Safety Source

Four Lives Saved in Roanoke, VA home fire thanks to two kids’ prompt response to sounding smoke alarms

The live-saving value of working smoke alarms – and the know-how to respond to them – was reinforced last Wednesday when two children were able to get themselves and two adults out of a home fire upon hearing the smoke alarms sound. “In this case, the kids knew what to do. They got out, they called 911, they gave us all the information. It was phenomenal,” said David Hoback, fire chief of Roanoke’s Department of Fire-EMS, who was quoted in a local news story covering the incident. According to WSLS 10 News, the two children got out safely, while the adults suffered life-threatening injuries. “I know this family didn’t go to bed last night thinking they were going to have a fire at 5:30 this morning. But if you practice and have active working smoke detectors it will save lives,” said Hoback. He’s right. Having working smoke alarms and knowing what to do when they sound can make the difference between a safe escape from fire and tragedy. Here are NFPA guidelines for properly installing, testing, and maintaining smoke alarms: Install smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom, and near all sleeping areas.  Test your smoke alarms monthly. Press the test button to make sure each alarm is working. Replace smoke alarm batteries when the alarm begins to chirp, signaling that the batteries are running low. If the alarm continues to chirp or sound, it’s time to replace the alarm. Replace smoke alarms that are more than10 years old. You can determine the age of a smoke alarm by its date of manufacture, which is located on the back of the alarm. Smoke alarms should be interconnected, if possible, so that when one alarm sounds, they all do.  Also, when it comes to home escape planning, make sure to include all members of your household in developing the plan and practicing it regularly, at least twice a year. Get more information on how to develop and practice a home escape plan.

In Support of Fire Prevention Week, NFPA and Domino’s Kick Off Annual Smoke Alarm Safety program with the Flint Fire Department

For the 14th year in a row, NFPA teamed up with Domino’s to kick off our joint Fire Prevention Week™ program promoting the importance of smoke alarms and fire safety. This year, approximately 40 first graders from Eisenhower Elementary School were invited to the Flint Fire Department, where they learned about the messages behind this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme, “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety™.” The students were also treated to a visit from Sparky the Fire Dog® and a pizza party. As always, a huge thanks to the Flint Fire Department for all their help and enthusiasm in support of this annual program and helping make it a true success. And thank you to all the local Domino's and fire departments that team up each year to bring the campaign to life in their communities. Continued participation in the program is a testament to its fun, engaging approach to educating residents about smoke alarm safety. We truly appreciate everyone’s support! Here's how Domino's Fire Prevention Week program works: Customers who place an order from participating Domino's stores during Fire Prevention Week, October 3-9, are randomly selected to receive their delivery from the local fire department, who will conduct a smoke alarm check in the customer's home. If the smoke alarms in the home are working, the delivery is free. If they're not working, the firefighters will replace the batteries or install fully functioning alarms. To learn more about this program, visit https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Outreach/Partners-in-safety/Dominos
DIY projects

Five D.I.Y. Electrical Wiring Suggestions to Help Prevent Your Home from Going Up in Flames

