Safety Source

Jamie Everitte, Public Educator for Fayetteville Fire Department at the COVID vaccine drive through clinic  held at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville NC.

Meeting people where they are for fire safety

“Covid-19 presented us with many challenges, but also gave us a fresh view.” These are the words of Jamie Everitte, Public Educator for the Fayetteville, NC Fire Department who innovated to find new ways to reach his community. Working with his local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Everitte created 4 x 6 information cards on smoke alarms and heating safety to use at the local drive through COVID vaccination clinic.   Parking his very conspicuous fire safety van featuring messages such as “Stand by your Pan” and “Pay attention in the kitchen,” the smoke alarm and heating safety information, in English and Spanish, was distributed to people as they sat in their cars during the post-vaccine 15-minute wait period. With around one thousand people a day coming through the clinic, Everitte estimates he’s directly interacted and reached about 2000 people so far. “We are missing human interaction, and this is one way we can bring that, along with fire safety resources, to our community.” Fayetteville has a smoke alarm installation program, so that for people who can’t get or afford one, they can contact one of the 17 stations in the township. That smoke alarm installation program is now county-wide, thanks to the participation of the support of the Cumberland County Fire Chiefs.  Smoke alarm and heating information topics were chosen because of the increase in heating related fires this time of year, and while doing virtual education, Everitte has noticed something else he wouldn’t have before COVID – hearing the chirp of a low smoke alarm battery in the background in people’s homes. This provided another piece of information that smoke alarm information is critical at this time when more people are staying home, and where that chirp somehow becomes “white noise” in people’s homes.   Just another example of how Fire and Life Safety Education professionals work to reach their communities, innovating along the way. For more tip sheets, videos, and other fire safety resources, go to Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and NFPA on  Twitter, Facebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division at NFPA. Pictured above is Jamie Everitte, Public Educator for Fayetteville Fire Department at the COVID vaccine drive through clinic  held at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville NC.  

Texas winter storm contributes to tragic fires and CO poisoning

The massive winter storm and resulting power outages in Texas have contributed to home fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, and other tragedies as millions of people work to stay warm, keep rooms lit, and prevent pipes from freezing. Unfortunately, news reports indicate that more treacherous conditions are on the way for the region. Keeping communities safe under these circumstances is no easy task, but providing fire safety tips and recommendations to as many people as possible can make a substantive difference in helping people stay safe. As news stories continue to report on fires and other tragedies in recent days, here are messages that can help reduce the risk of fire and associated hazards, which include links to additional resources and information: Carbon monoxide: Carbon monoxide (CO) is often called the silent killer because it can’t be seen, heard or smelled, but it can be deadly. Make sure CO alarms are installed and working properly. To prevent CO poisoning, make sure your home’s heating system is in working order; if it isn’t, do not use it. If the heat stops working, use extra layers of clothes and blankets to stay warm. If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow. Generators: Generators should be used outdoors and placed well away from windows and doors. Do not run a generator inside your garage, even if the door is open. Candles: Use battery-powered flashlights to light your home, not candles. However, if you must use candles, make sure they are attended at all times and kept out of reach of children and pets. Place candles on a sturdy surface that’s clear of clutter and keep them at least one foot away from anything that can burn. Blow out candles when you leave the room or go to sleep. Fireplaces: When using a fireplace, use a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Monitor a fireplace fire at all times; make sure it is completely out before going to sleep or leaving your home. When the fire is completely out, let the ashes cool and put them in a metal container that’s placed at a safe distance away from your home. Space heaters: If you have power and are using a space heater to keep warm, make sure it’s in good working order and placed at least three feet away from anything that can burn and in a location that it won’t be bumped into or knocked over. Keep children and pets well away from space heaters and never leave them unattended. Turn them off when you leave the room or go to sleep. Also, never use an oven or other cooking appliances to heat your home. Frozen pipes: The American Red Cross offers a wealth of consumer tips and recommendations for preventing frozen pipes and safely thawing them. NFPA and USFA work together each year to promote the “Put a Freeze on Winter Fires” campaign, which provides a wealth of information and resources that can be shared with communities to help prevent winter fires.

