Using Data to Bolster Fire Prevention & Safety in Your City

Community Risk Reduction is defined as “Programs, actions, and services used by a community, which prevent or mitigate the loss of life, property, and resources associated with life safety, fire, and other disasters within a community.”

More and more, local fire departments are partnering with community groups to disseminate crucial fire safety information into the hands of residents.

For example, according to a white paper published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the Tennessee Fire Marshall’s office joined forces with local, state, and national groups and organizations to form the Get Alarmed Tennessee program, which is responsible for the distribution of more than 100,000 smoke alarms. Launched in November 2012, this program, along with focused fire prevention in high-risk areas of the state, has helped increase awareness about the dangers of fire—the smoke alarms installed as a part of the program are credited with saving 121 Tennesseans from fire danger thus far.

Getting community organizations on board with fire safety tactics can significantly help improve resident understanding and utilization of fire preparedness and safety measures. Community organizations often have more direct access to residents than do fire departments. By using data, every city and community can better understand how to bolster communication efforts to help residents make safer choices.

Before launching a community fire safety strategy, using data to better understand residents is key. For example—could there be pockets in your community that speak languages other than English? It’s important to educate people in multicultural communities about fire and building safety in languages that they understand. A good first step is to locate pockets in your community where residents do not speak English.

For example, below is a map of Chicago displaying two variables: areas with high concentrations of limited English-speaking households and areas containing high concentrations of housing units in buildings that contain 50+ units. The areas in purple are zip codes with high concentrations of both.

Residents that do not speak English are at risk for not having fire safety information communicated in their primary language, and housing units in buildings that contain 50+ units are at a higher risk for fire than those in buildings that contain fewer housing units (the fewer people per structure, the smaller the risk of some units not being up to code or someone in the building accidentally starting a fire). The overlap of these two variables pinpoints the most at-risk neighborhoods for fire safety.

Once you locate these at-risk areas, a great way to communicate fire safety information is to find a bilingual advocate in the community who can bridge the language gap. This advocate can then disseminate fire safety information to the community and work with individuals who may have questions or need assistance getting their homes up to safety codes.

How does your community handle fire safety communication? Comment below to let us know!


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Lauren French has worked in the tech world as a marketing and content professional for the past two years. She earned a master’s degree in public relations from Michigan State University and holds an English degree from Indiana Wesleyan University. When she’s not thinking about marketing and content creation, Lauren enjoys binge-watching Netflix shows and drinking as much coffee as possible. She is also over-the-top obsessed with her two dogs, Hutch and Marty.