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1 in 3 households misreports smoke alarm coverage
Date:4/25/2012

One in three households in Baltimore misreports its smoke alarm coverage, with the vast majority of errors due to over-reporting coverage, according to a study by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy. Reasons for over-reporting included study participants incorrectly assuming all of their alarms were working because they weren't beeping, and not having alarms on every level of the home. While previous research has found varying validity for self-report of smoke alarm coverage, this study is unique for also examining the reasons why individuals misreport. The report is available online in advance of publication in the journal Injury Prevention.

"Forty percent of all residential fire deaths in the U.S. occur in homes with no smoke alarms, and another twenty-three percent occur in homes where an alarm is present but not functioning," said study author Wendy Shields, MPH, an assistant scientist with the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Our study suggests relying upon self-reports of smoke alarm coverage is not an accurate way to measure whether homes are protected." The National Fire Protection Association recommends all residential homes have a smoke alarm in every bedroom, outside every sleeping area and on every level of the home.

Shields and colleagues conducted interviews and home observations with more than 600 households selected from 12 census tracts in East Baltimore, Maryland, a relatively low-income urban area. After respondents completed the questions on fire-safety behaviors, data collectors tested the functionality of all smoke alarms in the house. A small sample of the over-reporters were contacted by phone and asked a series of questions aimed at better understanding reasons for over-reporting.

"Despite the small number of follow-up respondents, the phone interviews give us some important insights,
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Contact: Tim Parsons
tmparson@jhsph.edu
410-955-7619
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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