AUTHOR: LisaMarie Sinatra

A stormy sky

September is National Preparedness Month: Is Your Community Ready to Respond to a Severe Weather Event or Emergency?

While the warmer months of the year signal a time when we can indulge in vacations, beach days, and outdoor activities, the summer and fall are also when hurricanes, thunderstorms, wildfires, and other natural disasters make their impressive mark across many areas of the U.S. often disrupting the rhythm of our daily lives. If you've seen the news lately, you’re aware of another record year for wildfires in California, and hurricanes Fred, Henri, and most recently, Ida, which made landfall in August along the east and gulf coasts of the U.S., have left much damage in their wake across many coastal communities. Hurricane season began June 1 and ends in late November, but according to the National Weather Service, most storms peak in late September and October. And it's not just hurricanes or wildfires that make the news: the Plains and Great Lake regions often start their battle with freezing conditions and snowfall during the fall months.  Ready, a national public service campaign, has earmarked September as National Preparedness Month and urges those of us tasked with protecting people and property from fire, electrical, and related hazards, to work together, help educate, and empower the public to prepare, respond to, and mitigate emergencies before they become tragedies. The theme for this year's campaign, “Prepare to Protect,” reminds us that being better prepared before, during, and after an emergency is key to getting our lives back to normal as quickly as possible. NFPA has a wealth of information to help guide building owners and facility managers, first responders, health care facility managers, electrical professionals, and public educators, as they prepare ahead of weather events and other emergencies in their area. These resources are free and can be easily shared: For facility managers and business owners: For answers to bigger emergency planning challenges and questions, NFPA 1600, Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity/Continuity of Operations Programs is a vital guide for the development, implementation, assessment, and maintenance of disaster/emergency management and continuity of operations programs.  Business owners can also utilize NFPA's Emergency Preparedness Checklist, which helps people identify where to focus their emergency preparedness efforts. With the peak of hurricane and wildfire seasons upon us, government agencies and aid organizations may need to shelter potentially thousands of storm and fire evacuees. A recent episode on the NFPA Podcast, Disaster Planning During a Pandemic, introduces two emergency management experts who share lessons learned from responding to past incidents during the pandemic, including several new strategies that will likely remain in place long after the pandemic is over. For first responders: First responders face many hazards when working with vehicles that have been submerged in water, particularly with hybrid or electrical vehicles. NFPA's Submerged Hybrid/Electrical Vehicle Bulletin breaks down the safety issues to help keep first responders safe when working in flooded areas. A free toolkit is also available for first responders, which provides the information and resources needed to help local residents prepare ahead of weather events. For electrical professionals: Electrical professionals are often tasked with equipment maintenance for electrical, electronic, and communication systems and equipment found in multi-family residential complexes, industrial plants, and commercial buildings to prevent equipment failures and worker injuries. NFPA's Natural Disaster Electrical Equipment Checklist builds off recommendations in Chapter 32 of the 2019 edition of NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance and provides a useful framework for recovering electrical equipment and systems after a disaster. For healthcare providers: New criteria requires healthcare providers to have extensive plans in place for numerous types of events including hurricanes as part of an emergency preparedness rule passed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in November 2017. Requirements for emergency and backup power supplies as well as consideration of other logistical needs for long-duration events are an important part of the rule. Find information that can help medical providers with their emergency preparedness needs.  In September 2019, a NFPA white paper was introduced to help healthcare facilities meet the requirements of the CMS emergency preparedness rule. Learn more. For the public: A fact sheet and related information provides residents and businesses with easy wildfire risk reduction steps they can do around their homes and buildings to make them safer from wildfire and blowing embers. An escape plan activity sheet helps families prepare and practice an escape plan in case of a fire in the home. An emergency supplies kit checklist provides a list of items a family may need in case of an evacuation due to an emergency weather event. A tip sheet provides the facts and steps homeowners can take to safely use portable generators in the event homes lose power after a storm.  With so much “weather” happening across the country, the time to start preparing communities is now. Make Preparedness Month the jump start you need to put plans in place. For these and other related information sources, visit www.nfpa.org/disaster and ready.gov/September.   
Workers at a construction site

Latest NFPA Podcast Highlights Benefits of Using a New Online Tool That Helps Communities Assess their Safety Ecosystem and Address Gaps Before a Disaster Strikes

