Safety Source

Christmas tree decorating

Christmas Trees Present Potential Fire Hazards—Enjoy Them with Care and Caution

For all the joy and beauty Christmas trees bring, it’s important to remember that they are large combustible items that present potential fire hazards in the home. Fire departments responded to an annual average of 160 home structure fires caused by Christmas trees between 2016 and 2020, resulting in two civilian deaths, 11 civilian injuries, and $12 million in direct property damage. Statistically, Christmas tree fires don’t happen often, but when they do, they’re much more likely to be serious. The deadly fire that occurred at a row house in Philadelphia this past January, which involved a Christmas tree and caused 12 fatalities (nine of them children), tragically underscores this point. Fires involving fresh Christmas trees tend to be more common than artificial tree fires. That’s in part because fresh Christmas trees dry out over time, making them more flammable the longer they’re in the home; a dried-out Christmas tree will burn much more quickly than a well-watered one. Our Christmas tree safety tip sheet offers tips and recommendations for safely enjoying Christmas trees this season. Following are some key reminders: For a fresh tree, cut 2 inches (5 cm) from the base of the trunk before placing it in the stand. Add water daily to keep the tree well hydrated. Trees should be placed at least 3 feet (1 m) away from any heat source, such as fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, or lights. Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit, such as a door or window. Ensure that decorative lights are in good working order and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, the latest statistics from NFPA on Christmas tree fires in US homes include these key findings, reflecting annual averages between 2016 and 2020: Christmas tree fires are more common between 3 p.m. and midnight, accounting for one-half of associated fires. Another 26 percent of fires occurred between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Approximately two of every five home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room, or den. Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in more than one-third (34 percent) of Christmas tree fires. In one-fifth (20 percent) of Christmas tree fires, some type of heat source was placed too close to the tree. Visit our winter holidays page for additional information and resources on how to safely deck the halls this holiday season. These resources can be shared online, through social media, and/or as handouts.

With Rising Costs and Lower Temperatures, Promoting Safe Heating Practices Is of Utmost Importance

A recent press release from the National Energy Assistance Directors Association reported that US households will likely experience a 17.1 percent increase in home heating costs this coming winter. Heating is the second overall leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries, and the third leading cause of home fire deaths in the US*. As people balance their budgets against heating their homes, fire and life safety educators have an opportunity and critical need to reinforce safe heating practices geared to the safe use of heating equipment.  For instance, promoting the maintenance of heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional is important not only for fire and carbon monoxide prevention, but also for economic and mechanical efficiency.  And as people turn to portable space heaters to save on gas and oil expenses, fire and life safety educators need to stress the safe selection and use of these devices, which are involved in 44 percent of home heating equipment fires and the vast majority of injuries and deaths from home heating equipment fires*. (*Source: NFPA Applied Research) Chapter 10 of the NFPA Educational Messages Desk Reference for fire and life safety educators focuses on safe heating, including fireplaces and wood/pellet stoves, space heaters, central heating systems, and related heating equipment.  Some key tips for safe heating this winter: Have a 3 foot (1 m) “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters. That goes for pets too! Keep anything that can burn 3 feet (1 m) from heating equipment, including space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves. Plug only one heat producing appliance (like a space heater) into a wall outlet at a time. Never use an extension cord with a space heater or other heat producing appliance. Use heating equipment that is listed by a qualified testing laboratory. Never use your oven or stove for heating. Ovens and stoves are not designed to heat your home. Make sure fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Install and maintain smoke and CO alarms inside your home to provide early warning of smoke and carbon monoxide. Visit the NFPA heating safety page for facts, tips, and videos and visit our tip sheets in multiple languages page to download the Heating Safety Tip Sheet, available in Spanish, French, Haitian Creole, Hmong, and Somali. 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.
Thanksgiving turkey

Reduce the Risk of Home Fires in Your Community This Thanksgiving, the Leading Day of the Year for Home Cooking Fires

Each year, anywhere from 3 to 4 times as many home cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving Day as on a typical day, making it by far the leading day of the year for home cooking fires. This annual spike can largely be attributed to people cooking multiple dishes at once, along with other distractions that can make it easy to lose sight of what’s cooking on the stove and in the oven. Year-round, cooking is the leading cause (49 percent) of U.S. home fires, with unattended cooking serving as the leading cause. Fortunately, these factors shouldn’t put a crimp in anyone’s Thanksgiving plans. Following simple safety precautions and guidelines can go a long way toward ensuring a fire-safe holiday. As Thanksgiving nears, fire departments, public safety educators, and advocates are strongly encouraged to promote the following tips and recommendations, helping ensure that households prepare for and celebrate the holiday with fire safety in mind: Never leave the kitchen while cooking on the stovetop. Some types of cooking, especially those that involve frying or sautéing with oil, need continuous attention. When cooking a turkey, remain at home and check it regularly. Make use of timers to keep track of cooking times, particularly for foods that require longer cook times. Keep things that can catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers, and towels at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from the cooking area. Avoid long sleeves and hanging fabrics that can come in contact with a heat source. Always cook with a lid beside your pan. If you have a fire, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Do not remove the cover because the fire could start again. Let the pan cool for a long time. Never throw water or use a fire extinguisher on the fire. For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. Only open the door once you’re confident the fire is completely out, standing to the side as you do. If you have any doubts or concerns, contact the fire department for assistance. Keep children at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from the stove and oven. Kids should also stay away from hot foods and liquids, as steam or splash from these items could cause severe burns. NFPA® strongly discourages the use of turkey fryers, as they can lead to severe burns, injuries, and property damage. Grocery stores, food retailers, and restaurants often sell deep-fried turkeys, which can serve as a safe alternative to frying one at home. Visit our Thanksgiving fire safety page for more information, data, and resources, including social media cards and tip sheets, that can be shared with your community.