It was one of those emails that just makes you cringe. Followed by a knot that just sits in the bottom of your stomach. A coworker had sent me yet another link to a major news publication’s Ask the “Expert” article. Only they didn’t put expert in quotes like I did. The publication really wanted the reader to believe that they were getting knowledgeable electrical advice from someone other than – an expert. While I am mostly certain that the intent was good, the advice unfortunately was not. Spending years in and around the construction trades does not make someone an expert in all areas construction. Being a master electrician with nearly 30 years of experience working alongside other trades does not provide me with the knowledge necessary to tell someone how to frame the structure of their home. I know many do-it-yourself (D.I.Y.) homeowners reach out to others for advice and something branded as getting answers from an expert certainly seems appealing, but electricity and errors don’t mix. When it comes to electrical installations, even one small error can set ablaze an inferno of devastating consequences. With this week being Fire Prevention Week, it seems like the perfect time to discuss why proper electrical wiring is so crucial to preventing fires in the home. In March 2019, NFPA conducted a research study analyzing home electrical fires on data captured between 2012-2016. One of the key findings from the study stated, “Home fires involving electrical failure or malfunction caused an estimated average of 440 civilian deaths and 1,250 civilian injuries each year in 2012-2016, as well as an estimated $1.3 billion in direct property damage a year.” When you look at this statistic knowing that people and property are likely the things you hold most dear, it would seem self-performing electrical wiring may pose too great of a risk. However, many still choose to take on that risk often based on the premise of saving money. But when it comes to protecting your family and possessions, money should not be the only determining factor. Getting the job done properly and safely needs to weigh heavily into the equation. Electricians spend years learning code requirements and the skills needed to perform installations in order to meet those code requirements. They are also required to take continuing education classes to keep up on current codes as a condition for license renewal. Without getting too Liam Neeson on you here, they have a special set of skills that they have acquired over the course of their careers that enable them to do the job properly. Skills that cannot be gathered from reading a how-to book or getting your questions answered from an Ask the “Expert” column in a periodical.   I will pose this question: would you let your closest loved one be operated on by a doctor who had never performed their residency? If your answer was “no,” then how can wiring a home without the skills acquired during a 4 to 5-year electrical apprenticeship be justifiable. Also considering that there are likely to be many more lives at stake when wiring a home versus a single person undergoing a surgery, it could be argued that doing so would be unfathomable. Yet it happens every day, many times over, by homeowners that choose to take that risk. This is not a sales pitch to ensure that electricians get all of the work, either. There is more work available in the foreseeable future than there are electricians to complete the work. My plea is solely based on safety and for homeowners to see, and fully consider, the immeasurable amount of risk they are applying to themselves, their families, and their possessions by performing electrical work that they are not properly trained for. And while I know I won’t be able to prevent everyone from performing their own electrical work, I can offer the following suggestions to help mitigate some of the risk: Hire an electrician. One last attempt here, because it is that important. Electricians have been specifically trained in code requirements and possess the skills necessary to perform a code compliant installation. If you still choose to perform your own work, you can always come back to this advice. At any point you feel you are too far over your head, you can always throw in the towel and call an electrician to ensure the job gets done properly. Don’t assume just because it works, that it is safe. Just because you performed the work and the light comes on, does not mean that the installation was done properly. Maybe the wire that runs from the light switch to the light fixture has a small nick in it where a staple was installed that pinched the wire too much. Now the area where the wire is pinched is starting to arc behind the wall where it can’t be seen and is coming close to igniting the paper backing on the insulation in the wall next to it. I have been on countless service calls in my years as an electrician where, after fixing the problem(s), I left the home wondering how it hadn’t gone up in flames. Follow the latest version of the National Electrical Code® (NEC®). Updates are made to the NEC on a 3-year cycle. As of the date of this blog, the 2020 NEC is the most current version with the 2023 NEC to be published sometime in the Fall of 2022. In some local jurisdictions, they do not use the most current version of the NEC. In some cases, jurisdictions will eliminate some parts of the NEC from being enforced. Often this happens at the urging of special interest groups that are not necessarily looking out for the safety of the consumer, but more so the bottom-line dollar value. For example, some states have removed the arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) requirements for specified areas of the home. Know that, regardless of the code cycle your local area is on and what may have been excluded, the NEC is the minimum requirement, and you can always do more. So, if you read up on the safety that AFCI protection provides and decide you want to install them in your home, by all means do so. Pull permits and get inspections. Electrical inspectors, also known as the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), are the final checks-and-balances piece for ensuring electrical safety regardless of who performed the work. They are the last line of defense for homeowners as to whether or not their home is safe from an electrical standpoint. While many D.I.Y. projects often go without the proper permits being pulled and inspection being performed, electrical is most definitely not an area where you want to go this route. It is also against the law and can result in heavy fines should you get caught. Not to mention the additional assumed risk you are taking by possibly having an insurance claim denied due to a negligence clause, should your home catch on fire or someone becomes injured due to improper electrical wiring, and no inspections were performed. Ask a REAL expert. If you are going to do the work yourself and seek out the answers to your questions, find a real expert to give you accurate answers. I have found often that electrical inspectors are more than willing to answer questions on how to perform an installation before actual work gets done. That can save on the costly expense of additional labor and materials associated with redoing the same job twice. Asking around, you may also find an electrical contractor who is willing to perform a service call to check your work and give you advice. The point is, whomever you choose to seek out for the answers to your questions, make sure he/she is an electrically knowledgeable source. When it comes to electrical installations, there is little room for error. While we all must make personal decisions as to the amount of risk we want to assume, we also have the ability to seek out the information needed to help manage any assumed risk. Although homeowners are often legally allowed to do their own electrical work, hiring a licensed electrician to do the work would be the best choice to mitigate risk. If they still choose to do the work themselves, it can be better managed by understanding the current code requirements and seeking out any advice needed from credible sources. With people and property involved and so much weighing on a proper electrical installation, it is crucial to get it right. To err is human but electricity does not know forgiveness. Important Notice: Any opinion expressed in this correspondence is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the official position of the NFPA or its Technical Committees. In addition, this correspondence is neither intended, nor should it be relied upon, to provide professional consultation or services.
San Antonio Fire Department

San Antonio Fire Department hosts event recognizing State Farm for Fire Prevention Week donation

