AUTHOR: Andrea Vastis

With Rising Costs and Lower Temperatures, Promoting Safe Heating Practices Is of Utmost Importance

A recent press release from the National Energy Assistance Directors Association reported that US households will likely experience a 17.1 percent increase in home heating costs this coming winter. Heating is the second overall leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries, and the third leading cause of home fire deaths in the US*. As people balance their budgets against heating their homes, fire and life safety educators have an opportunity and critical need to reinforce safe heating practices geared to the safe use of heating equipment.  For instance, promoting the maintenance of heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional is important not only for fire and carbon monoxide prevention, but also for economic and mechanical efficiency.  And as people turn to portable space heaters to save on gas and oil expenses, fire and life safety educators need to stress the safe selection and use of these devices, which are involved in 44 percent of home heating equipment fires and the vast majority of injuries and deaths from home heating equipment fires*. (*Source: NFPA Applied Research) Chapter 10 of the NFPA Educational Messages Desk Reference for fire and life safety educators focuses on safe heating, including fireplaces and wood/pellet stoves, space heaters, central heating systems, and related heating equipment.  Some key tips for safe heating this winter: Have a 3 foot (1 m) “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters. That goes for pets too! Keep anything that can burn 3 feet (1 m) from heating equipment, including space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves. Plug only one heat producing appliance (like a space heater) into a wall outlet at a time. Never use an extension cord with a space heater or other heat producing appliance. Use heating equipment that is listed by a qualified testing laboratory. Never use your oven or stove for heating. Ovens and stoves are not designed to heat your home. Make sure fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Install and maintain smoke and CO alarms inside your home to provide early warning of smoke and carbon monoxide. Visit the NFPA heating safety page for facts, tips, and videos and visit our tip sheets in multiple languages page to download the Heating Safety Tip Sheet, available in Spanish, French, Haitian Creole, Hmong, and Somali. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis, Sparky the Fire Dog® on Twitter and Facebook and NFPA on Instagram to keep up with the latest in fire and life safety education.

Falls Prevention is also fire prevention

Fifty-two million Americans aged 65 or older make up 16 percent of the total US population. Yet they experience disproportionate injuries and deaths from fires and falls—twice the general population when it comes to fires. Falls are the leading cause of death from unintentional injuries for older adults, with nearly 1 in 3 seniors—that’s 17 million people—suffering a fall each year. This year’s Fire Prevention Week™ (FPW™) theme “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.™” pays particular attention to the needs of older adults in planning to safely escape their home in the event of fire.  Preventing slips, trips, and falls when evacuating is of key importance considering people may have as little as 2 minutes to safely escape their home.  Key fall prevention for safe home escape tips for older adults include:  Remove clutter in the hallways, stairways, and near exits/windows for a clear, safe path out of your home. Make sure all windows and doors can open in an emergency. If you use a walker or wheelchair, check all exits to be sure you can fit through the doorways. Keep your walker, scooter, cane, or wheelchair by your bed/where you sleep to make sure you can reach it quickly. Keep your eyeglasses, mobile phone, and a flashlight by your bed/where you sleep to be able to reach them quickly in an emergency. Consider sleeping in a room on the ground floor to make emergency escape easier. Fire service, elder care, and public health professionals have a unique opportunity to work together to reduce the growing incidence of injuries and deaths from fires and falls among older adults. As such, NFPA has undertaken a set of enhancements to our legacy Remembering When™ Older Adult Fire and Fall Prevention program, now called Steps to Safety™: Prevent fire and falls at home.   Coming out later this fall, Steps to Safety™ is still focused on pairing fire service with community partners to deliver group presentations, conduct home visits, and create a community network of resources to support older adults and their caregivers. Enhancements include a new online learning curriculum, new videos, and new social media assets.  The program remains rooted in key fire and fall prevention messages, with updated messaging on the role of medications in fire and fall risk. All training and program materials are currently being finalized and will be available on our website at a date to be released in the coming months.  Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis, Sparky the Fire Dog® on Twitter and Facebook and NFPA on Instagram to keep up with the latest in fire and life safety education.
Sparky parade with Sparky flag

Up your fire safety game with Kahoot!

