European Fire Safety Week 2021 - WEBINAR #1

Fire Safety of Vulnerable people in Europe
|| Monday November 29th, 11h00 – 13h00 (CET)



When looking at which vulnerable groups are expected to grow the most in the coming years, and combining this with the opinion of the fire safety experts, it can be concluded that three main risk groups should receive the most attention in the coming years. These are the elderly (65+) living at home, (other) people with a mental or physical disability living at home, and children. We owe it to these vulnerable groups of citizens to provide them with a certain level of fire safety in their residential environment.

Program & Presentations (PDF)

Opening of the European Fire Safety Week 2021

11:00
Ádám Kósa Hungary Member of the European Parliament
Stephan Wevers The Netherlands Chair of the Federation of European Fire Officers
PDF PRESENTATION
Krzysztof Biskup Poland Chair of the European Fire Safety Alliance
11:30

Fire Safety of vulnerable people, introduction from the chair

Koen Maertens Belgium Director Oscare, burns aftercare an research centre

European Fire Safety Action Plan, action 1: Increase the fire safety of the growing vulnerable community
Establish a European approach of improving the fire safety of the vulnerable community and the most vulnerable groups – elderly people (65+), children and people with a mental or physical disability (and focus on those living independently).

11:45

Fire Safety of the growing vulnerable people in Europe

Margo Karemaker The Netherlands Researcher at IFV Fire Service Academy

– What do we exactly mean with a growing vulnerable community?
– What are the problems regarding to fire safety?

PDF Presentation
12:00

How does the vulnerable community relate to fire safety issues?

Prof. Mirjana Laban Serbia Disaster Risk Reduction Research Centre Serbia
PDF PRESENTATION
12:15

Evacuation safety of vulnerable people - Serious game or serious case? 

Prof. Brita Somerkoski Finland Department of Teacher Education University of Turku
PDF PRESENTATION
Kari Telaranta Finland chief advisor built-up environment, Finnish National Rescue Association
Tarja Ojala Finland Specialist researcher, Finnish National Rescue Association
12:30

How do we improve fire safety of vulnerable people? What are the ways to solutions?

Nick Boersma The Netherlands Behaviour expert / policy maker community fire safety

– What is already been done and what is the first thing we should do?
– What is Europe’s role for the vulnerable community and fire safety?

PDF PRESENTATION
12:45

Discussion and questions

Koen Maertens Belgium Director Oscare, burns aftercare an research centre
13:00

Closing remarks

The growing vulnerable community
In Europe, there is a growing vulnerable community. Nearly 20% of the EU’s population is aged 65 or over. Moreover, life expectancy at birth is expected to increase 7.8 years for males and 6.6 years for females in the coming 50 years. This means that the EU is “turning increasingly grey” in the coming decades. Partially because the population is getting older, the number of Europeans with disabilities is also rising significantly. As a result, expectations are that this year there will be approximately 120 million Europeans with a disability. As such, the group of vulnerable people is getting increasingly bigger.

Who are vulnerable people?
But who are vulnerable people? In other words: who need our special attention when it comes to fire safety? Due to their mental or physical state, vulnerable people have a bigger chance of causing a fire and/or have difficulty in escaping from their living environment in a timely and safe way in the event of a fire. Research into the relationship between vulnerable people and fire safety highlights a large number of risk groups. The most important ones are elderly people, disordered people, and people with a mental or physical disability. These type of people are considered particularly vulnerable if they live on their own. People with low social-economic status and people with a non-western migrant background are also considered more vulnerable to residential fires. Naturally, children always need to be considered when it comes to fire safety. Moreover, some of these vulnerable groups are also more likely to experience energy poverty. In conclusion, it is no surprise that people often say that ‘fire discriminates’.

What should we focus on?
When looking at which vulnerable groups are expected to grow the most in the coming years, and combining this with the opinion of the fire safety experts, it can be concluded that three main risk groups should receive the most attention in the coming years. These are the elderly (65+) living at home, (other) people with a mental or physical disability living at home, and children. We owe it to these vulnerable groups of citizens to provide them with a certain level of fire safety in their residential environment. One that does not allow these people to be at a significantly higher risk of being involved in a fire, or being at a higher risk of suffering the consequences of a fire.

It is difficult to underpin these findings with data as, within Europe, there are insufficient fire-related statistics available. However, research on 9 European countries commissioned by the European Fire Safety Alliance (EuroFSA), shows that over half of the people who die in a fire in the residential environment are people aged 65 or over. Moreover, burns are much more difficult to treat due to their older skin and elderly people are much more prone to the effects of inhaling smoke. When looking at countries that collect data on the mental or physical state of fatal casualties regarding fires in the residential environment, those people are also overrepresented in the statistics. Children are mostly at higher risk when living in single-parent families. However, children always need our special attention and care concerning safety, including fire safety.

If these findings are combined with the ageing population and the increase in people with a mental or physical disability living independently for a longer time, the conclusion can easily be drawn that if nothing is done, the number of fire casualties among these groups will increase rapidly in the coming years. For these groups and children, doing nothing is not an option.

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Webinar #1: Fire Safety of Vulnerable people in Europe || Monday, November 29th
Webinar #2: The dangerous reduction in escape times || Tuesday, November 30th
Webinar #3: Energy transition and fire safety || Wednesday, December 1st
Webinar #4: Realise EU-Wide data on residential fires || Thursday, December 2nd

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