AUTHOR: Andrea Vastis

Engaging your community in fire safety

It’s New Year’s Resolution time, and for Fire & Life Safety (FLS) educators, that means helping our communities adopt fire safety habits.  According to the NFPA Report on Fire Loss in the U.S., 2019, local fire departments responded to almost 1.3 million fires in 2019. These fires caused roughly 3,700 civilian deaths, 16,600 civilian injuries and $14.8 billion in property damage. A fire occurs in a structure at the rate of one every 65 seconds, and a home fire occurs every 93 seconds.  Those of us in the world of fire and life safety (FLS) education live and breathe these types of statistics and are constantly trying to find ways to engage our community to keep fire prevention top of mind and integrated into daily life.  From smoke & CO alarms to home escape planning, to safe cooking and heating practices, our goal is for our community members to make fire safety as much a habit as brushing their teeth.  Anyone who has tried to stop biting their nails or tried to start an exercise regimen knows that it takes more than just knowing something is good/bad to create motivation and action towards starting or breaking a habit.  It’s not enough to just know and agree that smoke alarms and home escape planning are important to home fire safety.  Getting people to adopt fire safety behaviors requires a number of interrelated factors to fall into place. One such factor is the way in which people consider their actual risk of harm from fire.   Just as people “know” texting and driving increases the risk of a crash, many still engage in this dangerous behavior because they’ve somehow managed to skew the risk in their favor, ie. “it’s only for a second,” “I have quick reflexes,” or “I’m good at multitasking.”  So too with fire safety in which people often assume they will have plenty of time to escape a fire, have the ability to put out a fire, or overestimate their ability to detect a fire on their own.  Fire & Life Safety educators use a variety of methods to address this perception of risk by sharing local data, personal stories, and using fire incidents as ways for people to connect the dots to their own lives.  NFPA's Community Tool Kits provide a variety of tools to support these efforts in using data, information and provision of actionable resources with the goal of adoption of fire safety behaviors.  Resolve to keep promoting fire safety as a daily habit for your community with the help of these toolkits which provide a multi-dimensional to approach behavior change with a variety of tactics and community partners.   Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and NFPA on  Twitter, Facebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division at NFPA.
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Put a Freeze on Winter Fires this Holiday Season and Beyond

As temperatures drop and thermostats are turned up, Fire and Life Safety (FLS) education efforts must include key winter fire and carbon monoxide (CO) prevention messaging and resources. In conjunction with the US Fire Administration, NFPA is once again promoting the Put a Freeze on Winter Fires Campaign featuring new infographics and social media cards to promote easy and critical ways people can prevent fires and CO poisoning. During the winter months the use of heating equipment, decorations, candles, and generators increase, bringing with an increased risk of fire and CO poisoning. Generators are the leading type of equipment involved in unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning with heating ranking second.  One in every seven home fires involves heating equipment, accounting for 19% of all home fire deaths. Community members need annual reminders of the dangers as well as practical ways to protect their family and home. Key tips for your communities include: Have a qualified professional clean and inspect your chimney, vents, and heating equipment every year. Make sure to have working smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside the sleeping area, and on each level, including the basement. Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet (1 meter) from any heat source like fireplaces, wood stoves, radiators or space heaters. Plug heat producing appliances directly into an outlet; never use an extension cord. Keep portable generators outside away from window, and as far away from your home as possible. Make sure everyone in your home (including guests) are part of your Home Fire Escape Plan including knowing 2 ways out and the outside meeting place. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and NFPA on  Twitter, Facebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division at NFPA.
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Hoarding: From Enforcement to Engagement

Compulsive hoarding behavior among residents increases the risk of serious injury and death to both the resident and to responding fire service personnel. The excessive accumulation of materials in homes increases risk of falls, exacerbation of chronic illness and impedes successful escape in the event of fire.  Hoarding situations also pose a significant threat to fighting fires and responding to other emergencies in these homes and to neighboring residents. Often, the fire department is the first to identify this behavior in the home and, working with community partners, can address this complex issue.  Hoarding: From Enforcement to Engagement is just one of the four expert-developed workshops featured in the 2020  NFPA Spotlight on Public Education (SOPE), virtual conference, taking place Tuesday, October 27 from 11:00 AM – 5:30 PM EST.   This presentation will identity the characteristics of hoarding behavior and examine the hazards that loom during emergency response in hoarding conditions. It will provide assistance in the identification of resources in your community that are needed to develop a task force and allow you to engage with task force professionals who can answer questions that exist around the social, psychological and environmental considerations that play a part of the treatment for a person who hoards.  This session is appropriate for Fire & Life Safety Educators, Elder Service, Public Health, and Injury Prevention professionals. Register Today and learn from your peers the challenges and successes in working with community partners to support resident health and safety.  Other SOPE workshops feature Falls Prevention among Older Adults, Community Risk Assessment, and Integrating Technology into Education Programs, as well as Networking Roundtables and dedicated NFPA Resource Center.  All sessions will be recorded and available on demand for registrants so if you have to step away from your computer, you won't miss a thing.  Join the over 1000 public education professionals who have already registered for this event!  Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and follow NFPA on Twitter, Facebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division at NFPA.
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Thanks to All for a Great Fire Prevention Week and We're Not Done Yet!

