Using data from Arlington County's Operation Firesafe program, SDAL's data scientists have developed a model to predict which homes are least likely to contain a functioning smoke alarm—insights that can be used to target public safety initiatives toward the regions where they're most needed.

Problem

A well-functioning smoke alarm can be a life-saving resource. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the death rate per 100 reported home fires is more than twice as high in residences that lack an early detection system. To extend this protection to every individual in their jurisdiction, fire officials in Arlington County, Virginia began Operation Firesafe—a public safety initiative that allows citizens to request the installation of a free smoke alarm.

In order to maximize the reach of this initiative, Operation Firesafe sends representatives out into local communities to offer installation assistance door-to-door. While necessary, this level of public outreach can be both time-consuming and expensive. Local policy-makers partnered with SDAL to analyze data collected during home visits and determine where resources should be directed in order to meet the greatest need.

Methods

Using datasets from Operation Firesafe, SDAL researchers were able to examine information on nearly 2,000 successful home visits, 32% of which had revealed the need for a new smoke alarm. 

By supplementing these statistics with regional property data from CoreLogic, our team developed a model to predict which homes were most likely to require the county's installation services. Among the variables considered were value, age, and location of the home, as well as the number of bedrooms and whether the residence was a rental.

Impact

With these model estimates, covering nearly 50,000 residential units in Arlington County, local fire officials can make targeted choices about where to canvass for smoke alarms: initial estimates showed that older homes in the county's southwestern section were far less likely to contain a working fire detection system. In addition to reducing the risk of fire-related fatalities, policy-makers hope that a higher density of functioning smoke alarms will lead to improved emergency response times and less overall damage to property.

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