According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost 60 percent of residential fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms. We know from previous research on community canvassing programs that home visits can help get smoke alarms installed in at-risk homes.
Nurses from the Nurse-Family Partnership of Maricopa County regularly visit the homes of low-income families to help them learn important child development and safety skills. In a recent study — Pilot Study of a Novel Partnership for Installing Smoke Alarms1 — the nurses informed parents of an opportunity to have smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms installed for free in their homes. They sent referrals to the Phoenix Fire Department (PFD) and then went with firefighters to the homes for the installation. The PFD installed the alarms and provided fire safety education.
Maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting programs exist in all 50 states and reach over 160,000 low-income families.
- Fifty-five percent of the homes did not have a working smoke alarm at the time of visit and 92 percent had no CO alarm. By end of the visits, every home had a working smoke alarm and a CO alarm.
- Family knowledge of fire and CO safety significantly improved from an initial baseline score.
- Canvassing programs typically experience low-rates of participation. Some programs report that only 30 percent of residents allow access. This type of partnership greatly eased access to homes.
- Three- to four-person teams were needed in order to interact with the families and simultaneously install the smoke alarms. The PFD relied mostly on cadets to staff the home visits. This eliminated overtime expenses and reduced costs.
- Some families were reluctant to admit firefighters into their homes because of fear of government officials or embarrassment at the poor condition of their homes. Nurses helped overcome this by reassuring families that the PFD was only interested in safety. The firefighters won trust by complimenting families on their homes and bringing small gifts for the children.
- Both fire department community canvassing and nursing/social worker home visiting programs already operate independently around the country. This model proposes partnering these existing programs to achieve better outcomes by leveraging existing organizational and human resources.
- Fire departments and home visiting programs can use the lessons learned from this study to successfully partner and organize their own community intervention.
Learn more about this research
For more about this study, read the research paper online.
1Omaki, E., Frattaroli, S., Shields, W., McDonald, E., Rizzutti, N., Appy, M., Voiles, D., Jamison, S., Gielen, A. (2018). Pilot Study of a Novel Partnership for Installing Smoke Alarms. Maternal and Child Health Journal: 07 February 2018, 1-8.
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: Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times