In early August, Meghan Housewright, the director of the NFPA Fire & Life Policy Institute announced the launch of the new Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem Assessment Tool that is helping users identify gaps in their community’s capacity to support safety and draw on the results to advocate for specific changes that will better protect citizens and property. The free tool comes on the heels of a recent report from the Policy Institute, “The Year in Review: A look at the events of 2020 through the lens of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem” and both the tool and the report are helping serve as important resources for safety professionals across the globe to understand and apply the Ecosystem in their daily roles. Last week, Angelo Verzoni from NFPA Journal talked with Meghan about the safety ecosystem, the assessment tool and its benefits, and why the tool was created with communities in mind. The conversation is included in the latest episode of the NFPA Podcast, and is featured in an article, “Eco Assessment,” in the latest issue of the magazine. Read the short article and listen to the podcast (the interview with Meghan and Angelo starts at 30:37) and share it with others you know. Find more information and related resources about the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem at nfpa.org/ecosystem.                  
Firefighters at a wildfire

As Wildfires Burn Across Parts of the US, Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association Endorses Outthink Wildfire, an Initiative Aimed at Significantly Reducing Risk to Communities

The relentless tally of wildfire losses makes it increasingly clear that the U.S. is facing a serious wildfire problem. During the first week of August, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reported seven new large fires, bringing the total number of fires currently burning in the U.S. to around 91. As wildfires continue to seriously affect much of the west, the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association (Metro Chiefs) in its latest resolution action, unanimously approved support of Outthink Wildfire™, an NFPA initiative aimed at eliminating the destruction of communities by wildfire in 30 years. The resolution emphasizes the fact that the U.S. has witnessed a steady increase in frequency and intensity of wildfires, a trend that experts predict will continue. The number of homes lost in wildfires per year has increased by 163 percent and wildfires now cost the U.S. billions of dollars each year in losses. In the past three years alone, metropolitan fire departments in the western U.S. have seen over 100 lives and thousands of structures lost to wildfire, and these fires have caused billions of dollars in direct damage to property and local economies. Launched in February 2021, Outthink Wildfire lays out five policy changes that must occur at all levels of government that will make it easier for communities to foster collaboration, enact change, achieve resilience, and protect themselves from wildfire. Leveraging this information, the resolution calls for support of the five tenets that form a complete wildfire mitigation approach, including the need for more and better training and protective equipment to ensure fire departments are properly prepared to respond safely and effectively to wildfire.  According to an NFPA report, Fourth Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service, 88 percent of U.S. fire departments—some 23,000 departments—provide wildland and/or WUI firefighting services. Of those, 63 percent have not formally trained all their personnel involved in these activities. Only 32 percent have all their responders equipped with appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE), and 26 percent do not have any of the necessary PPE at all. For the years 2011 to 2015, wildfires caused an average of 1,330 fireground injuries to local fire department personnel each year. “Metropolitan fire departments are continuing to face the threat of wildfire to their communities and the residents they serve,” said Chief Don Lombardi, President, Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, in a recent press release from NFPA. “While wildfire response efforts have increased significantly, spending on resource management and community preparedness activities has not. We endorse Outthink Wildfire and its five tenets as a holistic approach to end the destruction of communities from wildfire.” As the average number of acres that burn in wildfires each year rises over time, it is imperative that communities in wildfire hazard zones put into action practices to lower the risk to lives, homes, businesses, and overall prosperity. Through collaboration that begins with policy implementation in the U.S., we can work to better protect our neighborhoods, citizens, and our first responders. Learn more about Outthink Wildfire at nfpa.org/wildfirepolicy.

New Survey: Millennial Homebuyers Say Fire Safety and Fire Sprinklers are Key Factors When Buying a New Home

In October of 2020, Opinium surveyed more than 2,000 US adults of all ages about new-home preferences and fire safety. The results proved interesting, confirming what many of us believe: millennials have different buying priorities compared to older generations. According to the survey, 100 percent of renters said they have plans to purchase a home in the next three years. About 80 percent (8 out of 10 surveyed) said they would prefer to buy a home with fire sprinklers after learning how they work, while 72 percent recognized that fire sprinklers add value to a home. With more than a million homes built annually and millennials making up the largest share of homebuyers, now is the time for developers, builders, and local officials to see there is strong interest in home fire sprinklers. To this end, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) has developed a presentation to support local fire service home fire sprinkler education. Fire service members are encouraged to share this information with the building community, especially when AHJs are discussing trade ups as incentives. Developers who build with fire sprinklers can reduce construction costs, increase profitability, and make their homes more appealing to today’s homebuyers. With more than 70 million millennials entering the housing market today, developers must compete by anticipating and meeting their demands. Download the presentation today and share it with the stakeholders in your community. Learn more about the HFSC by visiting the website at homefiresprinkler.org.
Dr. Joe, burn survivor

Phoenix Society Brings Burn Survivor Voice Forward to Advocate for Fire Prevention and the Life-Saving Benefits of Fire Sprinklers

