AUTHOR: Meredith Hawes

2020 Maria Bostian  Fire  Life Educator (002)

NFPA Names Maria Bostian 2020 Educator of the Year!

NFPA congratulates Maria Bostian of the Kannapolis Fire Department who has been selected as the 2020 Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year.  Bostian has 21 years of experience delivering fire and life safety to her community through presentations to varied audiences, a robust Fire Prevention Week campaign, and an ongoing social media initiative.  NFPA materials and resources serve as the backdrop to all she does.  In 2019, Bostian visited a preschool classroom with the Fire Prevention Week theme, “Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape.” During the lesson, she emphasized the importance of knowing two ways out of every room in the event of a fire and customized handouts to send home with students.  For one student in particular, her work proved life-saving.  Shortly after the classroom lesson, Maria learned that after a fire had started in the home of a student. Because of that FPW lesson, the preschooler knew to use a secondary means of egress and helped her two siblings get out through the window to safety.  Maria's primary role is to serve as educator to her school district's preschool and elementary students and because of her efforts, a great working relationship has been established.  Bostian reaches nearly 4,000 children with fire safety every month during the school year.  Using her experience as a former Montessori elementary teacher, Bostian incorporates movement and hands-on activities into NFPA's Learn Not to Burn lessons to connect with and motivate students. When Bostian isn't on duty at Kannapolis Fire Department, she can be found promoting fire safety through the two children's picture books that she has authored, connecting vital safety messaging from NFPA's Educational Messaging Advisory Council's Desk Reference. In addition, Bostian regularly reaches older adults in her community with the Remembering When Program, including those homebound with special “Birthday Boxes” that are filled with personal items, including NFPA's safety tip sheets, and smoke alarms are installed where needed.  Bostian's fire safety even reaches her community's four-legged furry friends as she teams up each year with a local pet supply store July 15th for Pet Fire Safety Day! For her work, Bostian has been honored with many local and state awards including the 2012 North Carolina Fire & Life Safety Education Coalition State Council's Award of Excellence and the 2016 B.T. Fowler Lifetime Achievement Award.  She can now add the 2020 NFPA Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year Award to that list.  “We congratulate Maria on this honor. It is always gratifying to have one of our staff recognized for their hard work and years of dedication to our City,” said Kannapolis Fire Chief Tracy Winecoff. While Bostian will receive her award this year, she will be honored officially at the 2021 NFPA Conference and Expo to be held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, June 22-25, 2021.

Always Say Never – Practice fire safety with extension cords

A recent Louisiana fire claimed the lives of two people. The fire likely started from an overloaded extension cord where an air conditioning unit was plugged into. This is not an isolated scenario. It is often tempting for people to reach for an extension cord if the device cord does not reach an intended outlet, but there are do-nots and “nevers” when it comes to fire safety when using an extension cord. Extension cords are intended for temporary use and should never be used to connect a major appliance.  The biggest concern with using an extension cord to power an appliance is using the wrong cord, which can lead to overheating of the cord, damage to the appliance, and increased risk of fire or electric shock. Electrical Safety Foundation International (EFSI) offers many extension cord safety tips. Here are just a few: Do not overload extension cords or allow them to run through water or snow on the ground. Do not substitute extension cords for permanent wiring. Do not run through walls, doorways, ceilings or floors. If cord is covered, heat cannot escape, which may result in a fire hazard. Do not use an extension cord for more than one appliance. Multiple plug outlets must be plugged directly into mounted electrical receptacles; they cannot be chained together. Make sure the extension cord or temporary power strip you use is rated for the products to be plugged in, and is marked for either indoor or outdoor use. The appliance or tool that you are using the cord with will have a wattage rating on it. Match this up with your extension cord, and do not use a cord that has a lower rating. Never use a cord that feels hot or is damaged in any way. Touching even a single exposed strand can give you an electric shock or burn. Never use three-prong plugs with outlets that only have two slots for the plug. Do not cut off the ground pin to force a fit. This defeats the purpose of a three-prong plug and could lead to an electrical shock. Never force a plug into an outlet if it doesn't fit. Buy only cords approved by an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL) or Canadian Standards Association (CSA). So, whether you are in a climate that has more of a need for an air conditioner, or a space heater, always practice fire safety when plugging in appliances! And check out more information on electrical safety and May's Electrical Safety Month  

Lightning, Lottery, or Fire . . . What are the odds?