Fire and Life Safety (FLS) educators know that “meeting people where they are” is one of the keys to providing accurate and consistent fire and burn prevention messaging.  It’s even easier now that NFPA® Kids has teamed up with Kahoot! ACADEMY to bring quality fire safety education where so many of us spend our time – on our phones and computers. Noted as the number one platform for K-12 educators, Kahoot! recently reached eight billion (yes billion!) cumulative participants since its launch in 2013.  NFPA Kids now has a collection of fire safety Kahoots! available so kids of all ages can learn about topics including cooking safety, home fire escape, and smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.  “Home fire safety is a critical element of personal injury prevention,” says April Hart, Program Manager of Public Education Programs at NFPA. “Home fires burn hotter and faster than 50 years ago, but there are ways kids and their families can prevent fire and burns, by acquiring the knowledge and skills to stay safe through these engaging kahoots. Sparky the Fire Dog® is proud to team up with Kahoot! to teach about fire safety in a fun and interactive way!” NFPA’s Division of Public Education is committed to providing FLS, public health, and injury prevention professionals with vetted, quality education materials to use in community education efforts. From lesson plans to safety tip sheets to Sparky School House for educators, and more, these free downloadable assets support the shared mission of eliminating loss of life and property from fire, electrical and related hazards. Check out and follow Sparky the Fire Dog® and NFPA® Kids on Kahoot! Academy to stay up to date on current and new games. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis, Sparky the Fire Dog® on Twitter and Facebook and NFPA on Instagram to keep up with the latest in Fire and Life Safety education.
Boats on the water at sunset

Summer is for Swimming, Sailing, and Safety

Summer months mean an increase in outdoor recreation activities such as swimming and sailing. Safety precautions such as wearing life vests, keeping an eye on children in the water, and avoiding alcohol while swimming/boating are ways to have fun and stay safe. One hazard not often thought of is the risk of electric shock drowning, which happens when marina, onboard electrical systems, and pools/spas leak electric current into the water. The current then passes through the body, causing paralysis, and results in drowning. NFPA’s What is electric shock drowning video offers Fire and Life Safety (FLS) educators a PSA style option of informing people of this often-overlooked risk, and can be paired with our marina and boating safety tip sheet and electrical safety around swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas tip sheet. These resources offer people key information on how to enjoy their water activities safely. Key tips include (but are not limited to): For swimmers in marinas, lakes, and ponds: Never swim near a marina, dock, or boatyard. Obey all “no swimming signs” on docks. For boat owners: Avoid entering the water when launching or loading your boat. These areas can contain stray electrical currents in the water, possibly leading to electric shock drowning or injury from shock, including death.  Know where your main breaker(s) are located on both the boat and the shore power source so you can respond quickly in case of an emergency. For people in pools, hot tubs, and spas: Look out for underwater lights that are not working properly, flicker or work intermittently. If tingling occurs, immediately stop swimming in your current direction. Try and swim in a direction where you had not felt the tingling, Exit the water as quickly as possible and avoid using metal ladders or rails. Touching metal may increase the risk of shock. Do not swim before, during or after thunderstorms. For swimming pool owners: Have a qualified electrician periodically inspect and—where necessary—replace or upgrade the electrical devices or equipment that keep your pool, spa or hot tub electrically safe. Have him/her show you how to turn off all power in case of an emergency. Electrical appliances, equipment and cords should be kept at least 6 feet away from the water. When possible, use battery-operated instead of cord-connected appliances and equipment, such as televisions, radios, and stereos. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis, Sparky the Fire Dog® on Twitter and Facebook and NFPA on Instagram to keep up with the latest in Fire and Life Safety education.

Fire and Life Safety Education in the Spotlight

NFPA’s premiere Spotlight on Public Education (SOPE) conference is an exciting and cost-effective way to connect (in person!) with fire & life safety content and professionals from a wide range of specialties.  Now in its sixth year, SOPE takes place Monday and Tuesday, June 6 & 7* at the 2022 NFPA Conference and Expo in Boston, Massachusetts. After two years of virtual SOPE conferencing, this in person event provides professional development and networking for fire and life safety (FLS), burn prevention, injury prevention, and public health educators. Registration for SOPE includes eight unique FLS related workshops: Steps to SafetyTM Prevent fire and falls at home Educational Messages in Schools:Best practices from EMAC Best Practices in Youth Fire Setting: Creating a “No Fear” Zone Spice up your Fire Prevention Week Toolkit The Impact of Drug Use on Fire Risk Using Virtual Reality to Communicate the Benefits of Home Fire Sprinklers Applying Community Risk Assessment Data in Unexpected and Extraordinary Ways Fire Safety in the U.S. since 1980 SOPE participants also have access to the Expo floor, General Session, and admission to the Community Risk Assessment: Leading with Insights* workshop on June 8th.   A dedicated SOPE lounge area will be provided, offering registrants a place to network and grab a snack. Registration is still open for Spotlight on Public Education (SOPE) held in Boston’s historic Seaport District, a beautiful backdrop to energizing and informative learning for FLS professionals. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis, Sparky the Fire Dog® on Twitter and Facebook and NFPA on Instagram to keep up with the latest in Fire and Life Safety education.
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