Preventing the thousands of fire-related fatalities that occur each year is an important mission of fire departments across the U.S., yet there is no clear picture of how the fire services conduct prevention or what best practice is for these activities.
Through three related studies of fire prevention services, Center faculty have been able to bring the picture of fire prevention in U.S. fire departments into clearer focus. As a whole, this research will provide new knowledge about how injury control and public health professionals can work in partnership with fire departments to promote prevention.
Fire and Life Safety Education: The National Picture
In 2007, Center faculty conducted a national survey of U.S. fire departments to establish a benchmark of fire and life safety education (FLSE) activities, and to identify barriers and facilitators to prevention education efforts. A 35-item survey was completed by 1,523 fire departments.
National weighted estimates from the survey indicate that:
- 90% of fire departments conduct some type of FLSE, most frequently using uniformed personnel with multiple responsibilities (65%). Having staff assigned exclusively to FLSE activities is rare (14%).
- Elementary school presentations (86%) and fire safety week or month events (76%) were the most frequently reported types of FLSE activities.
- The focus of FLSE activities was most commonly reported as fire prevention (88 %), fire escape planning (78%) and smoke alarms (76%), while home sprinkler systems (8%) and public health emergencies (16%) were reported less frequently.
- 68% of fire departments distribute or install injury prevention products, most commonly conventional smoke alarms (51%). Fire escape ladders (3%) and bicycle helmets (10%) are less commonly distributed or installed.
- 50% of fire departments evaluate their FLSE activities most commonly by informal feedback, debriefing or tracking participation at events.
- Most respondents were either very satisfied (28%) or satisfied (39%) with their department's FLSE activities; 14% reported being very dissatisfied.
- 58% of fire departments conduct some type of advocacy at the local, state or national level.
A full report, "Fire and Life Safety Education in U.S. Fire Departments: Results of a National Survey" was prepared by the Center.
These and other results are being shared with fire service representatives through conferences and reports available on the Center's website and at the Home Safety Council.
For more information contact Andrea Gielen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fire Prevention Services: An In-Depth Investigation
To create an in-depth understanding of fire prevention activities and to identify elements of effective programs, Center faculty conducted two case studies of statewide fire prevention activities. In Delaware, sixteen members of the fire service from around the state were interviewed, documents about fire prevention efforts were reviewed, and existing fire data was analyzed. From this information, Center faculty identified three model characteristics of fire prevention in the state:
- Strategic: Initiatives are carefully considered, building on important partnerships and existing opportunities.
- Comprehensive: Initiatives are inclusive of diverse populations, multiple risk factors and a range of potential solutions.
- Coordinated: Partnerships are formed to maximize resources and impact.
In Pennsylvania, similar work has just begun. Interviews will be conducted with 18 members of the fire service, and documents related to fire prevention efforts will be reviewed. Based on the first few conversations, it is already apparent that Delaware and Pennsylvania are very different with respect to fire prevention practices. Such contrasts may highlight important differences in effective fire prevention programs and services that can have implications for other states throughout the country.
Communicating Fire Safety Information to Children
To understand how best to communicate fire safety information to young children, the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy collaborated with the National Fire Protection Association to determine whether positive or negative messages are more effective, and also to explore the role of parents in reinforcing the messaging. More than six hundred kids ages 4-9 were enrolled in the study and watched videos of different sets of cartoons; children who viewed the "positive" cartoons, where characters took the correct action in various fire situations, were better at retaining the key safety messages than children who viewed "negative" cartoons where characters took the wrong action. This finding has important implications, as many health education and safety education campaigns focus on showing or telling kids what not to do. The second key finding from this study is that parents play a critical role in reinforcing what kids learn. Following the video, some parents were asked to talk with their children about fire/burn-safety techniques; some were asked to base their conversations on safety information contained in a handout, while others were simply asked to initiate a general discussion with their children. Correct understanding of the safety messages doubled among children whose parents received a handout on how to talk to their children.
A final report of the study, including more information on the methodology and findings, can also be accessed. The two organizations also developed a companion guide, “Evaluating and Creating Fire and Life Safety Materials: A Guide for the Fire Service”. The Guide provides easy to use information on designing and evaluating a variety of educational methods, materials and programs for children and families.
For more information, contact Shannon Frattaroli at email@example.com.