Salado Creek apartment fire image (KSAT) According to a recent survey by the American Red Cross, many people overestimate their ability to react to a home fire, and miss critical steps to keep their loved ones safe. In fact, survey findings showed that 40 per cent of people believe they are more likely to win the lottery or get struck by lightning than experience a home fire. So . . . how unlucky is it to be struck by lightning AND have a home fire? That has been the case recently for families in Louisiana, Florida and Massachusetts. And in Texas, 14 adults and three children were displaced by an apartment fire that was sparked by lightning.  Home fires burn faster than ever before, so if lightning strikes and a fire is sparked, occupants could have as little as two minutes to escape. And while we can't control storms and weather, we can take steps to safeguard our homes, and prepare our families to respond quickly in the event of a lightning storm or lightning fire. Remember to:      turn off computers;      stay off corded phones (cell and cordless phones are OK), computers, and other things that put you in direct contact with electricity or plumbing;      refrain from washing your hands, bathing, showering, doing laundry, or washing dishes;      prepare and practice a home escape plan. A lightning protection system (LPS) that follows the guidelines of the NFPA 780 safety standard, provides a network of low-resistance paths to safely intercept lightning's destructive electricity and direct it to ground without impact to a structure or its occupants. Check out the NFPA Lightning Safety Tip Sheet and a short video created by the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI). The video highlights the many ways lightning impacts communities and the economic toll it places on homes, businesses and infrastructure. 

Don't blow it . . . keep your family safe at home!

                                                                                              (No, these are not marshmallows)   As a public-education specialist, I am confronted daily with home fires. My passion for public education is driven by the knowledge that information and education can dramatically impact whether people make safe choices. One fire in 2015 stands out in my mind; the headline read “Toddler Rescued by Dad in House Fire Dies After Following Him Back Inside”. Two reasons: my younger son was the same age at the time; and the cause of the fire was an unattended candle used during a power outage caused by a storm. NFPA has urged people for a VERY long time to practice safe candle use, and to consider battery-powered options in lieu of open-flame candles. And for good reason!  On average, 22 home candle fires are reported each day, and three of every five (60 percent) home candle fires occurred when some form of combustible material was left or came too close to the candle. So, if you do burn candles, make sure that you . . . blow out all candles when you leave the room (and that means the house too) or go to bed avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep keep candles at least 1 foot (30 centimetres) away from anything that can burn use candle holders that are sturdy and won't tip over easily put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface light candles carefully – keep your hair and any loose clothing away from the flame put out the candle before it burns all the way down – before it gets too close to the holder or container do not use candles if oxygen is used in the home please . . . have flashlights and battery-powered lighting ready to use during a power outage; never use candles. Share NFPA's candle tip sheet and visit our public education page on candle safety for more information.  

Hand sanitizer, Gas, and Masks . . . Oh My! Preventing injury while trying to keep ourselves safe during COVID-19

We have heard the phrase “unprecedented times” more in the last few weeks than ever before. Uncertainty and unpredictable events bring about unfamiliar situations with unusual responses. Everyone wants to help, and to keep their families safe, but sometimes those objectives lead to unwittingly dangerous situations. Here are some guidelines to follow to ensure your own safety, and that of others, as we navigate new ways to protect ourselves and those around us.      Hand sanitizer – Alcohol-based hand sanitizer effectively kills most germs carried on the hands. It also contains ethyl alcohol, which readily evaporates at room temperature into an ignitable vapor and is considered a flammable liquid. To minimize the risk of fire, applied hand sanitizer must be rubbed into hands until dry, which indicates that the flammable alcohol has evaporated. Hand sanitizer containers and refills should be stored away from children, and away heat sources or open flames.      Gasoline – With prices exceptionally low, people are filling up and storing gas. Be sure to use containers that are intended for gasoline storage that allow for the liquid to expand and contract. Gasoline containers need to be placed on the ground when filling. Flowing gas entering the container can create static electricity. The gas dispenser nozzle can create a spark and ignite the gas vapors. The correct way to fill a gas can is to remove the gas can from your car or truck and place it on the ground about five feet from your vehicle.      Masks – Many different kinds of masks are being worn to help slow the spread of COVID-19. While homemade cloth masks may be washed following the Centers for Disease Control recommendations, other masks such as the N95 or disposable surgical masks cannot be thoroughly disinfected without jeopardizing the integrity of the mask (although researchers are working on protocols for this). Always refer to manufacturer's guidelines when available, or refer to the CDC recommendations on these types of masks. Never place a mask in the microwave; metal fixtures may melt or spark, and fabric is flammable. Visit NFPA's COVID-19 page to find up-to-date information and resources.

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