AUTHOR: Cierra Thompson

String of Tragic New Hampshire Fires Exposes Gaps in Smoke Alarm Protection

Over the past few decades, there have been great strides in public awareness around home fire safety and prevention. One example of this success is around smoke alarms, which shows that most homes now have at least one installed. But even with measures of progress, we continue to see that more work needs to be done around better educating people about the critical importance of properly installing, testing, and maintaining smoke alarms.  In New Hampshire, seven deadly home fires have occurred in 2020, collectively claiming the lives of eight people. The common thread between these tragic incidents is that none of the homes had working smoke alarms. In the last five years, 49 people have died in home fires in New Hampshire. In more than half of those fires, smoke alarms were not present. According to NFPA smoke alarm statistics, nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no working smoke alarms. Following are NFPA requirements and recommendations around proper installation, testing and maintenance of smoke alarms: Install smoke alarms on every level of the home, in each bedroom, and near all sleeping areas. Test all smoke alarms at least once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working. Consider installing interconnected smoke alarms, so that when one alarm sounds, they all do. For the best protection, use smoke alarms that feature ionization and photoelectric technologies; combination alarms that include both in a single device are available. Replace batteries when the alarm chirps, signaling that the batteries are running low. Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old. Use this 10-minute mini-lesson to deliver smoke alarm information in an easily sharable format, along with our other smoke alarm resources to better educate your community about their importance and value.
MM13

Mythblaster Monday 13: Mythblasting Roundup

We know that new homes are commonly made with lightweight construction and modern, often synthetic furnishings that can lead home fires to create a toxic environment and burn more quickly than in the past. Home fire sprinklers protect occupants and property by controlling the fire before first responders arrive, but misinformation can keep people from taking advantage of them. Over the course of our Mythblaster Monday series, we have combatted several different myths and shared resources highlighting the features, facts, and advantages. A recent report on home structure fires found that the presence of sprinklers lowered the death rate for home fires by 85 percent, compared to home fires without an automatic extinguishing system (AES), and in 90 percent of cases, one sprinkler is enough to control the fire. This benefit to fire & life safety cannot be overstated and increasing home fire sprinkler installations requires a combined effort from first responders, developers, local officials, and other stakeholders. Here's a breakdown of all the myths we have blasted away, in case you missed it: Myth 1: I have smoke alarms, so I don't need home fire sprinklers. Truth: Smoke alarms detect, sprinklers protect. Myth 2: Home Fire Sprinkler installation is too expensive. Truth: Average fire sprinklers cost $1.35 per square foot of sprinklered space in new construction Myth 3: The fire department will be able to put out the fire and save my things. Fact: Fire departments may not be able to get to your home for 9-12 minutes—plenty of time for a fire to grow to be deadly and cause massive damages. Myth 4: Sprinklers don't benefit the environment Fact: Fire hoses, on average, use eight-and-a-half times more water than sprinklers do to contain a fire. Myth 5: Water damage from sprinklers is worse than fire damage Fact: Sprinkler flows are 10-26 gallons of water per minute. Sprinkler damage is a fraction of typical losses from an unsprinklered home fire. Myth 6: Smoke alarms cause fire sprinklers to activate. Fact: Home fire sprinklers are only activated by the high temperature of a fire surrounding the sprinkler. Myth 7: Home fire sprinklers require costly inspections and maintenance. Fact: It's easy--a flow test should be done a couple times a year. Myth 8: Sprinklers will leak. Fact: Sprinkler mishaps are generally less likely and less severe than home plumbing system problems. Myth 9: My insurance rates will go up. Fact: Most insurance companies reward customers who protect their homes with fire sprinklers Myth 10: If a community doesn't require home fire sprinklers, we can't ask builders to put them in. Fact: Even without a code requirement, local jurisdictions can work with developers and builders on many possible incentives for including home fire sprinklers in construction. Myth 11: If one sprinkler goes off, they all go off Fact: Sprinklers activate independently; only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate Myth 12: Sprinklers will freeze in winter. Fact: The national installation standard provides guidance for proper installation in cold regions so that sprinklers don't freeze. This series works as an introduction to the assets available to home fire sprinkler advocates. Be sure to visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative to find further materials regarding installation incentives, educational resources for the public, AHJs, and more.
SOPE 2020

Public Educators and Fire and Life Safety Professionals Learn New Ways to Improve their Efforts at SOPE 2020

