Background: Residential fires caused at least 67 deaths and 2,500 non-fatal injuries to children aged 0-16 in the United Kingdom in 1998. Smoke alarm ownership is associated with a reduced risk of residential fire death.
Objectives: We evaluated interventions to promote residential smoke alarms, to assess their effect on smoke alarm ownership, smoke alarm function, fires and burns and other fire-related injuries.
Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, Cochrane Injuries Group database, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycLIT, CINAHL, ERIC, Dissertation Abstracts, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, ISTP, FIREDOC and LRC. Conference proceedings, published case studies, and bibliographies were systematically searched, and investigators and relevant organisations were contacted, to identify trials.
Selection criteria: Randomised, quasi-randomised or nonrandomised controlled trials completed or published after 1969 evaluating an intervention to promote residential smoke alarms.
Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed trial quality.
Main results: We identified 26 trials, of which 13 were randomised. Overall, counselling and educational interventions had only a modest effect on the likelihood of owning an alarm (OR=1.26; 95% CI: 0.87 to 1.82) or having a functional alarm (OR=1.19; 0.85 to 1.66). Counselling as part of primary care child health surveillance had greater effects on ownership (OR=1.96; 1.03 to 3.72) and function (OR=1.72; 0.78 to 3.80). Results were sensitive to trial quality, however, and effects on fire-related injuries were not reported. In two non randomised trials, direct provision of free alarms significantly increased functioning alarms and reduced fire-related injuries. Media and community education showed little benefit in non randomised trials.
Reviewer's conclusions: Counselling as part of child health surveillance may increase smoke alarm ownership and function, but its effects on injuries are unevaluated. Community smoke alarm give-away programmes apparently reduce fire-related injuries, but these trials were not randomised and results must be interpreted cautiously. Further efforts to promote smoke alarms in primary care or through give-away programmes should be evaluated by adequately designed randomised controlled trials measuring injury outcomes.