Safety Source

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

As challenging as the pandemic has been – and as much as most of us have grumbled at one point or another about the limitations it’s placed on our lives –imagine enduring a crisis in which we lost electrical power. Forget not having anything new to watch on Netflix – we wouldn’t have access to our televisions, or any of our electrical devices, from our computers to smartphones. Nor would there be electricity to keep our food refrigerated, cook our meals, take a hot shower, turn on lights, use the dishwasher, washing machine or dryer - and the list goes on. With National Electrical Safety Month kicking off this May, 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: Learn the importance of using surge protective devices to protect against damaging power surges that can destroy electrical equipment in the home Use grounded outlets that guard against electric shock Use a smart plug or power strip to turn off power when devices are not in use 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. 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.
A family practicing a home escape plan

A new NFPA Journal podcast delves into how fire and life safety messages are created

When it comes to fire safety messaging, ‘Stop, Drop, and Roll’ may be the most famous phrase of all, but there are literally hundreds of fire and life safety messages that fire departments, public educators, and teachers spread among their audiences and communities year-round to help increase public safety and awareness. At just about every turn, these professionals work diligently to make sure they “get it right” so that the information they share is technically sound and accurate. But that begs this question: Who creates all this fire and life safety messaging in the first place? Who decides how best to present it? And how is the guidance updated as new information arrives and new threats emerge? Jesse Roman, our NFPA Journal associate editor, aired a podcast this week, which takes a deeper dive into the world of how safety messaging is developed and spread. First, Jesse talks to NFPA South Central Regional Director Kelly Ransdell, who serves as the staff liaison for the Education Messages Advisory Committee (EMAC), which updates the NFPA Education Messages Desk Reference – one of the most important resources for fire safety public educators across the United States – every two years. The 2020 edition of the document, which came out this spring, is more than 40 pages long and includes 24 chapters of safety messages. Updates are largely based on the input and guidance of 15 EMAC members from numerous organizations, including the US Fire Administration, the American Red Cross, the American Nurses Association, local fire departments, among others, who help ensure that the desk reference provides the most timely, relevant information. After Jesse’s conversation with Kelly, Kelly chats with NFPA Southeast Regional Director Robby Dawson about EMAC, its process, and what’s new in the most recent edition.  From there, Robby and Kelly talk with Louie Marshic, an NFPA Public Education Network representative from Oklahoma. Louie is one of many representatives across the United States who works to connect local jurisdictions with NFPA and its safety messaging. They discuss how these important safety messages flow from NFPA and EMAC to schools and fire departments and, ultimately, the public. They also discuss the resources available at NFPA and through the local reps to help communities inform their citizens to reduce fires, injuries, and death. If you are a public educator, teacher, firefighter, or just someone who is interested in learning more about the messages in EMAC, remember that the 2020 edition of the desk reference is now available, and can serve as a trusted resource for delivering public fire safety messages to multiple audiences and age groups.

“Selling” health and safety

Any first year Marketing major learns about the Five P’s* of selling – Product, Price, Place, Promotion, and People.  Consider the lemonade stand – the product is a refreshing drink of lemonade, priced at a mere 25 cents, conveniently placed on the sidewalk for foot and car traffic, promoted by cute kids with colorful signs, and with a customer base of nostalgic adults, who even if they aren’t thirsty, will drink a small cup of homemade sugar water. So, what does this have to do with promoting health and safety in our communities? A lot! Consider the effort to get people to install and maintain smoke alarms in their homes. The product is an alarm. But unlike a glass of lemonade at 25 cents, this product comes in many different styles and price points. Smoke alarms are packaged and promoted in a variety of ways too – dual sensor, 10-year battery, combination, hardwired – adding another layer of complexity to our lemonade stand analogy. How about placement? Sure, smoke alarms are available at any big box store, hardware store, and on-line, which may be convenient for some people more than others, but still requires a level of effort not needed when driving by the lemonade stand. And then there’s the people factor – does your audience even want a smoke alarm or fully embrace the value of having enough smoke alarms to protect their home? While the lemonade stand is an easy sell, getting people to adopt health and safety behaviors is more complex, making the Five P framework a useful tool in your community approach. Fire & Life Safety (FLS) educators and health promotion professionals need to consider these factors when “selling” to their audience to turn the concept of having and maintaining smoke alarms in their homes into a reality. Consider your “people” – who are you reaching, what are their desires, values, and views of home safety? How available are smoke alarms in your community? What constitutes a good price for your audience? Consider their economic resources and skill level when recommending your product.  An example of successful use of the Five P approach is the community smoke alarm program, in which fire departments offer (promote) and install (place) smoke alarms (product) for free (price), to people who otherwise cannot access smoke alarms easily. These programs work so well because they’ve made smoke alarms so convenient and accessible, placing safety at their doorstep. NFPA’s Planning and implementing a successful smoke alarm installation program guide offers communities a framework for getting these types of programs up and running. NFPA's Community Tool Kits can support your Five P approach by providing a variety of assets to tailor your efforts to your audience and promote safety in a convenient, accessible manner.  These kits on smoke alarms, heating safety, escape planning, cooking safety, electrical safety, and home fire sprinklers, take into account that getting people to “buy into” health and safety is not a one size fits all approach, and cannot be done by a singular method. So the next time you drive by a lemonade stand, consider how the principles of marketing can support your public education efforts to bring health and safety home to your community. *Note: The Five P’s were born out of the Four P’s first discussed in the 1960 text, Basic Marketing – A Managerial Approach, by E. Jerome McCarthy. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and NFPA on Twitter,  Facebook, and Instagram  to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division.
Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year

