Safety Source

Harbor from Fort Mackinac

4 Tips to Help Prevent Electric Shock Drowning (ESD) Over Memorial Day Weekend and Throughout the Summer Months

Memorial Day provides us all with a time to reflect on the fallen heroes that have sacrificed their own lives, so we can have the many freedoms they provided us. Here in Michigan, and likely in many other states, Memorial Day is seen as the “Gateway to Summer.” Somewhat of a “rite of passage” into warm weather, BBQs, and vacations, while spending time with those we care most about. Our family makes it a point to visit Mackinac (pronounced ma-kuh-naa) Island at least once every summer. Mackinac Island is home to Fort Mackinac, established during the American Revolution by the British in 1780 and overtaken by American forces in 1796. The picture shown above depicts the view from elevated Fort Mackinac, looking down onto the Mackinac Island harbor. Every summer when our ferry docks at the island, I look up at Fort Mackinac and think about how grateful I am to have this moment with my family. How grateful I am to all Americans who gave their own lives to help make our individual moments possible. For our trip to the island a couple summers ago, we decided to venture outside our normal day trip and make it an overnight trip. After a long day of sightseeing, after dinner, mom and dad were ready to kick their feet up and relax but the kids, still full of energy that we wish we had, had other ideas. After some intense negotiating, we agreed that the parents would be able to wind down on the porch just outside our room, while watching the kids spend time in the oversized, built-in 25-person hot tub that was just steps away from our room. That same hot tub was just several steps away from the harbor waters. As my wife and I were just getting settled into relaxation mode, I heard it – SPLASH!!! Looking up, I saw three of our four children standing inches from the harbor water, appearing ready to jump in themselves, and the head of our eldest child bobbing in the water. Deciding the tub waters were too hot for them, the kids decided to jump into the harbor waters to cool off. They were having an absolute blast! So, why did I feel like I had just been punched in the gut? “GET OUT!!!”, I yelled, loud enough that I was sure I had awoken the dead from the island. My fatherly instincts had kicked in. Our kids are all great swimmers, so that wasn’t my concern. The issue was Electric Shock Drowning, also known as ESD, that I have learned about since becoming an employee at NFPA.   It is hard for me to fathom that, as a master electrician with over 30 years’ experience working in a state that has the longest freshwater shoreline in the world, I had never even heard of ESD, before joining NFPA just a few months prior. To be honest, it irked me that I spent so long working in the electrical industry and still did not have the information to help protect my family from this “silent killer”; to protect my family from the same heartache that Lucas Ritz’s family has felt for years, as a result of losing him to ESD. Initially, I learned that ESD is somewhat different from how we typically view electrical hazards, like shock and arc flash. Yes, it is shock related as the title suggests, but it isn’t the direct electric shock that kills. ESD is typically a low-level AC current, induced into the water by defective marina, or boat, electrical systems that passes through the body causing muscular paralysis which renders the victim unable to swim, thereby causing drowning. In many cases, victims don’t even feel the electrical current when they enter the water to swim. Freshwater is particularly susceptible to ESD incidents because the human body is much more conductive than the water itself, permitting more current to flow through the body in freshwater versus saltwater. Once I learned a little about ESD, I longed to know more so I could help continue to spread the message that had somehow evaded me for so long. In doing so, maybe I could help someone else avoid the heartache of losing a loved one to ESD. As I looked for more information, I found that the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association website was a great resource to help me understand more about what ESD is and how it can be prevented. To date, some of the most helpful tips I have found around preventing ESD are: Don’t swim in marina waters. While there are lots of things that can happen in marina waters that could cause an ESD incident, there is one thing that will prevent an ESD in every potential instance – not swimming in marina waters. If you don’t enter the water, the risk of an ESD incident drops to zero. Don’t jump in to help others. When you see someone who appears to be drowning, it is human nature to immediately help. As hard as it is – don’t! While witnessing a potential ESD taking place, jumping in may just add an additional victim. There have been many cases of ESD where it has left multiple victims for this exact reason, including one instance in Arizona two years ago that killed two brothers. If you see what you believe to be an ESD taking place: call 911, turn off power, throw a life ring, and move the person to safety using a nonconductive pole or object. Swim away from the tingle. If someone is in the water and begins to feel a tingle, they should immediately swim away from where they feel the tingle until it is no longer felt. Instruct them to avoid any metal items, such as ladders that they might otherwise try to use to get out of the water. Spread the word about ESD. Being an electrician for over 30 years and spending a lot of our family time on the water, I should have known about ESD well before my employment at NFPA. Knowing the tragedy that ESD can cause, it leaves me wondering how many others are unaware. To eliminate ESD altogether, it is crucial that every one of us spread the word about ESD and encourage those around us not to take a chance by swimming in marina waters. When you mix a hot summer day with nearby cool water, it is only natural for people to want to jump in. That’s all our kids were doing on that Memorial Day weekend a couple years ago. We all learned something that day. As they watched the video that I showed them telling the story of Lucas Ritz, the kids learned about ESD and why dad yelled at them to get out of the water  – because I loved and cared about them. Personally, I learned just how important it is raise awareness of the hazards associated with ESD. Ultimately, a day that could have ended in tragedy, resulted in an understanding of the dangers around ESD and that swimming in marinas just isn’t safe. Considering all that is at stake, we could sure use more help raising awareness of ESD. Won’t you join us? For more information on Electric Shock Drowning (ESD) and related resources like videos and tip sheets to share, please visit the NFPA “Electrical Safety Around Water” webpage.