Today, fires in one- and two-family homes are more dangerous than ever, and the latest statistics prove just how frightening the situation is: 1 fatality in a U.S. home fire every 3:10 hours 65 percent of fire deaths are in home fires 8,800 civilian injuries $6.4 billion in direct property damage 67 percent of firefighter injuries are the result of fighting structure fires Firefighters are 11 times more likely to be injured fighting structure fires (than any other call they respond to) Add it all up and the picture becomes clear: home fire sprinklers can and must play a key role in saving lives and reducing property loss. But it takes more than just statistics to move people to action. Behind all the data and numbers are real people whose lives have been forever changed because of a tragedy due to fire. It’s these stories that bring into view the full impact of what fire can do to an individual, his/her family and friends, and a community. Joining Lorraine Carli this week in an interview for the HFSC 25th anniversary video series to discuss the emotional and human side to the fire story is Amy Acton, CEO of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, whose organization is committed to the sprinkler issue. “The best treatment of a burn injury is preventing it in the first place,” says Amy, herself an advocate for fire sprinklers. “When the Phoenix Society first got involved in prevention work it made sense to bring the survivor voice forward. While data gives us the “why,” it’s the survivors and the loved ones of people who have suffered or perished in a fire who bring that “why” home in a deeper and more emotional way. We want people to understand these injuries are devastating not only physically and emotionally, but financially, too.” The Phoenix Society works with first responders and members of the fire service, researchers, burn care professionals, burn survivors and their families, all of whom are committed to empowering the burn community by sharing their experiences and stories with us. Amy and Lorraine both agree that burn survivors have been instrumental in advocating for the need for home fire sprinklers to prevent home fire tragedies from happening to others. “Burn survivors learn early on about perseverance,” Amy continues. “I think we bring a lot of perseverance to this effort. Survivors feel a sense of purpose from their experience; they’re committed to working on prevention with others. Together we can move the needle forward on change.” Listen to this engaging interview with Amy and Lorraine to learn more the Phoenix Society, its work with burn survivors, and their support of HFSC:  In the past few years, the Phoenix Society and NFPA have collaborated on many important initiatives that speak to the personal side of fire. Learn more about them: Faces of Fire campaign, which features stories of people impacted by fire and demonstrates the need for home fire sprinklers. Faces of Fire/electrical campaign, which shares stories of people impacted by electrical incidents and demonstrates the need for continued education and awareness about electrical hazards both on the job and at home. The Survivors, a multi-part podcast series that takes an extensive look at a Wyoming family who experienced the unthinkable when a home fire killed two of their children. Please join NFPA, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, and the Phoenix Society in advancing this important life safety message. Free materials about the benefits of home fire sprinklers are available to download and use> for outreach efforts. Visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition website for more If you missed any of the previous interviews, find the full 25th anniversary video series on HFSC’s website.  
A firefighter going into a burning building

Championing Firefighter Health and Safety Through the Support of Home Fire Sprinklers

Consider this: firefighters are 11 times more likely to be injured fighting structure fires than any other incident they respond to. With this statistic in mind, it stands to reason that the quicker we extinguish fires, the less firefighters will suffer from cancer-causing contamination and potential injury while on the job. Home fire sprinklers mean less risk exposure for firefighters and fire investigators. It’s one of the many reasons why today the fire service is one of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition’s(HFSC) most ardent supporters in delivering sprinkler education programs and information to communities across North America.  To help explain the evolution of the fire service’s work with HFSC, Ron Siarnicki, executive director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) joins HFSC president Lorraine Carli in an interview, the latest in a video series created to celebrate the 25th anniversary of HFSC. “(When it comes to) residential fire sprinklers, (we know) it holds the fire in check and makes a difference to ensure everyone is out of the structure, so when the fire department arrives, they can focus on an accountability of all the residents, which makes a big difference for the incident commander, the decisions they’ll make, and how they’re going to attack that fire. These systems make a world of difference,” Ron says in the interview. Ron also highlights key NFFF programs like the “Everyone Goes Home” program, which strives to prevent firefighter line-of-duty deaths and injuries, and its connection to the efforts of HFSC. He also highlights the “16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives” and points specifically to initiative #15, which addresses the importance of code enforcement and fire sprinklers. Listen to the full interview with Ron and Lorraine to learn more about the NFFF, its campaigns, and work with HFSC:   A special HFSC website page provides the fire service with lots of great tools and information to help communities understand the benefits of home fire sprinklers. And all materials are free to download and use! >Visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition website today for these resources. If you missed any of the previous interviews, including Lorraine’s most recent discussion with Maya Milardovic and Sean Tracey of HFSC Canada, find the full video series on HFSC’s website.  
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