Fire Safety


Project Alert is a community service, designed to reduce the number of fire related injuries, fatalities and fires in targeted Boston Neighborhoods. In partnership with the Department of Public Health and other local organizations, the program targets neighborhoods, for the installation of free smoke alarms. The program also provides comprehensive fire safety education and disaster preparedness education. Participants are assisted in developing a home, escape plan and disaster preparedness kit. Participating families, receive a follow-up visit four to six months after the initial detector installation. This is a free service to low income residents, families with children and seniors that reside in the neighborhoods of: Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain and the South End. To request assistance print and send in the form below, or send in a e-mail request through our "Contact Us Page" on this website.

Fire Safety exhibit at the Hyde Park Fair - 2008A 2004 city of Boston report, and a two year study from the Department of Public Health, has found that 31% of homes in five specific Boston neighborhoods do not contain a working smoke or carbon monoxide detector. In many homes that did contain detectors they were either 15 years old or greater, batteries have either been removed, were inactive, or no units existed at all. Detectors should be.... Placed on every level of a home, replaced every ten (10) years, and tested monthly. Batteries should be replaced every six months and never removed for false alarms or other uses.

Cultural customs, language barriers, and lack of prevention skills, compounded with the impact of poverty, and unemployment, all play a role in contributing to a "lack of urgency" attitude, or the immediate seriousness of preparedness and injury prevention preparation. The risk is especially prevalent among families with children under 14, bilingual populations and the elderly (2005 National Safe Kids Report & 2005 MFIRS data). Three of the most troubling problems are:

  1. The lack of motivation among residents in reaching out and accessing resources for preparedness preparation.
  2. The lack of understanding in the role of responsibility residents must take in addressing their need for pre-emergency planning and care.
  3. And the number of families without a basic home evacuation and preparedness plan to survive should a disaster occur in their home, or neighborhood.

Project Alert is designed out of a response, from the Vulcan Society looking at a combination of data documenting the extent of the fire problem in Boston, the demographics of the communities affected, recommended solutions, and from our experience as firefighters working directly with neighborhood citizens, and past outreach activities.

Fires continue to plague Boston on a daily basis. The 2004 Massachusetts Fire Incident Reporting System (MFIRS) documents that in 2003, Boston had a total of 3,669 fires, in 2004 the number increased to 3,833, in 2005 to 3,874, along with an increase in fatalities. Boston is listed as having one of the highest rates of fire in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with a total dollar loss of $26,637,139.

Two Children playing with matches

The two high risk groups for Boston continue to be the elderly and children, although there has been a slight increase for college students. Older adults continue to be at greater risk for fire, with critical injuries and deaths resulting from smoking while using home oxygen systems. Cooking continues to be a major cause of fire injury to the elderly, and over ¼ of the seniors that died in 2004 - 2005 fires, no detectors were present, or detectors were present but did not operate. The data for children shows that, each year, many fires are started by children ages 3-8 that are merely curious about fire. From 1993 through 2002, there were 8,500 juvenile set fires reported in Massachusetts, with 30% of them occurring in Boston. Twenty-three (23) children, all ten years old or younger, died in fires caused by children playing with matches and lighters. These fires caused 425 civilian and 454 firefighter injuries. The estimated dollar loss for all of these fires was over $33 million.

A child attending the Fire safety trainingThe aforementioned risk assessment information makes it clear that too many people continue to be affected by public safety hazards and that there are steps that can be taken to reduce the impact of these problems. The residents of Boston neighborhoods continue to be affected by these problems as well as the obstacles to solving them based on a number of factors, such as lack of access to resources, income, language and cultural barriers.

According to the latest Healthy Boston Report, more than 100 ethnicities are represented in Boston’s neighborhoods and 140 languages are spoken in Boston’s homes. Boston is now more than 52% of color overall, with a significant increase in its bilingual, immigrant population. Almost 75% of its teenagers are of color, as are 86% of the children and youth in Boston’s public schools. Like most urban cities Boston has its difficulties with violent crime, school dropouts, drugs, teen pregnancies, not enough youth programs and unemployment.

A recent City of Boston report, and a study from the Department of Public Health, has estimated that 31% of homes in several Boston neighborhoods do not contain a working smoke, or carbon monoxide detector. The units are either fifteen years old or greater, batteries have either been removed or inactive, or no units exist at all. Over 589,141 residents live in Boston, in an estimated 290,972 housing units that vary in size from single family to multi-unit dwellings. According to the latest, 2004 city census, seventy percent of the housing units in Boston were constructed before 1985, prior to the initial mandatory smoke detector law. About 144,303 are single to three family units, which do not require hardwired (electric) detectors, and are more than likely battery operated. If we look at the data further, with the DPH’s 31% estimate, we can guess, that about 44,734 homes in Boston are at risk, and may not be protected by an installed, or properly working smoke detector.

Compound the above mentioned data, with other Boston demographics such as a growing immigrant population with a different cultural attitude and knowledge of fire, rise in unemployment, increase in children, and an aging housing stock, Boston is at great risk. Ongoing initiatives such as education, prevention and equipment giveaways such as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors will continue to be needed for years to come.


February 2018

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