As the 98th annual Fire Prevention Week (FPW) comes to a close, I would like to take this time to thank the our fire departments, community agencies, public educators and all who work so hard to bring fire and life safety education to their communities. Our world changed the second week of March due to COVID-19, and fire and life safety educators (FLS) were challenged with finding new ways to reach their communities amidst numerous restrictions. The Public Education Division at NFPA is honored to have been able to be a part of the incredible innovation in this year's Fire Prevention Week's activities.  From having over 1400 people attend our FPW Out of the Box Ideas Webinar, to the amazing use of our Social Media Cards and #firepreventionweek, to literally crashing Sparky.org with so many people viewing our new I Spy Cooking Safety Video, we worked together across the U.S., Canada, and areas across the globe to promote home fire safety through our “Serve up Fire Safety,TM” efforts. Communities held cooking and poster contests, motor vehicle parades, partnered with food pantries and restaurants, made Tik Tok and Youtube videos, all in support of the oldest Public Health Observance in the U.S.  The dedication, creativity, and perseverance of our fire and life safety professionals to Fire Prevention Week, during a pandemic in which most were juggling multiple responsibilities, is a testament to the importance of fire safety education. While the official observance of FPW is coming to an end, all month long we'll continue to see communities engaged in a variety of activities to help reduce the incidence of home cooking fires, addressing the number one cause of home fires & home fire injuries.   There's so much more that we'll highlight this month as regards to FPW, and there's so much more great work ahead of us to educate, engage, and advocate for the safety of our communities. Fire Prevention Week is developed and launched year after year through the amazing work of dedicated professionals here at NFPA, and then it comes to life from all of you out there who do amazing work every day to keep your communities safe.  My sincere thanks to all the fire and life safety educators, burn prevention professionals, school and community educators, and anyone who continues to help their communities to “Serve up Fire Safety in the Kitchen,” during Fire Prevention Week and throughout the year. Check out the new cooking safety animations created through a collaboration of Vision 20/20, NFPA and US Fire Administration to keep the efforts rolling.  And continue to visit www.fpw.org and www.nfpa.org/education for toolkits, tip sheets, lesson plans and more. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and follow NFPA on Twitter, Facebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest.  
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Fire Prevention Week is in Full Swing as we “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!”

Cities and towns throughout the US, Canada, and other locales will celebrate this week and throughout the month of October to raise awareness of cooking and kitchen safety to celebrate the 98th annual Fire Prevention Week (FPW).   Cooking remains the number one cause of home fires and home fire injuries, and as COVID-19 restrictions have kept families in place, the need to assure safe cooking practices at home is critical. So many communities have found innovative ways to reach their residents as traditional open houses and classroom presentations have been cancelled this year:  Kannapolis, NC Fire Department, home to our Educator of the Year Maria Bostian, is hosting a “Serving up fire safety with Flat Sparky” social media selfie event.  Bob Duvall, NFPA Regional Director, and Fire Chief of the volunteer Fire Department in Wauregan, Connecticut shares what they are doing in his hometown this year.  “We sent all the school kids home with FPW ‘swag' and we will be doing a neighborhood Fire Prevention Week canvas/recruiting drive in the coming weeks, to distribute additional educational materials.” The Firefighters Burn Institute of Sacramento, California partnered up with numerous organizations including their SafeKids Coalition, local Shriners Hospital, various Fire Departments a local pizza restaurant to host a Fire Prevention Week poster contest, complete with pizza party prizes!  In Duxbury, Massachusetts, the Fire Department collaborated with a video producer who donated her time to create a 3-D virtual tour of the station house in which viewers can feel like they are actually scaling the fire ladder.   Saksatoon, Canada FD created numerous opportunities for participation including a Cooking Safely contest and Mountainview Rescue in Colorado created Youtube videos featuring truck tours, reading safety stories and pairing up with Sparky to teach kids the difference between toys and tools, educating children on items that are for adults only.  Throughout it all, we've seen an amazing array of the use of social media by our community partners, whether creating their own posts or using NFPA's Social Media Cards which are sized for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and available in English, Spanish, and French.   And the #firepreventionweek is on fire (in a good way!) with thousands of organizations promoting FPW. Whether making videos for Youtube, partnering with local food pantries, restaurants, and places of worship, or organizing a fire truck parade, our shared goal remains:  to increase awareness of fire safety and to provide community members with the knowledge and tools they need to lead safe and healthy lives.  My sincere thanks to all the fire and life safety educators, burn prevention professionals, school and community educators, and anyone who continues to help their communities to “Serve up Fire Safety in the Kitchen,” during Fire Prevention Week and throughout the year.   Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and follow NFPA on Twitter, Facebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest.  
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Providing a Safe Environment for Virtual Learning includes Working Smoke Alarms

A recent article in the Washington Post described a situation in which teachers were noticing the “chirping” sounds of smoke alarms in their students homes during virtual classes.  As the article notes, “And while the teachers heard it, the parents and students at the homes seemed so accustomed to the incessant noise that they didn't notice it.”  That prompted the principal of a Washington D.C. elementary school to call his local Fire Department, as did numerous leaders of other schools.       The response from Tony Falwell, Fire Marshal and Deputy Chief of the D.C. fire department was one of action.  “As soon as you hear it, you need to address it,” Falwell said in an interview. “Because if you continue to ignore it, it just becomes background noise.”   Staff from his department began a campaign working with the schools and Parent-Teacher organizations to promote smoke alarm education to the families through the virtual learning platforms used for classroom-based education.  The campaign includes installation of smoke alarms in homes of families who cannot afford to buy them.   They even came up with a catchy slogan “When you hear the chirp - it's time do the work.” Fire and life safety education happens at all levels, and at all times, day or night.  What started out as addressing a distraction during remote learning, created a life-saving opportunity for families.  This October, as you “Serve up Fire Safety in the Kitchen” as part of your Fire Prevention Week efforts, make sure to include smoke alarms in your fire safety plan.  Download NFPA's Smoke Alarm Tip Sheet and NFPA's Smoke alarms for deaf and hard of hearing people tip sheet to make sure you know what to do in your home.   And like they say in D.C., “When you hear the chirp – it's time to do the work!” Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and follow NFPA on Twitter, Facebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest.
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