Changing the Built Environment to Prevent Injury

  • Catherine E. StauntonEmail author
  • Howard FrumkinEmail author
  • Andrew L. DannenbergEmail author

The “built environment” is the part of the environment designed and constructed by humans; it includes buildings, neighborhoods, sporting facilities, roadways, and vehicles. It is thus a logical but often overlooked fact that the built environment can be modified to help prevent both unintentional injuries, such as young children falling from balconies, and violent injuries, such as injuries incurred during an armed robbery.

Improved safety codes in the United States have made fi re-related injuries in public places very rare. In 1911, fi re broke out on the ninth fl oor of the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory in Manhattan. The main exit was engulfed with fl ames and alternative exits were either locked or had doors that opened inward. The fi re escape collapsed under the weight of fl eeing employees, and 146 people died. This tragedy resulted in some of the fi rst fi re codes affecting the built environment: multiple fi re escape routes, outward opening doors, and sprinkler systems for higher fl oors (Von Drehle, 2003). The deadly 1942 Coconut Grove Night Club fi re resulted in new laws requiring emergency lighting systems and fl ame-retardant decorations in public buildings and prohibiting the use of revolving doors as principal exits (Moulton, 1943). And the fatal 1980, MGM Grand Hotel fi re led to the adoption of retroactive fi re safety improvements (including sprinklers) in older, publicly occupied buildings (Nolan, 2001).


Injury Prevention Public Transit Unintentional Injury Passenger Vehicle Smoke Detector 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.King County Department of Public HealthSeattle
  2. 2.CDC National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registries, CDCAtlanta
  3. 3.Division of Emergency and Environmental Health ScienceCDC National Center for Environmental HealthAtlanta

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