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Which fire prevention activity works? The EVAPREM project reveals the truth

Over the last two years, national rescue boards of five countries from Baltic and Nordic states – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Frederiksborg from Denmark and South-West Finland – have been involved in an EU financed project with an aim to develop a universal and comprehensive model for evaluating the results of prevention measures. The research was carried out to guide both fire departments and policy-makers to deepen the understanding of safety competence and the effectiveness and efficiency of fire prevention services and elaborating and reshaping the selection of prevention services.

The framework of the model consisted of three interrelated components. The first component was measuring the impact of individual activities, the population survey component characterizes the general knowledge and development level of fire prevention in the country at the certain point of time, whereas the general statistics component illustrates the long-term impact of fire prevention in the surrounding society.

The model development was carried out in four phases. The process started with collecting the background information to establish a holistic picture of the safety system and prevention activities in each country. In the data collection phase, independent prevention activities were defined and classified at first. An innovative classification system was developed, dividing the spectrum of fire prevention activities into five categories –  personified activities (individual teaching or counselling activities),  standardized activities (training for groups with the lesson plan or curriculum), event-based activities (providing information in an open setting), media campaigns, general information (social media, press releases) and others.

Then, the methods for collecting feedback were developed for distinguished activities that were chosen to serve as data for this research. In addition, the population survey was carried out. Quite surprisingly, the most challenging task was to find comparable general statistics on fire safety among partners. The data that is collected on national level differ in definitions or collection methods and thus most of it is often directly incomparable.

As a result of the project, an overall index of fire safety was calculated based on a population survey. This index provides possibilities for country-wide comparison and data for future fire prevention activity planning. Additionally, each individual fire prevention activity was assessed, measuring the knowledge, skills and attitudes of the participants but also the satisfaction with the service. Several interesting findings were revealed. For instance, an alarming finding is that youth (15 -26) were scoring weaker in the fire safety survey than retired or working group people. This may be a sign of a negative attitude towards the fire safety issues. The classroom may not be the best possible physical learning environment. As it turns out,  the practical activities lead to the best possible outcome. It seems, that the fire department can motivate people, basically when gear, trucks and firefighter equipment are on display. It also seems that the learning outcome is not as good as in the standardized actions carried out by the fire service. When it comes to personified activities, there is a big potential in offering the one-to-one education, for instance, home safety checks.
The systematic analysis carried out in this project benefits the organizations responsible for planning and implementing the fire prevention measures. The tools developed within the project- the concept of the model, including the classification of activities, the questionnaires for measuring the effectiveness of individual activities as well as the basis for the population survey – will be available for the other countries for adaptation and use. Most of the materials have been already uploaded to the webpage of the project – – that is worth a visit.

This project was a great example of international cooperation, where the national rescue boards were very effectively involved in the practical implementation of the project – collecting first-hand information and feedback from the participants of the prevention activities and being involved in developing the model.

The systematic analysis carried out in this project benefits the organizations responsible for planning and implementing the fire prevention measures. Yet, the model can be applied to all safety promotion organizations – in the European and at the global level. The project is aimed at human life-saving. If actions after implementing the model save even one human life, the results represent a considerable value for money.

Ketlin Tammsalu
Project coordinator