The Philadelphia Fire Department recently deployed a demographic analysis system that maps out the city’s highest fire-risk households. Buxton, a customer analytics firm, closely worked with the PFD to develop a fire vulnerability index specific to the department that scores every household in Philadelphia on its propensity for a fire. The pilot program is the first to be held in the U.S.

Buxton is a data aggregator that houses around 250 databases with information on about 113 million households in the U.S. For this project, data on Philadelphia residents were married with fire data collected by the PFD, said Joseph Fackel, the company’s senior vice president of its public-sector consulting group. Specifically, the fire department provided Buxton with residential fire incident data dating between January 2008 and November 2010. That was tied to information in their databases in order to provide “granular-level data,” Fackel said. The result was a fire vulnerability index database that mapped high-risk households through historical, demographic and financial data.

“The key finding was that nearly 60% of the residential fires in the city of Philadelphia occur in household types that represent only 26% of the households in the city,” he said.

From this index, the PFD now knows which households to focus fire-prevention efforts on and can pinpoint fire vulnerability households in the city that are more likely to have a future fire event. Fackel said it also can use the data for several efforts, such as to provide those households with fire alarms or to send them direct-mail flyers about fire safety.

Indeed, the data lets the fire department focus its fire-prevention efforts, Commissioner Lloyd Ayer said. Ayer said the department can look at the city’s population, such as a household’s purchasing characteristics, where they attend the schools, number of people in the home and more.

“They look at a various databases and bring those items together to build profiles,” Ayers said.

Now, the department has a game-changing opportunity as it can tailor its efforts toward high-risk populations before a fire starts, meaning firefighters can go door to door and educate the public as well as install smoke alarms, Ayers said.

“We have the opportunity to spend more time on education so we can chase the fire out of the city,” he said. “Freedom from fire is what we want in the city.”