State Farm has been a strong supporter of Fire Prevention Week™ (FPW™) for the past five years through their Good Neighbor grant program. In San Antonio, TX, local State Farm agents donated 20 FPW kits to the San Antonio Fire Department and 10 Sparky educator kits to local schools. Earlier this week in thanks to these donations, the San Antonio Fire Department hosted an event to celebrate FPW and recognize State Farm’s generosity.San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood hosted the event in coordination with Dan Ater of State Farm; Andrea Vastis, senior director of public education at NFPA; Albert Betts, executive director of the Insurance Council of Texas; and Miss Texas USA’s Victoria Hinojosa, who helped officially kick off Fire Prevention Week in the city of San Antonio. Chief Hood, who is also a board member of the National Fallen Fire Fighters Association (NFFF), remarked that while Fire Prevention Week happens once a year, fire and burn prevention education happens all year long, due to the collaborative efforts of the fire department with their community partners.   Overall, State Farm donated 3,500 FPW kits and 1,500 Sparky the Fire Dog® educator kits to thousands of fire departments and school systems nationwide in support of this year’s campaign, “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety™.” Each FPW toolkit includes a host of resources for promoting the campaign’s messages, including brochures, magnets, posters, activity booklets and more that fire departments can distribute at schools, open houses, and other community events. The Sparky educator kits, which include an educator edition of The Story of Sparky, a Sparky stuffed doll, and 30 individual books for students; these resources help teach children about fire safety through Sparky’s start as the official NFPA mascot. For more information about this year’s Fire Prevention Week efforts, visit https://www.nfpa.org/fpw
A boy with a hearing aid

Fire Prevention Week: What’s in it for me?

October 3 -9 marks NFPA's 99th annual Fire Prevention Week showcasing this year’s theme, “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety.”  Each year NFPA selects a theme that is universally relevant across populations, data-driven, and actionable. This year’s theme was born out of both quantitative and qualitative data: Almost three of every 5 home fire deaths occur in homes with no/non-working smoke alarms and the remote work and learning environment gave us a real-time view into people’s homes, frequently showing that people let the “chirp” of a low battery signal go unresolved.  This year’s theme pays particular attention to assure people who are deaf or hard of hearing have access to the appropriate education and equipment to be alerted to the sounds of their smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms. A blanket “have working smoke alarms” message does not address the one in eight Americans aged 12+ with hearing loss in both ears, or the nearly 25% of those aged 65-74 and 50% of those 75+ who have disabling hearing loss (NIH). The technology advances in hearing aid and cochlear implants do not overcome the need for alerts during sleeping hours, when those devices are not in use. So what’s the actionable part?  NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week  website has a myriad of tools and resources to support Fire & Life Safety education efforts with simple, concrete actions people can take to keep themselves and their families safe.  From a universal and inclusive Smoke and CO alarm Tip Sheet to a dedicated Smoke & CO alarm tip sheet for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to our Family Action Plan in both English and Spanish, all of which are able to be co-branded, educators have a variety of educational assets to offer their community members. There are key tips to be promoted as part of assuring EVERYONE in the home is protected by their smoke and CO alarms including: Install a bedside alert device that responds to the sound of the smoke and CO alarms. Use of a low frequency alarm can also wake a sleeping person with mild to severe hearing loss. Sleep with your mobility device, glasses, and phone close to your bed. Keep pathways like hallways lit with night lights and free from clutter to make sure everyone can get out safely Check out our Fire Prevention Week toolkit page with easy to incorporate assets – templates for proclamations, fillable event flyers, fundraising letters, dedicated social media assets formatted for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and a variety of age appropriate lesson plans, activity sheets, and coloring pages for use in during October and year-round.  Whether doing in-person, remote or hybrid events, there is an arsenal of tools for you to have a successful Fire Prevention Week this year. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and NFPA on Twitter,  Facebook, and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division.

Celebrity Nicole Richie’s hair catches fire while blowing out the candles on her birthday cake

Earlier this week in the news, it was reported that celebrity Nicole Richie’s hair caught fire as she blew out the candles on her birthday cake. Fortunately, the fire was put out in time to prevent serious damage beyond burnt locks, but the incident underscored how dangerous and scary fire can become in a matter of seconds, as well as the importance of using candles with caution and care. Following are important candle safety tips: Keep anything that can burn at least 12” away from candles. Never leave lit candles unattended. Blow out candles when you leave the room or your home. Place candles on sturdy surfaces where they won’t tip or get knocked over. Use battery-operated candles, which look just like real candles and eliminate the risk of fire. NFPA also offers safety tips when using religious candles. To prevent hair or loose-fitting clothing from coming in contact with fire: When blowing out birthday candles - or any candles, for that matter - make sure hair and loose-fitting clothing are kept away from the flame. If you do need to extinguish flames on hair, it’s safest to smother the flames with a towel or blanket. “Stop, drop, and roll” should only be used for putting out flames that come in direct contact with clothing. This essentially means: Stop where you are, cover your face with your hands, if possible, and roll over and over or back and forth until the flames are completely out. When treating a burn: All burns should be treated right away by putting it in cool water for 3 to 5 minutes. Cover the burn with a clean, dry cloth. Do not apply creams, ointments, sprays, or other home remedies. Get medical help right away by calling 9-1-1 or the fire department. We hope Nicole Richie enjoyed the rest of her birthday without incident and will use her candle blowing scare to keep fire safety top of mind in years and celebrations ahead.
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