There’s still time (but not much) to nominate someone for the 2021 NFPA Fire & Life Safety Educator of the Year award

In an effort to recognize educators who take the lead in making their communities safer, NFPA has a call for nominations for the 2021 Fire & Life Safety Educator of the Year award. Since 2000, the Public Education Division has annually selected a recipient for this prestigious award, highlighting the great work being done in the field of fire and life safety education.   Nominations are blind reviewed and deliberated to select each year’s recipient. This award is given yearly to a North American fire & life safety (FLS) educator who meets the following criteria:     Works for a local/municipal fire department or fire marshal’s office. Uses NFPA educational programs and materials in a consistent and creative way for their community/audience. Demonstrates excellence and innovation in reaching out to the community with NFPA materials.  Last year’s recipient, Maria Bostian of the Kannapolis, NC Fire Department, for example, has over 20 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, relying on NFPA’s Educational Messaging Advisory Council’s Desk Reference for accurate and appropriate messaging.  Bostian focuses on education across the lifespan, incorporating movement and hands-on activities into NFPA’s Learn Not to Burn® lessons to connect with and motivate students, and regularly engaging with older adults in her community with the Remembering When® Program. For this effort, she includes home-bound elders with special “Birthday Boxes” that are filled with personal items, including NFPA’s safety tip sheets, and smoke alarms installation as needed. The FLS Educator of the Year receives: A $1,000 honorarium which recipients can accept or forward to the charity of their choice, A Sparky the Fire Dog  Educator of the Year statue, Paid registration to attend the NFPA 125th Anniversary Conference Series virtual events, and Their local fire department or the fire marshal’s office receives a $1,000 donation to support public education activities.  Fill out a nomination form to recognize your peers in promoting excellence in Fire & Life Safety education. The deadline is April 28, and the recipient will be notified by mid-May. Check out the list of past recipients as examples of the kinds of great work that deserves this recognition. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and NFPA on Twitter,  Facebook, and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division.
Sparky's Fire Safety Club

All-new “Sparky’s Fire Safety Club” and badging system reward kids for learning fire safety basics

In celebration of Sparky the Fire Dog’s® 70th birthday, NFPA has created an all-new Sparky’s Fire Safety Club and badging system on, the association’s award-winning website for kids. Together, these new online features teach kids basic but critical elements of fire safety while rewarding them for their efforts as they go. Sparky’s Fire Safety Club allows kids to create a user profile and earn badges each time they complete a video, game, or activity. Kids have the freedom to earn all three badges at their own pace over time. The user profile and achievements pages help kids track their progress. Once kids receive all three badges, they become an official member of club and can download a certificate. The fire and life safety information communicated through the badges include the importance of working smoke alarms, how to create a home fire escape plan and practice it with all members of the household, as well as guidance around staying away from things that get hot, among other associated messages. Sparky’s Fire Safety Club makes learning about the fundamentals of fire safety fun while working to ensure that kids have the skill set needed to identify potential fire hazards and how to protect themselves from those risks. Fire safety educators and teachers can use Sparky’s Fire Safety Club and the badging system as part of the fire safety education efforts, while Sparky’s School House continues to serve as a resource for teachers incorporating fire safety into their curricula.

