Enhancing Fire Department Home Visiting Programs: Results of a Community Intervention Trial

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Abstract

This study evaluates the impact of an enhanced fire department home visiting program on community participation and installation of smoke alarms, and describes the rate of fire and burn hazards observed in homes. Communities were randomly assigned to receive either a standard or enhanced home visiting program. Before implementing the program, 603 household surveys were completed to determine comparability between the communities. During a 1-year intervention period, 171 home visits took place with 8080 homes. At baseline, 60% of homes did not have working smoke alarms on every level, 44% had unsafe water temperatures, and 72% did not have carbon monoxide alarms. Residents in the enhanced community relative to those in the standard community were significantly more likely to let the fire fighters into their homes (75 vs 62%). Among entered homes, those in the enhanced community were significantly more likely to agree to have smoke alarms installed (95 vs 92%), to be left with a working smoke alarm on every level of the home (84 vs 78%), and to have more smoke alarms installed per home visited (1.89 vs 1.74). The high baseline rates of home hazards suggest that fire department home visiting programs should take an “all hazards” approach. Community health workers and community partnerships can be effective in promoting fire departments’ fire and life safety goals. Public health academic centers should partner with the fire service to help generate evidence on program effectiveness that can inform decision making about resource allocation for prevention.

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