Do Family Therapists ask about Fire Safety?

Posted on December 26, 2009. Filed under: Family Therapy, Fire Safety, Housing Quality, Public Health | Tags: , , , , , |

In my previous post I wondered how many family therapists ask questions about the quality of their clients’ housing.  One particular topic in the area of housing quality is fire safety.  This is an important topic to ask families around this time of year.  Home fires increase during the holiday season and due to the financial difficulties families might have this year, public health officials are concerned of an increased risk of home fires.  It goes without saying that home fires are devastating and traumatic for those who experience it, even if everyone escapes safely.  But home fires can be deadly for a number of populations.  According to the Fire Safety.gov website:
  • Children younger than 5 have a higher risk of fire injury and death than older children.
  • Adults 65 and older are twice as likely as any other age group to die in a home fire. The death rate for those 85 and older is five times the national average.
  • African Americans are twice as likely to die in a fire than the general population. For American Indians, the risk of fire death is 30% higher than the general population.
  • Income level is inversely related to fire death risk, with the highest risk among the poorest population groups.
  • Death rates in rural communities are more than twice the rates in large cities and more than three times higher than rates in large towns and small cities.
An important point to remember is that house fires are preventable.  Family therapists have a unique opportunity to help prevent house fires by simply asking some questions.  Here are some questions you can ask ALL of your clients:
  • Do you have any smoke alarms in the house? For those who can’t afford them, check you local firehouse for programs that install free smoke alarms.
  • When was the last time you tested your smoke alarms?
  • If there was a fire in the house, does everyone know what to do? Ask about evacuation plans.  Help your families create an escape plan and ask them to practice it for homework.  Click here for escape plan information.
  • Do you  know where they can get reliable information on how to keep your house safe from fires? Here are some great consumer friendly websites:
Asking these simple questions and sharing information is all that is needed to help your clients prevent a house fire.  If you need further information, please check out the CDC’s website.  Let me know if you have additional questions that are important and please leave a comment.  Take care.
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Asking About Housing Quality

Posted on December 20, 2009. Filed under: Family Therapy, Housing Quality, Public Health | Tags: , , , , |

Family therapists ask many questions about family composition (blood and fictive kin) and the quality of these familial relationships.  One significant question that gets overlooked during intake or throughout therapy sessions is the quality of a family’s housing.  This might be related to some of the social taboos of asking people about the quality of their living quarters but this should not deter family therapists about asking about the quality of a family’s housing.  According the Center for Disease Control and Prevention healthy housing is key in understanding the health status of family members (CDC Healthy Housing Executive Summary).  This makes a lot of sense when you think about the variety of environmental issues that can affect the quality of housing.  Some of these issues include toxic chemicals, pests, waterborn diseases, noise, crowding, and indoor pollution.  And this is just a partial list of how housing could affect a person’s health.

To begin the conversation about housing, family therapists should directly state why this information is important.  The quality of one’s housing is directly tied to one’s health, physical and mental Thus it is important to understand where the family lives.  You are not there to judge them but to help them and understanding the context of their lives, which includes housing.  There are a number of areas that should be explored (e.g., Housing Structure, Indoor Pollution and Toxic Materials, Water Quality, Environmental/Neighborhood Pollution, Housing Safety).  These different areas with questions will be explored in future posts.

If you include Housing Quality as part of your therapy, let me know how you do it.  If you do not, what prevents you from exploring this issue?  For further information, please visit the CDC and the Health Housing Manual at CDC Health Housing Manual

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