Objective To measure the effect of giving out free smoke alarms on rates of fires and rates of fire related injury in a deprived multiethnic urban population. Design Cluster randomised controlled trial. Setting Forty electoral wards in two boroughs of inner London, United Kingdom. Participants Primarily households including elderly people or children and households that are in housing rented from the borough council. Intervention 20 050 smoke alarms, fittings, and educational brochures distributed free and installed on request. Main outcome measures Rates of fires and related injuries during two years after the distribution; alarm ownership, installation, and function. Results Giving out free smoke alarms did not reduce injuries related to fire (rate ratio 1.3; 95% confidence interval 0.9 to 1.9), admissions to hospital and deaths (1.3; 0.7 to 2.3), or fires attended by the fire brigade (1.1; 0.96 to 1.3). Similar proportions of intervention and control households had installed alarms (36/119 (30%) v 35/109 (32%); odds ratio 0.9; 95% confidence interval 0.5 to 1.7) and working alarms (19/118 (16%) v 18/108 (17%); 0.9; 0.4 to 1.8). Conclusions Giving out free smoke alarms in a deprived, multiethnic, urban community did not reduce injuries related to fire, mostly because few alarms had been installed or were maintained
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