Seeking Fire Safety “Solutions”

Dennis Compton describes an effort that is underway to unite the fire safety community with traditional (and not so traditional) partners in an effort to better protect those most at risk from fire.


Protecting our customers from fire is one thing that all fire service organizations have in common. Although different strategies are used to reach that common goal, it remains the centerpiece of each of our mission statements. In the United States, fires result in death for about 4,000 people...


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Protecting our customers from fire is one thing that all fire service organizations have in common. Although different strategies are used to reach that common goal, it remains the centerpiece of each of our mission statements.

In the United States, fires result in death for about 4,000 people each year. Another 23,000 are injured annually from fire. No matter how much the fire service has changed to incorporate other life safety services into the mission - and rightfully so - fire safety remains a key focus. An effort is underway to unite the fire safety community with traditional (and not so traditional) partners in an effort to develop specific ways that we could better protect those most at risk from fire in society. This effort is three years old, and it's about time we all knew more about it.

3 Populations Targeted

In April 1999, a symposium called "Solutions 2000" was conducted in Washington, D.C. under the auspices of the North American Coalition for Fire and Life Safety Education, a loosely organized alliance of fire safety advocates. The goal was to examine the unique fire safety challenges of those who cannot take timely life-saving action to protect themselves in the event of a fire. Target groups for examination by the symposium participants included:

  • Children under 5 years old.
  • Adults over 65 years old.
  • People with disabilities.

"Solutions 2000" brought together approximately 100 participants from a broad range of perspectives, including representatives from non-fire service organizations, some of which specialize in advocacy for the three groups targeted for examination. Yes, representatives from communities of concern were actually present to participate in facilitated discussions about how we could best protect these groups from fire, and how they could take action to protect themselves as well. "Solutions 2000" resulted in a document that outlined the findings and recommended actions developed at the symposium. The document was widely distributed and provided significant guidance to any organization with a mission that included fire safety.

A similar group was invited to attend the follow-up symposium in April 2001 to revisit the issues and determine if "Solutions 2000" had resulted in any positive actions to better protect the targeted groups. This symposium, called "Beyond Solutions 2000," added "meat to the skeleton" built at the original "Solutions 2000" symposium in 1999. Many of the same people attended the 2001 event, but there were new faces in the crowd as well. Like its predecessor, "Beyond Solutions 2000" will also yield a published document containing findings and actions specific to each of the three targeted groups.

But in addition, the Solutions Planning Team conducted a follow-up meeting on Oct. 31, 2001, and identified five "Collective Recommendations" that cut across all three targeted groups. These five intervention strategies were identified as highly significant by each of the three focus groups; the very young, the elderly and the disabled. The five recommendations are action-oriented and measurable. The organizations represented on the "Beyond Solutions 2000" Planning Team will, in varying ways, and to varying degrees, address them as priorities within their organization's mission.

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