Fire safety for vulnerable groups: The challenges of cross-sector collaboration in Norwegian municipalities

Studio Apertura
AbstractVulnerable groups are found to be over-represented in fire fatalities statistics. In official Norwegian documents vulnerability is described as related to factors such as old age, reduced mobility or cognitive abilities, mental health problems, and substance abuse. As vulnerability to fatal fire is frequently related to residents’ health and life situations, prevention work often exceeds the competencies and responsibilities of the fire department. Cross-sector collaboration is therefore required in order to reach the groups that are at risk. This paper reports from a qualitative interview study with representatives from municipal fire services, property management, housing administration, health and social care. The study explores the challenges experienced by service providers in achieving cross-sector collaboration on fire prevention for vulnerable groups. The findings describe challenges at three levels: 1) the national regulatory level represents an obstacle to local cross-sector collaboration, 2) the municipal level lacks strategies and arenas for cross-sector collaboration for fire safety, and 3) the professional level experiences conflicting values and norms, including uncertainties about professional boundaries. Organizational measures that support the fire services in their efforts to reach vulnerable groups must be targeted to all three levels and go beyond the boundaries of the fire services. The study contributes with a social scientific approach to fire prevention and contributes with new perspectives on fire safety for vulnerable residents.