Fire and rescue authorities around the world are increasingly concerned with the enduringly grave statistics of fire-related deaths of children. The vast majority of children are aware of many dangers associated with fire; however, there are also those who consider firing a source of entertainment, which endangers people’s lives. Criminal justice practitioners recognize that juvenile firesetters have caused many injuries and financial damages across the US. A report issued by the National Fire Protection Association reveals that over the course of five years, fireplay led to 14, 500 structure fires and more than $300 million in direct damage (as cited in Ahrns-Klas, Wahl, Hemmila, & Wang, 2012). Furthermore, more than 30 percent of all children that died in home fires “had set the fire that killed them” (Howell-Bowling, Merrick, & Omar, 2013, p. 61). Based on these statistics, it is clear that the state of children’s fire safety has to be investigated more closely to arrive at effective solutions for the issue.
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This paper aims to explore the issue of fire safety for children. The paper will focus on adolescent firesetting, children with special needs, fire safety education, and socioeconomic characteristics as determinants of fire risks.
Adolescent firesetting is a major barrier to the fire safety of children in the US. It should be noted that behavior is not always associated with malicious intent; therefore, prevalence estimation hinges on the definition of firesetting. Numerous studies point to the fact that 50 percent of children have played with fire (McKay, Feldberg, Ward, & Marton, 2012).
Criminal justice professionals recognize several risk factors that play a major role in causing firesetting recidivism. Fire interest and antisociality are correlated with a high firesetting frequency among young delinquents (McKay et al., 2012). Gender also serves as a reliable predictor of fireplay. It has to do with the fact that girls are less interested in playing with fire than boys (McKay et al., 2012). Besides, boys are more likely to show interest in fire at a younger age. It has to be borne in mind that predictors of recidivism and severity of firesetting have a cumulative effect.
Children with special needs have a higher chance of suffering in fires than their counterparts. It has to do with the fact that children with special needs “may have difficulty independently escaping a burning home” (Lehna et al., 2014, p. 1179). It means that the children’s parents require timely and effective burn prevention education. The education should revolve around the practice of evacuation. This is especially important since many parents of children with special needs do not have exit plans. Taking into consideration the fact that more than 40 percent of children with physical limitations are not capable of exiting independently and more than 30 percent are unable to dial 911, there is an urgent need for an intervention (Lehna et al., 2014). Moreover, this population group has to be educated on the proper frequency of fire alarm testing and building evacuation.
A study conducted by Deave et al. (2013) reveals that less than fifty percent of parents have a bedtime safety routine. Also, 46 percent of parents report that they have burned candles at home (Deave et al., 2013). The findings of the study also show that in 19 percent of households, a child can reach matches or lighters (Deave et al., 2013). Public fire education is an effective means of reducing fire casualties among children. There are several strategies that can be adopted by fire and rescue authorities to increase the state of fire safety in their communities. However, firefighter-delivered education has been found to be the most effective educational approach (Clare, Garis, Plecas, & Jennings, 2012). By helping parents to better understand the damage and risk factors associated with fire, it is possible to substantially diminish the occurrence of thermal injuries among children.
Residential fire incidence is closely linked to the socio-economic characteristics of a population. Specifically, families from lower ends of the socioeconomic spectrum are exposed to considerable fire risks. A study conducted by Jennings (2013) suggests that social deprivation diminishes an individual’s desire to invest in safety equipment. The researcher argues that families from disadvantaged neighborhoods have poor knowledge of the proper maintenance of safety equipment (Jennings, 2013). Overcrowded housing has also been found to increase fire incidence. Jennings (2013) argues that families with low socioeconomic status are more likely to smoke, which creates additional fire hazards. It follows that unfavorable social conditions can substantially diminish the fire safety of children, thereby exposing them to a wide range of thermal injuries.
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In the course of the brainstorming, four sub-topics have emerged: adolescent firesetting, children with special needs, fire safety education, and socioeconomic characteristics of children’s families. To better understand the concept of fire safety for children, it is necessary to construct a concept map. The map will show how subtopics are organized and linked to the main topic. Figure 1 presents the concept map of fire safety for children.
The examination of the topic has allowed establishing that the current state of children’s fire safety can be markedly improved by commencing fire-prevention education programs across the country. Both the frequency and severity of residential fires can be controlled with the help of a comprehensive fire education strategy. The strategy should target juvenile firesetting behavior, thereby preventing children from inflicting severe injuries. Both parents and law enforcement authorities should be encouraged to take meaningful steps towards the detection and elimination of juvenile firesetting activities (Ahrns-Klas et al., 2012). Fire safety education is especially important when parents of children with special needs are involved.
It has been found that poverty is a strong correlate of a high fire incidence (Jennings, 2013). Disadvantaged families are more likely to engage in behaviors associated with fire risks than their affluent counterparts. It means that by improving the socio-economic conditions of the nation’s citizens, it is possible to substantially decrease the number of adolescent casualties.
No one would deny that the safety of children should be a top priority of every country. Therefore, there is an urgent need for a purposeful and directed intervention into the current state of fire safety. By improving reducing children’s exposure to fire risks, it is possible to secure a better future for the nation as a whole.
The paper has explored the topic of fire safety for children. During the course of the investigation, the following subtopics have emerged: adolescent firesetting, children with special needs, fire safety education, and socioeconomic drivers of fire incidence. It has been argued that children’s fire safety can be improved by nation-wide fire prevention education, which has to become a national priority.
Ahrns-Klas, K., Wahl, W., Hemmila, M., & Wang, S. (2012). Do burn centers provide juvenile firesetter intervention? Journal of Burn Care & Research, 33(1), 272-278.
Clare, J., Garis, L., Plecas, D., & Jennings, C. (2012). Reduced frequency and severity of residential fires following delivery of fire prevention education by on-duty fire fighters: Cluster randomized controlled study. Journal of Safety Research, 43(1), 123-128.
Deave, T., Goodenough, T., Stewart, J., Towner, E., Majsak-Newman, G., Hawkins, A.,… Kendrick, D. (2013). Contemporary hazards in the home: Keeping children safe from thermal injuries. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 98(1), 485-489.
Howell-Bowling, C., Merrick, J., & Omar, H. (2013). Self-reported juvenile firesetting: Results from two national survey datasets. Frontiers in Public Health, 1(1), 1-60.
Jennings, C. (2013). Social and economic characteristics as determinants of residential fire risk in urban neighborhoods: A review of the literature. Fire Safety Journal, 62(1), 13-19.
Lehna, C., Janes, E., Rengers, S., Graviss, J., Scrivener, D., Knabel, T.,… Myers, J. (2014). Community partnership to promote home fire safety in children with special needs. Journal of Burn Care & Research, 40(6), 1179-1184.
McKay, S., Feldberg, A., Ward, A., & Marton, P. (2012). Research and practice in adolescent firesetting. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 39(6), 842-864.