AUTHOR: Andrea Vastis

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.

Invest in Fire Safety this Earth Day

Earth Day is celebrated annually April 22 across the globe to raise awareness of the health of our environment. This year’s theme is “Invest in our planet,” which got me thinking about the “Investment in Safety” cog of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, a framework that identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. While Fire and Life Safety (FLS) education often focuses largely on the “Informed Public” cog, the work of the FLS educator includes helping people find the resources to make their homes safer, while teaching the importance of key fire and hazard prevention and response behaviors. Examples of this include smoke alarm installation programs, connecting older adults with community resources to install grab bars in the bathroom, and promoting the value of home fire sprinklers. Making investments in and around the home is also critical to protecting people and homes from wildfires, and includes a focus on the first five feet of what is called the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ), the area around a home/structure which is most vulnerable to embers from wildfires. Research around home destruction vs. home survival in wildfires point to embers and small flames as the main way homes ignite in wildfires. Embers are burning pieces of airborne wood and/or vegetation that can be carried more than a mile through the wind and can cause spot fires and ignite homes, debris, and other objects. NFPA’s How to Prepare your Home for Wildfires fact sheet provides residents with practical advice and Sparky the Fire Dog’s® Earth Smarts! offers kids an opportunity to participate.  Health and safety observances such as Earth Day are a great way to raise awareness and lead people to action. The timing of Earth Day allows for a natural flow into Wildfire Community Preparedness Day May 7, to continue the focus on the home and neighborhood environment to protect people, homes, and whole communities from the devastation of wildfires. 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.
dog on the porch

Keep your pets fire safe this National Pet Day

April 11 marks #nationalpetday, and this week on social media people are posting pictures of their beloved animals like my Bubba, age 4, pictured here. People often ask about how to include their pets, especially the four-legged ones, as part of their home fire safety plan. The 2020 edition of the NFPA Educational Messages for Fire & Life Safety Desk Reference contains a new Pet Fire Safety chapter featuring key educational messages for use in fire and life safety (FLS) education.  Many of those messages can be found in NFPA’s Pet Fire Safety Tip Sheet, available as a free download with the ability to co-brand for use in FLS education efforts. One key tip to keep your pets safe from fire is by keeping them (and kids!) three feet (1 meter) from stoves/ovens, firepits, and heating appliances. Pets and candles certainly don’t mix, with battery operated flameless candles a much safer option to prevent burns and home fires from. Pets can also be included in home wildfire preparedness plans by building an evacuation kit for each pet in the household and practicing that plan. NFPA’s Pet Wildfire Evacuation Video provides practical tips to prepare pets of all shapes and sizes for evacuation. What to do with pets when planning and practicing Home Fire Escape is a common question. Today’s home fires burn hotter and faster than ever, giving occupants as little as two minutes to get out safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds.  It is of critical importance that all people in the home have a plan for safe escape which includes an outside meeting place. People should not take extra time to search for animals in the home when trying to escape and should never go back into a fire to try and rescue a pet.  Instead let firefighters know if there are any animals still inside. Show your pet some extra love by protecting them from fire and burns this National Pet Day and every day. 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 in 1951

Not Your Mother’s Stop, Drop, and Roll: Evolution of a Key Fire Safety Message

Few phrases have such a long history in our modern vocabulary as “Stop, Drop, and Roll," developed and promoted in the 1970s to teach people, especially children, what to do if their clothes caught on fire. Back then, teaching Stop, Drop, and Roll (SDR) provided a critical life- saving skill to children and adults, as annually 500 – 750 people died due clothing ignition. A lot has changed since the 70s, especially among children and fire safety. In 2015-2019, there were an annual average 150 clothing ignition home fire deaths, with 6% of the victims under the age of 15, and 75% of those aged 55 and older. While any death is unacceptable, it brings to bear the question of what skills we are teaching and to whom.   Stop, Drop, and Roll has long been a favorite for our Fire and Life Safety (FLS) educators to teach young children –, active, and keeps kids engaged. But is it always the developmentally appropriate thing to teach? A recent NFPA Learn Something New video Is Stop, Drop, and Roll still relevant? discusses the shifts in our fire safety landscape and the context within which SDR belongs.   Those shifts are underscored in the NFPA Report Fire Safety in the U.S. Since 1980, which brings to bear some key points for FLS educators to consider in selecting topics and audiences for their efforts: Fire deaths of children under five have dramatically declined, while home fire deaths of people 65 and older have remained virtually unchanged at about 1 in 3. While there are fewer home fires and fire deaths in the U.S., home fires burn hotter and faster due to synthetic fabrics, lightweight construction materials, and open floor plans, leaving occupants with as little as two minutes to safely escape. Cooking is the only major cause of fire that resulted in more home fires and fire deaths in 2014-2018 than in 1980-1984. At the crux of this discussion is not that we shouldn’t teach SDR, it’s how and when we teach SDR. NFPA’s Know When to Stop, Drop, and Roll lesson plan is part of the core-aligned Learn Not to Burn curriculum. This lesson is for first grade, as children under six are generally not developmentally able to understand the context for when and why to engage in SDR. I’ve had the experience, as have many FLS educators, of asking young children what to do when the smoke alarm sounds, only to have them yell, “Stop, Drop, and Roll!” enthusiastically. The success of this message has become our confounder, unintentionally making it a catch-all response for any fire safety situation. Add to the mix the increased intensity and speed of today’s home fires, and the emphasis for young children (and across the lifespan) must be on recognizing the sound of the smoke alarm and planning and practicing Home Fire Escape. These are the skills that are part of the building blocks, and more likely to be needed by today’s home occupants, making them a primary focus for FLS efforts. 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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