How the science of injury prevention contributes to advancing home fire safety in the USA: successes and opportunities

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Abstract

Background

In the decades since the landmark report-America Burning-was published in 1973, the number of home fire deaths has shrunk from >5500 per year to 2650 in 2015. This paper: (1) describes how science and practice in injury prevention and fire and life safety contributed to successful interventions, and (2) identifies emerging strategies and future opportunities to prevent home fire-related deaths.

Methods

The aims are addressed through the lens of population health research, with a focus on the work of selected Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded Injury Control Research Centers. Results are organised using the Haddon Matrix and an ecological model.

Results

We found evidence to support interventions that address all components of both the matrix and the model, including: reduced ignition propensity cigarettes, stop smoking campaigns, housing codes, residential sprinkler systems, smoke alarms, community risk reduction, school-based educational programmes, and fire and burn response systems. Future reductions are likely to come from enhancing residential sprinkler and smoke alarm technology, and increasing their utilisation; expanding the use of community risk reduction methods; and implementing new technological solutions. Despite the successes, substantial disparities in home fire death rates remain, reflecting underlying social determinants of health.

Conclusion

Most of the evidence-supported interventions were focused on changing the policy and community environments to prevent home fires and reduce injury when a fire occurs. Future prevention efforts should give high priority to addressing the continued disparities in home fire deaths.

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