Trend and Analysis
The goal of the Fire/EMS Department is always to have zero deaths associated with fire. While it may not be achievable in many cases, all the agency’s risk reduction efforts drive toward “zero fire deaths.”
Several community risk reduction efforts continue within the agency. As most fire deaths are associated with residential structure fires these efforts are largely targeted to residential occupancies. Single family homes and multi-family dwellings each have pre-incident planning and inspection programs. These programs have recently been brought into the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) platform to better coordinate, integrate and document the effort. Most recently, these efforts are being concentrated in areas where response time performance is anticipated to exceed five minutes and the homes are not equipped with residential sprinklers (construction prior to 1995). These factors are strongly correlated with increased risk to residential fire fatalities nationally. The risk reduction strategy best applied to these homes is ensuring that operational and reliable smoke alarms are present. The agency has programs to provide smoke alarms for those unable to attain them.
While Prince George’s County has benefited from strong requirements for residential sprinklers since the 1990’s, a recent study indicates that only about 20% of residential structures have been built since these requirements were enacted. As economic development increases, along with residential development and re-development, these life-safety and fire suppression systems will further reduce the risk in the community.
Finally, the agency is pursuing a change to the building code based on recent research conducted by the Underwriter’s Laboratory Firefighter Safety Research Institute that describes the act of closing a bedroom door can make a significant difference in the survivability of a structure fire. This information has been developed into a public education campaign known as “Close Before You Doze.” The proposed code change will require bedroom doors in residential construction be self-closing to ensure this potentially lifesaving intervention occurs at cost of only hundreds of dollars of increased material cost in construction.