe sleep to fall prevention for toddlers to bicycle helmet fittings for older children. Safety products are available at below-retail prices and safety services are free.

The Mobile Safety Center in Baltimore, Maryland imageThe Mobile Safety Center (formerly the "CARES Mobile Safety Center") was developed through a partnership between the Center, the Baltimore City Fire Department and other community partners.  This safety center is a vehicle outfitted with interactive educational exhibits on home safety that is available for neighborhood and community events in Baltimore City.  Staff onboard teach Baltimore City residents about injury prevention for children, older adults and other caregivers.  The Mobile Safety Center is now run exclusively by the Baltimore City Fire Department.

Supporting Fire Safety

Delaware Volunteer Fire Association 
As a society, we invest vast resources every year to prevent fires and the tragic deaths and severe injuries they cause. What’s the return on this investment? FEMA and the CDC wanted to answer that question, so they partnered with the Center and the state of Delaware. 

Being so close to Maryland, I knew Johns Hopkins was a great hospital, but I never knew they had the same caliber of researchers until we started to work with the team from the Injury Center.

- Steve Austin, past-president of the Delaware Volunteer Fire Association (DVFA)

The Center’s evaluation of Delaware’s fire safety services involved interviews, program review and surveillance data to describe the state’s fire trends and prevention activities. Study results and recommendations for the state’s prevention program were presented to the DVFA and other fire service leaders throughout the state.

Baltimore City Smoke Alarms
In partnership with the Baltimore City Fire Department, the Environmental Justice Partnership, the Urban Health Institute and the Baltimore Mayor’s Office, the Center found new ways to enhance the Fire Department’s existing smoke alarm canvassing program. Using community-based participatory research approaches, Center faculty joined with local organizations and agencies, community health workers, and the CARES Safety Center (now called the Mobile Safety Center) team to install thousands of free smoke alarms in Baltimore City homes. For more information, see the brochure “Partnering for Prevention: A Community-Academic Response to Home Fire Risks in Baltimore (2013)". This research project has concluded, but the Fire Department still provides life-saving smoke alarms free of charge to Baltimore City residents. Learn how to request free smoke alarms.