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© Fireproof Children /
Prevention First 2004

Research Studies

This page includes references and brief descriptions of the research studies we cite most frequently in our materials and training (see also Misperception of Fire Risk for statistics from surveys of Americans' perception of their risk from fire along with data for actual risk).

Ahrens, M. (2009).  Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires. Quincy, MA: NFPA Fire Analysis and Research.
Key Points:  Of the 2,810 home fire deaths that occurred between 2003 and 2006, smoke alarms were present and functioning in only one in three of the homes (37 percent).

Cole, R.E., Crandall, R. and Kourofsky, C. (2001). You can prevent a child’s first fire. Firehouse Magazine, 60-62.
Key Points:  In Rochester, NY, research conducted from 1985 to 1993 found that nine out of ten children involved in a fire incident reported to the fire department were involved in only one. Once they saw the consequences of their actions, most children didn't do it again.

Coppens, N. (1986). Cognitive characteristics as predictors of children’s understanding of safety and prevention, Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 11.
Key Points:  Preschool children have only limited understanding of cause and effect, and can’t recognize unsafe conditions or figure out how to correct or avoid them. It’s therefore ineffective to try to teach very young children why they should not play with matches or lighters; it’s more effective to tell them these tools are for adult use only and keep them out of reach.

Cotterall, A., McPhee, B. &  Plecas, D. (1999) Fireplay Report: A Survey of School-Aged Youth in Grades 1 to 12. University College of the Fraser Valley. Unpublished Manuscript.
Key Points:  A survey of 1,351 children in Surrey, British Columbia found that 88% of boys and 81% of girls in grades 1-12 had played with fire by the time they were in high school.

Douglas, M.R., Mallonee, S. and Istre, G. (1999). Estimating the proportion of homes with functioning smoke alarms: A comparison of telephone survey and household survey results. American Journal of Public Health, 89, 7.
Key Points: Telephone surveys may substantially overestimate the presence of functioning smoke alarms in low income households. Studies involving household visits and direct observation have found that only 50 percent of households with low incomes had working smoke alarms.

Finkelstein, E., Corso, P., Miller, T. and Associates. (2006). The Incidence and Economic Burden of Injuries in the United States. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press.
Key Points: Injuries are one of the most serious public health problems facing the United States. They are the leading cause of death for persons aged 1 to 44 years and the fourth leading cause among persons of all ages. But unlike other leading causes of death such as tobacco use, poor diet and inactivity, deaths due to injuries affect the young and old alike. The life-years lost due to injuries are therefore likely to exceed those that result from other preventable causes.

Gärling, A., Gärling, T., Mothers’ anticipation and prevention of unintentional injury to young children in the home, Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 20, 1995, 23-26.
Key Points:  Many parents overestimate their children's understanding of the danger of fire. They focus on teaching young children safety principles long before the children can benefit from them, rather than simply eliminating hazards and closely supervising the children.

Gielen, A.C. & Sleet, D. (2003). Application of behavior-change theories and methods to injury prevention, Epidemiologic Reviews, 25:65-76.
Key Points:  Several models exist for successful safety education programs. The Integrated Model addresses the importance of aligning program goals with the recipient’s self-image and emotional response, and the role of perceived social norms. Information and technology are insufficient to ensure the long term maintenance of the technology and preparedness of the family.

Grolnick, W., Cole, R., Laurenitis, L., and Schwartzman, P. (1990). Playing with Fire: A Developmental Assessment of Children's Fire Understanding and Experience, Journal of Child Clinical Psychology, 19, 128-135.
Key Points:  In a survey of 771 children in Grades 1-8 conducted in Rochester, NY:

  • Over 50% of children reported having played with fire by the time they were out of elementary school.
  • The greater their exposure to fire, the more likely the children were to play with fire. The more fire-related responsibility the children carried, such as cooking, the more unrealistic their sense of control and the greater their likelihood of playing the fire. The average child was exposed to seven activities at home involving fire, and had supervised experience with four.

Hall, J. (2005). Characteristics of Home Fire Victims Including Age and Sex. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association.
Key Points: Children playing with fire was the leading cause for fire deaths and fire in juries of children under 5, responsible for 26% of these deaths.

Janz, N.K., Becker, M.H. (1984). The health belief model: a decade later, Health Education Quarterly, 11(1), 1-47.
Key Points: Several models exist for successful safety education programs. The Health Belief Model addresses the perception of risk (susceptibility to fire and likely severity), the benefits and costs of specific preventive measures (perceived benefits and barriers), the need for timely reminders (cues to action) and the confidence in one’s ability to act successfully (self-efficacy).

Kourofsky, C., and Cole, R.E., (2010). Kids Can Be Key to Fire-Safe Families. Young Children, the Journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, 65(3), 84-87.
Key Points: In an extensive evaluation of the distribution of 20,883 smoke alarms and fire safety education by Fireproof Children through Head Starts and other preschool programs, it was found that one year after distribution:

  • 72 percent of homes still had working smoke alarms
  • Families who recalled seeing fire safety materials brought home by their children were more likely to report having an exit plan and subsequent meeting place, testing their smoke alarms in the past month, and practicing their escape plan within the past six months.

Runyan, C. W. & Castell, C. (Eds.) The State of Home Safety in America: Facts About Unintentional Injuries in the Home, 2nd edition. Washington, D.C.: Home Safety Council, 2004.
Key Points: This study by the Home Safety Council of unintentional home injury deaths involving children found that fire and burns were the leading cause of death for children aged 1 to 14.

Simonson, B. & Bullis, M. (2001). Fire Interest Survey: Final Report. Institute on Violence and Destructive Behavior, College of Education, University of Oregon. Unpublished Manuscript.
Key Points: In a survey of 5,416 students from 13 school districts in Portland, Oregon, 57% reported starting a fire without an adult by the end of 6th grade, and 44% of middle school children reported having played with fire in the past year.