Fire research says targeted safety visits better than scatter gun approach

Fire services should carry out repeat safety visits in a smaller number of high risk homes to reduce fires, researchers say.

Sheffield academics argue this targeted approach will be more effective than one off visits to a larger number of properties– and are now testing out their findings for real.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue worked with the University of Sheffield on the research which matched incident statistics with historic information about home safety visits and safety campaigns. They then put the data they’d gathered into sophisticated computer software which simulated how the fire service’s education work spreads amongst close-knit groups of connected households.

The five year ‘Premonition’ project, which was kick started with funding from the Fire Authority’s Safer Stronger Communities Reserve, is now in the process of testing the approach in the real world. The fire service is delivering repeat visits in parts of the county, with researchers then following up the visits a few months letter to find out how much of the advice which has been given has been remembered and shared with neighbours.

The fire service has already responded to the research though. It recently changed its home safety checks service- which includes the fitting smoke alarms for free where needed– so that it is only offered to those most at risk of fire, based on factors like age and disability.

Dr Dermot Breslin, University of Sheffield, said: “The Premonition project demonstrates the power of using big data to better understand changing household risk behaviour. These tools enable services to predict future patterns of change, and optimise fire prevention strategies with a view to protecting the most vulnerable in our community.”

Area Manager Steve Helps, said: “This research forms part of a longer term ambition to become even more targeted in the way we deliver fire safety education in people’s homes. We’ve made huge strides over the last decade and more in preventing house fires, but we know that to reduce those numbers even more we’re going to have to be even more sophisticated in our approach.”

The findings, led by Dr Dermot Breslin, have been published in the International Journal of Emergency Services. The paper in full is available here.

This content was last updated on July 12th, 2019