Massive blaze at apartment building in New York underscores critical importance of an educated public

Last week, a massive blaze at six-story apartment building in Queens, NY displaced approximately 240 residents and injured six people. According to Daniel Nigro, commissioner of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), the door to the apartment unit where the fire began had not been closed when the resident exited, a misstep that contributed to the fire’s rapid spread. "The door was open," Commissioner Nigro said. "The occupant fled, left the door open. We've stressed over the years the seriousness of that if you do unfortunately have a fire in your home or apartment, how important it is to close that door. The fire (traveled) out to the hallway, the units were unable to make a quick advance." Much research has been done in recent years underscoring this point, including fire tests by Underwriters Laboratories which show that closing doors upon exiting a fire can make a substantive difference in slowing its spread. Nigro also noted that a delay in calling 911 furthered the fire’s spread and the damage incurred. According to an FDNY video posted on the department’s Facebook page, residents smelled smoke and smoke alarms were sounding, but no one called the fire department for 10 minutes. This delayed response reflects a complacency around fire that can lead to devastating outcomes. In a broader context, incidents like this reinforce the critical importance of the NFPA Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem, a framework that identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. If any component is missing or broken, the Ecosystem can collapse. In this incident, an educated public – one of the eight components of the Ecosystem – wasn’t in place and directly contributed to the magnitude of the fire and the damage it incurred. NFPA offers a wealth of public education resources that address the fundamentals of home escape planning and practice, including the importance of promptly responding to the sound of smoke alarms and the smell of smoke. We also have a safety tips sheet that provides specific guidance for people who live in apartment buildings and high-rise structures. Share this information with your communities to help ensure that people know what to do in a fire situation and have the skills to help minimize the extent of a fire’s impact on people and property.
Man varnishing a chair

As warmer weather approaches, NFPA offers 6 key tips to safely tackle spring cleaning

Melted snow, budding trees, longer days: they’re all signs that the warmer months are fast-approaching -  and for many of us, these seasonal hallmarks are reminders to start spring cleaning in and around our homes. As people power up their lawnmowers, rake up debris, touch up chipped paint, and take on myriad projects to get their homes and yards ready for the months ahead, following are six key practices and supporting recommendations to help minimize the risk of fires and associated hazards: Properly use and store gasoline Use gasoline only as motor fuel, never as a cleaner or to break down grease. Only store gasoline in a container that is sold for that purpose and never bring it indoors, even in small amounts. Never store gasoline containers in a basement or in the occupied space of a building. Keep them in a detached garage or an outdoor shed. Make sure the container is tightly capped when not in use. Carefully dispose of rags with paint and stain The oils commonly used in oil-based paints and stains release heat as they dry. If the heat is not released in the air as the rags dry, the heat is trapped, builds up and can cause a fire. Never leave cleaning rags in a pile. When you’re finished using the rags, take them outside to dry, keeping them well away from the home and other structures. Hang rags outside or spread them on the ground and weigh them down so that they don’t blow away. Put dried rags in a metal container, making sure the container is tightly covered. Fill the container with a water and detergent solution, which will break down the oils. Keep containers of oily rags in a cool place out of direct sunlight and away from other heat sources. Check with your town for information on how to properly dispose of them. Use/store flammable and combustible liquids with care Flammable and combustible liquids should not be used near an open flame. Never smoke when working with these liquids. If you spill liquids on your clothing, remove your clothing and place it outside to dry. Once dry, clothing can be laundered. Keep liquids in their original containers. Keep them tightly capped or sealed. Never store the liquids in glass containers. Feel free to use and/or share our Safety with Oily Rags tip sheet (PDF), which includes the above tips and more. Inspect grills to ensure they’re in good working order Inspect your grill (PDF) carefully and make sure it’s free of grease or fat buildup. Clean out any nests, spider webs, or other debris you may find. For propane grills, check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Keep debris well away from your home Every year, wildfires (PDF) burn across the U.S., with more and more people living in communities where wildfires are a real risk. Dispose of branches, weeds, leaves, pine needles, and grass clippings that you have cut to reduce fuel for fire. Remove leaves, pine needles, and other flammable material from the roof, gutters, and on and under the deck to help prevent embers from igniting your home. Remove dead vegetation and other flammable materials, especially within the first 5 feet of the home. Move construction material, trash, and woodpiles at least 30 feet away from the home and other outbuildings. Clean out your clothes dryer Make sure the air exhaust vent pipe for your dryer (PDF) is not restricted and that the outdoor vent flap will open when the dryer is operating. This includes making sure the outdoor vent flap is not covered by snow. Move things that can burn, such as boxes, cleaning supplies and clothing, away from the dryer. Clothes that have come in contact with flammable substances like gasoline, paint thinner, or similar solvents should be laid outside to dry, then can be washed and dried as usual.
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