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Inj Prev. 1998 Mar;4(1):28-32.

Comparison of community based smoke detector distribution methods in an urban community.

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  • 1Oklahoma State Department of Health, Epidemiology Service, Oklahoma City, USA.



Various methods of soliciting participation for a large smoke detector giveaway program were tested to determine the most effective method of distributing smoke detectors to a high risk urban population.


The target area was a 24 square mile (62 km2) section on the south side of Oklahoma City where 16% (73,301) of the city's population resided in 16% (34,845) of the dwellings (excluding apartments). Of the 66 persons in Oklahoma City who were injured in residential fires from September 1987 to April 1990, 45% (30) were in the target area. Of the target area injuries, 47% resulted from fires started by children playing with fire (fireplay).


The number of homes without detectors was estimated by telephone survey. Four different methods of soliciting participants were used, including notifying residents by mail; placing flyers on the doors of every habitable residence; and displaying flyers at public places (grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants, etc). Each of these methods alerted residents that free smoke detectors were available at specific fire stations. The fourth method was distributing detectors door-to-door (canvassing).


The canvassing method resulted in significantly more smoke detectors being distributed to homes without detectors (107%) than any of the three other methods (18%) (p < 0.00001). The canvassing method distributed detectors to 31% of the total target homes, compared with 5% with the other methods (p < 0.00001). Canvassing also resulted in the lowest estimated cost per detector distributed ($1.96) (all other methods, $3.95), and in the largest number distributed per volunteer hour (5.9 v 3.1 detectors per hour by other methods).


Distributing smoke detectors directly to homes (canvassing) was the most effective and cost efficient method to reach high risk urban residents.

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