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Identifying Vulnerable Populations to Death and Injuries from Residential Fires



Stanley W. Gilbert, David T. Butry


Residential fire casualty risk is a function of an individual’s exposure risk and vulnerability. The previous literature focuses on measuring correlations between socioeconomic factors and casualties, and identifies at-risk population. This study controls for exposure to evaluate the role ‘frailty,’ a proxy for vulnerability, plays in fire outcomes, and allows fatalities and injuries to be generated by different processes. Frailty is measured as age-gender adjusted fatality rates due to natural causes. Frailty explains fire-related death in adults, but does not explain injuries. Furthermore, the results are consistent with the idea that deaths and injuries affect disjoint populations. In addition, it appears smoking affects an individual’s fire-exposure risk only, whereas drug and alcohol use affect exposure risk and an individual’s vulnerability to death by fire. This suggests that the people who die in fires are almost exclusively people who are unable to escape due to mental or physical conditions. It also suggests that deaths and injuries are drawn from different populations. That is, the people who are susceptible to dying in fires are unlikely to be injured in fires, and the people who are susceptible to injury are unlikely to die in fires.
Injury Prevention


Residential Fires, Deaths, Injuries, Smoking, Alcohol Abuse


Gilbert, S. and Butry, D. (2017), Identifying Vulnerable Populations to Death and Injuries from Residential Fires, Injury Prevention, [online], (Accessed April 20, 2024)
Created August 4, 2017, Updated November 10, 2018