Fire Prevention Week Was a Resounding Success - Thanks to All Who Participated

At its core, Fire Prevention Week™ is a grassroots campaign that delivers potentially life-saving impact to communities through thousands of fire departments and safety advocates who promote its messages at the local level. Each year, their hard work, enthusiasm, and creativity bring the campaign to life and actively engage the public in home fire safety and prevention. Alongside these efforts, NFPA® works with groups and organizations that share our goal of reducing the public’s risk to home fires, helping maximize the reach and influence of Fire Prevention Week. Here are some ways we collaboratively promoted and celebrated the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week and this year’s theme, “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.™”: On Tuesday, October 11, NFPA sponsored the USFA Summit on Fire Prevention and Control: State of Science, which was held in support of Fire Prevention Week. Hosted in Emmitsburg, Maryland, the live-stream event featured virtual remarks from President Biden along with presentations to the president by fire safety leaders, including Jim Pauley, NFPA president, and Michele Steinberg, director of the NFPA wildfire division, who shared their perspectives on the most pressing fire and life safety concerns facing our world today. NFPA President Jim Pauley (far right) participating in the fire safety summit. For the 15th year, NFPA and Domino’s teamed up to implement a joint smoke alarm safety program in support of Fire Prevention Week. Nearly 130 fire departments across the United States collaborated with their local Domino’s to conduct smoke alarm inspections for randomly selected customers. To kick off the program, an event was held at the Flint Fire Department on Wednesday, October 12, where 41 local first graders learned about home fire safety followed by a pizza party and a visit from Sparky the Fire Dog®. Amy Acton, president of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, and Kevin Sehlmeyer, Michigan state fire marshal, also attended in support of the program. Sparky joins the Flint Fire Department and local Domino's delivery specialist for the program's inaugural smoke alarm check and pizza delivery. From left to right: Amy Acton, president of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors; Fire Chief Ray Barton, Flint FD; Sparky; Michigan SFM Kevin Sehlmeyer; and Deputy Fire Chief Carrie Edwards-Clemons, Flint FD help kick off the 15th annual Domino's smoke alarm program held in coordination with NFPA. State Farm generously donated a total of 4,300 Fire Prevention Week toolkits to fire departments in 48 states throughout the country, helping spread our materials and information nationwide. Organizations like vipHomeLink, NextDoor, and Legoland actively supported Fire Prevention Week, sharing our home escape planning and practice messages among their audiences through digital platforms and live events. NFPA staff attended events in support of Fire Prevention Week, including the Operation Save a Life program, a partnership of Kidde Fire Safety, Home Depot stores, and local ABC affiliates that promotes the critical role smoke and carbon monoxide alarms play in home fire safety, as well as the Cause for Alarm program, which is also sponsored by Kidde. NFPA's Meredith Hawes attended and shared opening remarks at the Cause for Alarm event in Bronx, NY. NFPA's Kelly Ransdell (left) attended the Operation Save a Life program held by Kidde Fire Safety, an ABC affiliate, and The Home Depot. To see many more examples of how Fire Prevention Week 2022 was celebrated this October 9–15, visit our Twitter, Instagram, and NFPA and Sparky Facebook pages, which showcase the widespread passion and dedication brought to this year’s campaign.

Free online learning courses launched: learn how to reduce wildfire risk to property

