FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 29, 2008
MAYOR BLOOMBERG, SPEAKER QUINN AND COMMISSIONERS FRIEDEN AND SCOPPETTA RELEASE CHILD FATALITY REPORT FOCUSING ON CHILD DEATHS FROM FIRES
One in Four Deaths Caused by Children Playing with Matches or Lighters
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta today released the second annual Child Fatality Report, a review of preventable fatalities among children ages one to 12 years that found that fires are the second leading cause of child deaths from injuries in New York City after motor vehicle accidents. More important, the report found that three quarters of the fires that killed children in New York City have easily-preventable causes - either adult behavior like leaving candles unattended, overloading outlets, or not extinguishing cigarettes or children playing with matches or lighters. Because of this, and because last year's Child Fatality Report (available on www.nyc.gov) focused on automobile accidents, this year's report focuses on house fires and how they can be prevented. In analyzing the 43 residential fires involving child deaths in New York City from 2001 to 2006, researchers found that most (85 percent) were set accidentally. The interdisciplinary committee that reviewed the deaths was led by the Health and Fire Departments and also includes other city agencies, pediatricians and child welfare advocates.
"At a time when we've had the fewest civilian fire fatalities of any six-year period in the City's history, we're still losing too many youngsters in fires that adults can readily prevent," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Parents and guardians must keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children. When a child dies, a piece of New York's future dies, too. We'll never know what that little boy or girl might have achieved. But we do know that we've got a duty to protect all of our children from the preventable dangers of this world. When it comes to protecting children from fires, a little common sense goes a very long way."
"When the Council passed legislation requiring this report, we wanted to raise awareness about simple steps that can prevent needless child deaths," said Speaker Quinn. "We know that the most powerful firefighting tool is prevention. Parents have the power to take these fire safety precautions, and to educate their children about the importance of fire safety."
"There is nothing more tragic than the preventable death of a child. Many of these deadly fires were caused by matches and lighters," said Commissioner Frieden. "We encourage parents to talk to children about the dangers of fire and keep matches and lighters out of reach."
The report found that death rates were similar for all New York City boroughs except Manhattan, where the risk was lower, but the study reveals sharp ethnic and racial disparities. Black children died at three times the rate of Hispanic children during the five year study period, and at twice the rate of white children. Overall, New York City's child fire death rate has declined steadily over time. The complete report is available at www.nyc.gov.
A close review of the circumstances surrounding child fire deaths revealed several common risks:
Fatal fires were more common in some types of housing than in others. Nearly half occurred in multiple family walk-up dwellings, even though these buildings make up only 16 percent of the city's housing. Illegal building conversions (such as adding walls without permits) and illegal occupancies (creating additional apartments) were linked to 28 percent of fires. Public housing units also experienced a disproportionate share of fatal fires (they account for 2 percent of the city's housing stock and 16 percent of deadly fires), but all but one of these fires were related to human behavior (matches, lighters, etc.) rather than structural issues in the building.
Safety Tips on Cigarettes, Lighters, Matches and Candles
Keep matches and lighters in a secure drawer or cabinet, out of the reach of children.
The City has a number of programs and regulations to help prevent fires.
Motor vehicle accidents are the single leading contributor to child fatalities Citywide, and in last year's Child Fatality Report that topic was the subject of a focused case review. The review found that rate of death among child passengers was seven times lower in the City than nationally, potentially due to less frequent car use. Driver inattention was the leading contributing factor to child motor vehicle-related deaths overall, though speeding and failure to yield were also key contributing factors. Local streets were the site of more than half of fatal accidents, and a disproportionate percentage of deaths occurred on arterial roads.
Many of the fatal pedestrian injuries reviewed in the report were due to children emerging from between parked vehicles, crossing against signals, and crossing midblock. The high frequency of fatal motor vehicle accidents near schools relates to the amount of time children spend near schools and the high density of schools across the city. As a result, the City Department of Transportation has made recommendations for environmental improvements in more than 40% of fatal accident locations, such as sign replacement, refurbished crosswalks, and additional signage. Continued and expanded use of safety measures to reduce the risk of motor vehicle accidents, especially around schools, are also underway.
About the Report
This report was produced by the Child Fatality Review Team,
which was established in 2006 to review all preventable deaths among New York
City children ages one to 12. The multi-disciplinary committee, mandated by
Local Law 115, introduced by Speaker Quinn, includes representatives from the
Administration for Children's Services (ACS), the Department of Education, the
Health Department, the Office of Chief Medical Examiner, and the Police
Department, as well as pediatricians and child welfare advocates appointed by
the Mayor, City Council, and the Public Advocate.
Stu Loeser /Jason Post (212) 788-2958
Francis X. Gribbon (Fire Department)
Jessica Scaperotti (Health)
Download the report (in PDF)
Watch the video in low or high bandwidth