National Electrical Safety Month works to keep people safe from electrical hazards, including those associated with “smart” technologies

As National Electrical Safety Month continues this May, it’s worth taking a moment, it’s worth taking a moment to be grateful for all the ways electricity keeps our daily lives buzzing and humming as we expect and assume it will. And because we rely on electricity every day, most often without incident, we tend to forget that electricity does pose real risks. In fact, people are killed or injured by electrical hazards each year, but many people aren’t aware of these dangers. Sponsored by Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), National Electrical Safety Month works to raises awareness around potential home electrical hazards and the importance of electrical fire safety. This May’s theme, “Connected to Safety,” focuses on emerging technologies that make our homes safe and efficient and ways to use them safely - from understanding how to charge electrical vehicles at home and use household electrical safety devices to working safely with or around solar panels and temporary power. During National Electrical Safety Month, households are encouraged to take these simple steps to reduce risk: Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) shut off electricity when a dangerous condition occurs. Consider having them installed in your home. Use ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to reduce the risk of shock. GFCIs shut off an electrical circuit when it becomes a shock hazard. They should be installed inside the home in bathrooms, kitchens, garages and basements. All outdoor receptacles should be GFCI protected. Test AFCIs and GFCIs once a month according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. You do not need a flame to start a fire. Fires can start when heat builds up near things that burn. This can happen when a hot light bulb is near things that burn, such as cloth or paper, or a cord has been placed under a carpet.  In addition, residents should have all electrical work done by a qualified electrician, including scheduling electrical inspections when buying or remodeling a home. Even during this time of social distancing, electricians are still working and considered essential businesses in every state. At the NFPA C&E this June, a special panel presentation on Ground Fault Circuit (GFCI) Protection will be on Monday morning at 8:00am, reviewing the role GFCI has played in electrical safety.  ESFI has offers great resources on its landing page, while the NFPA electrical safety webpage provides tips and information as well, including infographics, fact sheets, videos, and podcasts related to electrical fire safety. In the weeks ahead, please use and share information about National Electrical Safety Month and its electrical safety messages when and where possible.

Burn Survivor and His Brother Find Healing and Purpose After Tragic Home Fire

Josh Gropper was experiencing a day like any other and preparing for a final exam for law school in Boston, when his father called to tell him that Danny, his younger brother, had been badly injured in a house fire. While the cause of the fire has not been fully determined, at the time of the incident, there were no working smoke alarms in the building. Danny, Josh was told, had suffered severe injuries, with burns covering 78 percent of his body. Danny survived but his recovery would be slow and take many years. In the ensuing days after the fire, Josh moved closer to home in New York, changed schools, and dedicated himself to helping his younger brother heal. One of the first things Josh did was find a good lawyer to guide Danny and their family through the legal process. Josh says this experience made him realize how critical it is to have a quality, caring lawyer by his family’s side, someone who was a strong advocate for Danny and others like him whose lives have been tragically altered by severe injuries. Through this revelation, rather than continue to pursue his path in corporate law, Josh changed the course of his professional career and moved into personal injury law. His work and devotion to helping his brother live a full life led him to the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors where Danny and their family found the ongoing peer support and resources they needed and a place to connect with others. It also opened the door for Josh to see how he could combine his knowledge and expertise in the law with his true passion for helping people in need. As Josh tells it, his entire adult life has been shaped by his and his brother’s experience. Today, through his law practice he has been able to support survivors and empower them to live their best life; his law firm has also become partners of the Phoenix Society’s mission and programs. Together with other fire and life safety advocates, Josh continues to educate people about effective burn prevention, burn care and equality, and raise awareness of fire safety, including the importance of having working smoke alarms in homes as a first line of defense in saving lives. Read Josh and Danny’s powerful story on the Phoenix Society’s website. Resources including tip sheets, videos, and related information is available on NFPA’s smoke alarms webpage.
Grilling steaks

Use our grilling safety tips to stay fire-safe this Memorial Day weekend and beyond