Thanks to a Fire Prevention and Safety Grant from FEMA, NFPA has transformed its existing classroom-based wildfire mitigation training into a digital learning experience. Two new courses on Reducing Wildfire Risk to Property – one for property owners, the other for wildfire mitigation professionals – will help bring key information and knowledge to millions of people. Reducing Wildfire Risk to Property: Protecting Your Home or Business helps educate homeowners, business owners, and property managers on the key factors that determine risk to property from wildfire, steps they can take to protect their homes and businesses, and tips on how to share the information with other community members. An Individual Property Protection Plan is built into the course, which offers tailored, practical steps to help prevent the destruction of property. The course also comes with a mobile app, the NFPA Wildfire Risk Simulator that includes an interactive 3D and augmented reality (AR) tool illustrating wildfire risk to structures. Users can select the environment, type of structure, and other details that most closely match their own scenario. As the simulated wildfire approaches, users will see the variables that help contribute to the destruction of their virtual home or building. Based on this learning, users can then adjust those variables for a more successful outcome. Reducing Wildfire Risk to Property: Professional Online Training is designed for wildfire mitigation professionals who want to increase their knowledge and confidence in evaluating wildfire risk in their communities and effectively communicating with property owners and community leaders. The two-hour self-guided online training includes interactive exercises to help users practice how to communicate risk and mitigation options to home and business owners and guide them to take effective steps to protect their property. This course provides continuing education units that can support job requirements as well as the maintenance of the NFPA Certified Wildfire Mitigation Specialist (CWMS) credential. In addition to the financial support from the FEMA Fire Prevention & Safety Grant, NFPA’s training team had expert support to develop the course from wildfire experts including former NFPA Wildfire Field Office Manager Tom Welle (currently with the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office); Jerry McAdams, MC Fire, LLC and Boise (Idaho) Fire Department; and Justice Jones, Wildfire Mitigation Officer at City of Austin (Texas) Fire Department. The course material is distilled from seminal research by Dr. Jack Cohen (ret.), US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, and the Disaster Research Center of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). The new courses support the tenets of its Outthink Wildfire™ policy initiative by dramatically increasing public access to wildfire risk reduction education. With nearly 45 million American homes at high risk to damage from wildfire, it is critically important that property owners and professional advisors have access to knowledge about wildfire causes and disaster prevention strategies. The trainings are designed to engage people in safety actions long before a fire starts, spurring much needed risk-reduction measures at the property and neighborhood levels. To learn more about reducing wildfire risk to property and to register for these free courses, visit nfpa.org/wildfirepreparedness.

This Year’s Fire Prevention Week, October 9–15, Is More Important than Ever

At its core, Fire Prevention Week™ is a grassroots campaign that thousands of fire departments and safety advocates bring to life in their communities each year, delivering basic but critical home fire safety messages that better educate the public about home fire risks and how to prevent them. NFPA® statistics show a steady decline in the number of fires occurring in US homes over the past few decades. The work done in support of Fire Prevention Week each year has no doubt played a part in this progress. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the nation’s home fire death rate, which has stagnated in recent years. In fact, you are more likely to die today if you have a reported fire in your home than you were in 1980. These numbers tell us that while we’ve made great strides in teaching people how to prevent home fires from happening, there’s still more work to do when it comes to educating the public about the speed at which fires grow and spread, the small window of time they have to escape from the time the smoke alarm sounds, and how to use that time wisely to get out as quickly and safely as possible. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week this October 9–15 and all that has been accomplished in reducing the fire problem over the past century, this year’s theme, “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape™,” addresses pressing challenges that remain. With the campaign just around the corner, we encourage all fire departments and safety advocates to take full advantage of the materials and resources available on our Fire Prevention Week website at www.firepreventionweek.org. A previous blog I wrote highlights the many ways the campaign can be promoted locally, whether it’s posting social media cards on your social platforms, hosting community events, sending a news release to local news outlets, or teaching age-appropriate lesson plans in the classroom—to name just a few. And there’s still time to do it! Much of this outreach can be completed quickly and easily. Overall, the public needs to learn about the value of home escape planning and practice more than ever. Fire Prevention Week presents an ideal opportunity to share these critical messages. Doing all we can to make sure as many people as possible hear and benefit from them can truly help increase their safety from fire.

Falls Prevention is also fire prevention

Fifty-two million Americans aged 65 or older make up 16 percent of the total US population. Yet they experience disproportionate injuries and deaths from fires and falls—twice the general population when it comes to fires. Falls are the leading cause of death from unintentional injuries for older adults, with nearly 1 in 3 seniors—that’s 17 million people—suffering a fall each year. This year’s Fire Prevention Week™ (FPW™) theme “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.™” pays particular attention to the needs of older adults in planning to safely escape their home in the event of fire.  Preventing slips, trips, and falls when evacuating is of key importance considering people may have as little as 2 minutes to safely escape their home.  Key fall prevention for safe home escape tips for older adults include:  Remove clutter in the hallways, stairways, and near exits/windows for a clear, safe path out of your home. Make sure all windows and doors can open in an emergency. If you use a walker or wheelchair, check all exits to be sure you can fit through the doorways. Keep your walker, scooter, cane, or wheelchair by your bed/where you sleep to make sure you can reach it quickly. Keep your eyeglasses, mobile phone, and a flashlight by your bed/where you sleep to be able to reach them quickly in an emergency. Consider sleeping in a room on the ground floor to make emergency escape easier. Fire service, elder care, and public health professionals have a unique opportunity to work together to reduce the growing incidence of injuries and deaths from fires and falls among older adults. As such, NFPA has undertaken a set of enhancements to our legacy Remembering When™ Older Adult Fire and Fall Prevention program, now called Steps to Safety™: Prevent fire and falls at home.   Coming out later this fall, Steps to Safety™ is still focused on pairing fire service with community partners to deliver group presentations, conduct home visits, and create a community network of resources to support older adults and their caregivers. Enhancements include a new online learning curriculum, new videos, and new social media assets.  The program remains rooted in key fire and fall prevention messages, with updated messaging on the role of medications in fire and fall risk. All training and program materials are currently being finalized and will be available on our website at a date to be released in the coming months.  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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