Young children and people with developmental disabilities are among those at highest risk from fire. At the Mississippi Fire Chiefs’ Conference, fire chiefs learned how to protect these vulnerable groups even when budgets for preventive education are limited.
The state of Mississippi had the highest average fire death rate in the five most recent years.[i] Lt. Robert Crandall (Ret.), a Prevention 1st board member and vice-president of Community Health Strategies, was recently invited to present ways to bring preventive education to two of the most vulnerable groups: young children, and people with developmental disabilities.
Community Risk Reduction: (Mostly) Free Fire Safety Resources for Vulnerable Populations, presented to 120 fire chiefs, lead off the two-day Mississippi Fire Chiefs’ Conference.
The invitation and attendance “shows a real commitment to education in times of lower budgets,” said Crandall.
On average every year across the country, 49,300 fires are caused by “child playing,” leading to 80 deaths and 860 injuries—nearly 3 injuries a day (NFPA data 2014). Young children have a great deal of experience with fire from family activities such as cooking and grilling, camping, and celebrations involving candles, yet can’t really understand how dangerous fire can be. Crandall shared free and low-cost materials that can help fire service educators and others reach this group:
- play safe! be safe! – an award-winning, ready-to-use classroom kit available in English, Spanish and French, including DVD, activity boards, Keep Away!/Aléjate card game, and Resource Book.
- Mikey Makes a Mess – a children’s book available both in print and online.
- Help Mikey Make It Out – an award-winning online teaching game.
People with developmental disabilities are at much greater risk of dying from an injury than the general population, and at 4 times the risk of dying from a fire. Policy changes are moving people with disabilities into more independent living situations, where they are at a 34% greater risk for injury than in institutionalized settings. [ii]
Prevention 1st and Community Health Strategies have developed and delivered Safe at Home training workshops addressing communication between fire service and people with disabilities, avoiding the dangers of exit drill overkill, strategies for people who resist complying with fire drills, and involving families in home safety, with an emphasis on practical skills particularly kitchen/cooking safety. They have been encouraged by the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and others to create the program structure necessary to deliver the training more widely, including a formal curriculum and residential safety assessment tool.
play safe! be safe! fire safety education workshops
[i] NFPA, US Unintentional Fire Death Rates by State, October 2012
[ii] Strauss, et. al, American Journal of Epidemiology (1999)