The 2020 NFPA Spotlight on Public Education conference went virtual this year, featuring four professionally led workshops that provided fire & life safety educators, injury prevention, and public education leaders with knowledge and networking opportunities to address public education in today's world. Here are some of the highlights, if you missed out. “Hoarding: From Enforcement to Engagement” This workshop highlighted the risks to residents and first responders from hoarding, along with methods to address these situations for the safety and well-being of all involved. Hoarding is a complex issue that can affect people from all socioeconomic levels and types of housing. Hoarding behavior is indicated by excessive accumulation inside or outside the home combined with an inability to give/toss anything away. In hoarding situations, residents have an increased risk of falls, fire, and exacerbating their chronic conditions due to the inability to find things, use the kitchen/bathrooms, and unsanitary and cluttered conditions. First responders find their ability to deal with fires and other emergencies at a higher risk due to increased fire load and the lack of clear pathways to maneuver through the home. Once hoarding behavior has been identified, there are a number of ways to address the resident: For community engagement -Get buy-in from church members, family, or neighbors -Consider creating a task force with primary partners like housing and public health to address social, psychological, or environmental questions in treatment -Establish procedures like ongoing visitation For addressing hoarding behavior -Set realistic expectations -Aim for home functional and safe, not home beautiful -Engage in their goals for their home using an empathetic approach “Community Risk Assessment: The First Chapter in Your CRR Story” Conducting a Community Risk Assessment (CRA) is the vital first step of Community Risk Reduction (CRR), a process that helps communities recognize potential risks and develop proactive plans to alleviate them, improving safety outcomes for residents and first responders. This session helped public educators and first responders explore how to use their data as a strong launch-pad into addressing specific risks in their communities.  South County Fire was able to use their CRA to identify areas of the county that produced higher call volumes requesting COVID-19 tests. With the tools gained from the NFPA CRA pilot project, they introduced a set of education campaigns and new procedures that is beginning to create a decrease in those calls. Windsor used the dashboard to more accurately track their demographics, leading to COVID-19 outreach that focused on high-density areas and new materials that better reflect the community. To put your best foot forward in completing a Community Risk Assessment for CRR, remember: When collecting data, get as local as you can, as often as you can. Use the data to tell a story about your community Form partnerships with your key stakeholders Measure the capacity of emergency services to deal with crises Fire departments can also apply to be a part of the next phase of NFPA's CRA pilot project. For more information, please contact our CRR team at CRR@nfpa.org.  “Taking your education programs virtually anywhere” Fire and life safety educators gained a deeper understanding of how to engage with their participants in a virtual world and enhance their experiences by using digital tools, tips and tricks. Taking presentations online can be a great way to meet the audience where they are, increase convenience, reach a larger audience, and open collaboration opportunities. They are fun, interactive, and help participants take in information at their own pace with recording and re-watching capabilities. When considering what virtual tools work for you, remember these tips from Brene Duggins, fire prevention coordinator for the Holly Grove, NC Fire Department and media coordinator of the Oak Grove High School in Davidson County, NC: Don't panic—it may be new, but it's easy to do! Collaborate with other educators Find areas in the community that increase internet accessibility for students that might need it Consider tools such as breakout rooms, exit tickets, and more uses for Google Forms  “Falls Prevention among Older Adults” Falls send approximately 1 in 17 people over age 65 to the ER each year. The fire service is often first on the scene, responding to more lift assist calls than fire calls for older adults. In this workshop, participants learned about the impacts of the aging process, and the physical and environmental conditions which the increase risk of falls. A first fall increases the fear of falling, which in turn can actually create greater risk, engaging the older adult in a vicious cycle. Using  NFPA Remembering When® A Fire and Fall Prevention Program for Older Adults from NFPA as a base, Saskatoon, Canada Fire Department created a proactive-reactive-proactive approach that adds home visits and education to decrease the potential for a first and subsequent falls. By connecting residents with local health agencies to perform follow-up, their activities have resulted in a reduction of “repeat” falls among residents. According to Dori Krahn of the Saskatoon, FD, their program has helped residents stay in their homes longer, engage them in manageable changes, socialize, and gives the fire department an opportunity to check homes for additional risks of fire including assuring working smoke alarms.  Farmington Hills, MI Fire Department partners with the Knox Box and File of Life tools to assure quick access and information when helping senior residents when they experience falls or other medical emergencies. And in Greenville, North Carolina, the Remembering When program is made sustainable by the Vidant Health Center Injury Prevention Program through a partnership with local colleges to recruit and train public health and gerontology students to conduct home visits. The program is further sustained through a robust partnership with the regional falls coalition.   Remembering When materials are free and available on NFPA's public education website and are available in in English, Spanish, Russian and Mandarin.  As we find ourselves dealing with new ways to reach our audiences, this Spotlight on Public Education event gave an opportunity for fire and life safety and public education professionals to learn, connect and energize their efforts. Overall, it was an event filled with resources and real-life examples on how to improve public education and fire and life safety outcomes for your community. For more information, visit NFPA's Public Education page.
winter home

Mythblaster Monday - Put the Freeze on this Myth about Home Fire Sprinklers in Winter

