The health impact and economic cost of residential fires: protocol for a population-based cohort study using linked data

Dr Lara Harvey1,2, Ms Nargess Ghassempour3, Dr Kathy Tannous3,4

1Neurocience Research Australia, Sydney, Australia, 2School of Public Health and Community Medicine, UNSW, Sydney, Australia, 3Western Sydney University, Parramatta, Australia, 4Digital Health CRC, Sydney, Australia



Australia has implemented best-practice fire prevention programs- including legislation requiring smoke alarms in every home. Despite this, residential fires remain a significant problem. In NSW (2010-2015) there were 23,700 reported residential fires, with an estimated 3,300 injuries and 115 deaths.[1] There is an urgent need for accurate data to identify high risk populations and to inform targeted prevention efforts.


This study will address three main research questions: 1) What is the injury profile, service utilisation and outcomes for people exposed to a residential fire?; 2) Do these differ by type of fire, nature of injury, demographics, geographic location, or over time?; and  3) What are the total economic costs?

Methods and analysis

The study cohort includes all persons residing at an NSW residential address which experienced a fire between 1 January 2005-31 March 2015. Using linked person-level data from eight data sources, this study will provide a comprehensive picture of fire characteristics (nature of fire, functioning smoke alarm, alcohol consumption), first responder use (fire and ambulance services), health service utilisation (emergency department, hospital and specialist burns outpatient clinic use), outcomes (length of stay, re-admissions and mortality) and economic costs of residential fires.

Descriptive statistics will assess between group differences in incidence and outcomes, and negative binomial regression will analyse temporal trends. Costs will be calculated using financial codes for emergency department and hospital visits.

Ethics and dissemination

Ethics approval has been obtained and data linked. Dissemination mechanisms include engagement with policy stakeholders, production of policy relevant summary reports and scientific papers.


[1] Fire and Rescue New South Wales. Submission to Commonwealth Senate Inquiry into Smoke Alarms. Submission 20. FRNSW; 2015.


Lara is an injury epidemiologist with expertise in the analysis of large population-based administrative datasets. Her research areas of interest include population-based trends in injury and the evaluation of health care policies and safety-related regulations/legislation.

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