For many of us, Memorial Day weekend represents the unofficial kick-off to summer, often including lots of outdoor celebrations, cookouts, and grilling. As the holiday and summer months near, follow grilling information, safety tips, and recommendations from NFPA to help lower the risk of grilling fires and associated hazards. NFPA data shows that U.S. fire departments responded to an annual average of 10,600 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues. This includes 4,900 structure fires and 5,700 outside or unclassified fires, resulting in 10 civilian deaths, 160 civilian injuries, and $149 million in direct property damage. The peak months for grilling fires are July (18 percent), June (15 percent), May (13 percent), and August (12 percent), though grilling fires occur year-round. Leading causes include failing to clean the grill, the heat source being located too close to combustible materials, leaving equipment unattended, and leaks or breaks in the grill or fuel source. On average, 19,700 patients went to emergency rooms each year because of injuries involving grills. Nearly half (9,500 or 48 percent) of the injuries were thermal burns, including both burns from fire and from contact with hot objects; 5,200 thermal burns were caused by contact or other non-fire events. Children under five accounted for an average of 2,000, or 39 percent, of the contact-type burns per year. These burns typically occurred when someone, often a child, bumped into, touched, or fell on the grill, grill part, or hot coals. NFPA offers these tips and recommendations for enjoying a fire-safe grilling season: For propane grills, check the gas tank for leaks before use in the months ahead. (Watch NFPA’s video on how to check for leaks.) Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill. Place the grill well away from the home, deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it. Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grilling area. If you use starter fluid when charcoal grilling, only use charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. When you have or are finished grilling, let the coals cool completely before disposing in a metal container. Never leave your grill unattended when in use.

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.

May is National Electrical Safety Month

Electricity helps make our lives easier, but its potential for shock and fire-related hazards is real and often underestimated. NFPA actively supports National Electrical Safety Month, an annual campaign sponsored by (ESFI), which raises awareness of potential home electrical hazards, the importance of electrical fire safety, and the safety of electrical and non-electrical workers, each May. This year’s theme, “Energy Resilience,” focuses on how emerging technology, including photovoltaics, electric vehicles, and energy storage systems, can provide energy resilience to homes and businesses and help communities adapt to these changes safely. With technological advancements in many areas of our lives, such as efficiency and green benefits associated with alternative energy sources, not everyone is aware of the fire and electrical hazards associated with them. National Electrical Safety Month helps educate people about these new technologies and the risks they pose to structures, occupants, and first responders. In fact, contact with electricity is a leading cause of home and workplace injuries and fatalities, and with new technologies comes added dangers. Take advantage of Electrical Safety Month to better educate communities about these risks and take the needed steps to prevent them. Homeowners can take these steps to reduce risk: Have all electrical work done by a qualified electrician to ensure a home’s electrical system is installed to meet local codes and can accommodate additional loads imposed from charging electric vehicles. Use surge protective devices to help guard against voltage surges that may occur during power shut-offs and restarts, negatively impacting electronics and other sensitive equipment in the home office. Perform regular testing of ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) and breakers, based on manufacturers instruction, to ensure systems operate safety and efficiently. Resources for professionals: Free energy storage systems safety fact sheet Research, articles, tip sheets, and videos for high-risk hazards like energy storage systems and solar safety and photovoltaics systems Training, response guides, and videos for alternative fuel vehicles (AFV) NFPA offers a photovoltaic and energy storage systems training series In 2021, NFPA launched Faces of Fire/Electrical, a video awareness campaign focused on electrical hazards and created in collaboration with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. The series worked to remind everyone about the importance of taking action – at home and in the workplace – to stop electrical incidents from happening. The videos and related resources such as fact sheets, tip sheets, and reports can be found at nfpa.org/facesoffire.  For more tips and resources including infographics, fact sheets, videos, and podcasts related to home electrical fire safety, visit the NFPA electrical safety webpage.
CRR session

Spotlight on Public Education to be held in Boston, June 6-7

Each year, the Spotlight on Public Education (SOPE) series brings together leaders in fire and safety education, providing numerous opportunities to learn, network with peers, and share ideas for better navigating roadblocks and challenges. As part of the NFPA Conference & Expo in Boston, this year’s SOPE event will be held on June 6-7, featuring eight dynamic education sessions, as follows: Monday, June 6 Steps to Safety™: A Community Approach to Preventing Fire and Falls Among Older Adults Fire & Life Safety Educational Messaging in Schools: Best Practices from the NFPA Educational Messages Advisory Committee Best Practices in Youth Firesetting Education and Intervention—Creating a "No-Fear Zone" Tuesday, June 7 Spicing Up Your Fire Prevention Week™ Toolkit The Impact of Drugs on Fire Risk in General Population and Older Adults 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 United States since 1980 Community Risk Assessment” Leading with Insights On Wednesday, SOPE attendees are also invited to attend a CRR workshop, Community Risk Assessment: Leading with Insights. Led by the NFPA Community Risk Reduction (CRR) team, the half-day workshop will guide participants through the CRA process outlined in NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development. Participants will dig into the “HOW” and “WHY” of the CRA process, and have an opportunity to test drive, CRAIG 1300™, the NFPA CRA Insight Generator. This workshop will provide valuable information for CRR professionals who are both new to Community Risk Assessment and those who are already knee deep in the process. Each participant will leave the session with three customized critical actions to move local CRA efforts forward, a strong understanding of the range of data that support the CRA, and many new CRR colleagues to lean on for support even after you return home. We strongly encourage everyone to attend this year’s NFPA Conference & Expo in Boston, as it represents the first time in three years the association is hosting an in-person conference and will include special events that celebrate the 125th anniversary of NFPA. Register today!
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