Throughout our Mythblaster Monday series, we have pointed to resources that identify the benefits of home fire sprinklers and help combat the misinformation that surrounds them. Last week we debunked a myth frequently perpetuated by Hollywood, the idea that when one fire sprinkler goes off, they all do. Today, we acknowledge a concern that advocates may hear more often as we move into the colder months of the year. Myth: Sprinklers will freeze in winter. Fact: The national installation standard provides guidance for proper installation in cold regions so that sprinklers don't freeze. Homeowners in colder climates are no stranger to the risk of freezing pipes, but they should not refuse the protection of home fire sprinklers based on the false assumption that their sprinklers will freeze. Home structure fires are more common in the cooler months, and recent research found that almost half (47 percent) of home structure fires and 56 percent of home structure fire deaths happened between November and March. NFPA 13D, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, does not require sprinklers in certain areas of a home that might be prone to freezing pipes, since fires in those areas statistically do not lead to a large number of deaths or injuries. Additional information on freeze protection in sprinklers can be found on a dedicated page of the Fire Sprinkler Initiative. There is specific information for homebuilders. These fire service resources are hands-on tools that can also help communicate the facts to residents. While smoke alarms offer the early detection necessary to tell occupants to get out, home fire sprinklers begin controlling a fire as soon as one is detected, which is an invaluable benefit, especially for high-risk populations like children and older adults. As you consider outreach opportunities, take a look at these community tool kits, which make it easy to break down many of the major advantages of home fire sprinklers, with infographics, op-ed templates, and more. Looking to work with more news outlets in your area? Then you won't want to miss these practical tips for working with the media that include helpful talking points talking points. For more resources, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative online.
Draper family

Utah Family Service Project Reveals Value of Home Fire Sprinkler Protection Through Collaboration and Community Partnerships

One of the best ways we know of to improve fire safety outcomes is in preparing ahead for emergencies before they happen. And whenever there is the possibility to collaborate with others toward that goal, the more opportunities we have to further reduce risks for injuries, damage, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards in our homes and communities. Such is the case when the Grossinger family of Draper, Utah, asked their local fire department for assistance with wildfire mitigation measures around their home. The department happily obliged, but when crews arrived, they noticed that the home's smoke alarm and sprinkler systems needed to be updated. They sprang into action, organizing a service project to upgrade both systems. The case was particularly special because the parents and older daughter of the family are deaf and rely on the younger son to inform them if smoke alarms sound or if there is a fire. Local partners donated and installed new visual smoke alarms and worked on repairing and updating the home's residential fire sprinkler system. According to local news reports, the project was organized as part of NFPA's National Fire Prevention Week that ran October 4 – 10, and was intended not only to serve as a reminder for other homeowners to review their own fire safety measures during the week of the campaign, but to do so all year long. Research shows that fires can become deadly in as little as two minutes. Home fire sprinklers provide fire detection and suppression early on, allowing building occupants valuable time to escape. But they need to be properly installed and maintained to perform as intended. The challenge is many community residents may not know about the benefits of sprinklers or how to get them. Collaborative opportunities like this positive story from Draper is just one example of how safety advocates are raising awareness of the importance of sprinklers and encouraging community residents to take proactive action to improve fire safety for their families. Educating residents on sprinkler options, incentives, and other key information about this life saving technology is key. Tools such as education kits for fire departments, homeowners, and local officials can also be used to support this endeavor. Learn more about home fire sprinklers and find resources to help advocate for them in your community by visiting the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative webpages. Mark Grossinger (left), Don Buckley, Fire Marshal – Draper City Fire Department (Utah) (center), and Brooke Grossinger (right); photo courtesy of the Draper Fire Department  
NFPA Logo

Tragic Columbus Fire Reinforces the Importance of Working Smoke Alarms

A Columbus, OH family of four lost their lives to an early morning fire this past weekend, caused by embers from their fireplace igniting nearby flammable materials. According to news report, while the home had smoke alarms, investigators found that the batteries were missing. This tragic incident reinforces the importance of working smoke alarms throughout the home while underscoring a potential fire hazard associated with fireplaces. Following are reminders to share with your community when using fireplaces. This unfortunate event leaves a painful hole in the community. Fire prevention works best when multiple levels of protection come together. Working smoke alarms, home fire sprinklers, and a home escape plan practiced at least twice a year, give residents a complete system that decrease the chance of a devastating fire while increasing the chances of safely escaping if a fire does indeed break out. Use these smoke alarm tips to help ensure that your community will know how to protect themselves with smoke alarms, summarized here: A closed door may slow the spread of smoke, heat and fire. Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room and outside each separate sleeping area. Install alarms on every level of the home, including the basement. Smoke alarms should be interconnected. When one sounds, they all sound. Large homes may need extra smoke alarms. Test all smoke alarms at least once a month by pressing the test button to be sure the alarm is working. Today's smoke alarms will be more technologically advanced to respond to a multitude of fire conditions, yet mitigate false alarms. A smoke alarm should be on the ceiling or high on a wall. Keep smoke alarms away from the kitchen to reduce false alarms. They should be at least 10 feet (3 meters) from the stove. People who are hard-of-hearing or deaf can use special alarms with strobe lights and bed shakers. Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old. Fire departments and other organizations have many resources at their disposal to assist people with accessing the fire protection measures they need. These tips make creating a home escape plan easy to understand, and these sharable downloads present useful information regarding home fire sprinklers.
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