Condo blaze demonstrates public’s continued over-confidence toward fire

Residents’ slow response to a massive fire at a 24-unit condo in Boxborough, MA, last week reflects a continued over-confidence that perpetuates the public’s risk. Boston’s CBS affiliate (WBZ-TV) reported that getting residents to exit the condo, where a fire reportedly broke out in the building’s attic, was more of an issue than pulling water from nearby ponds (the town does not have a municipal water system) which presumably would have been the bigger challenge. “Actually, the challenging part was evacuating people… because people didn’t want to leave,” said Boxborough Fire Chief Paul Fillebrown. According to WBZ-TV, firefighters banged on doors several times to get people outside of the building. Whether the residents may initially not have seen signs of danger because of the fire’s origin or the winter temperatures dissuaded them from leaving their homes, a lack of urgency around prompt escape underscores a continued complacency toward fire among many people. Findings from past NFPA surveys show that home is the place feel safest from fire when, in reality, it’s the place they’re at greatest risk; more than three-quarters (77%) of all U.S. fire deaths occur in homes. While there is no one simple answer or solution to changing persistent attitudes and/or misperceptions toward fire, it’s clear that much more needs to be done when it comes to better educating people about how fast today’s fires spread and the critical importance of responding quickly. NFPA’s Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem reinforces this point, with an informed public serving as a key component of a full system of safety. Residents must understand their true risk to fire and take personal responsibility for protecting themselves from it. That means being properly educated about where fire risks are greatest, what’s needed to prevent them, and how to most effectively respond in the event of one. Learn more about NFPA’s Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem and use NFPA’s public education resources to better educate people in your community about critical elements of fire safety. Photo credit: Boxborough Fire Department's Facebook page
Man cooking

Burn prevention awareness year-round

As this year’s National Burn Awareness Week comes to a close, my thoughts turn to how we can continue the conversation that often starts with these kinds of health observances.  This year’s theme, “Electrical Safety from Amps to Zap (A to Z)!” focused on, and raised awareness of, the thousands of burns experienced each year in the U.S. due to electrical causes. This week gave Fire & Life Safety (FLS) educators and related health and injury prevention professionals an opportunity to reinforce key burn prevention measures related to safe use of electrical equipment. Kudos to the American Burn Association and their collaborators for the amazing work of bringing electrical burn injuries to public’s attention. But burn prevention in general is a year-round need with a myriad of types and causes of burns impacting mortality and quality of life. Cooking continues to be the leading cause of reported home fires and home-fire injuries, and cooking related non-fire burns the highest cause of burn injuries. The NFPA Non-Fire Cooking Burn Injuries report details the various causes of cooking related non-fire burn injuries reported from 2014-2018.  Just over 15,000 burn injuries were treated annually during that time period in Emergency Departments (ED) due to contact with hot range/oven with just over 11,000 burn injuries treated due to tableware or cup scalds.  Children under the age of five account for just 6% of the population yet bear a disproportionate burden of burns due largely to hot tableware, cup scalds, contact with hot grills and contact with hot ranges or ovens.  Microwave scalds were more associated with older children (5-14 years) representing 38% of such burns treated at ED’s. Scald prevention for all ages includes a mix of environmental and behavioral changes that can make a real impact such as installing anti-scald devices on tub facets and shower heads, testing bath water to make sure it is less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) and keeping kids and pets three feet away from cooking and where hot foods/drinks are being prepared and served. Whether due to electrical, cooking, contact with fire, burns continue to impact quality of life, with over 400,000 burn injuries requiring medical treatment each year in the U.S., we have plenty of work to do to assure burn prevention is a regular component of fire prevention education. And no matter the topic, a reminder that Working smoke alarms, in every bedroom, level and outside every sleeping area, Carbon monoxide alarms, on every level, and a Home Fire Escape Plan, are a must in every home. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and NFPA on  Twitter, Facebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division at NFPA.

Don’t get caught up in the heat of the moment: practice candle safety this Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, NFPA encourages everyone to use candles safely and avoid ruining a romantic evening. From 2014 to 2018, US fire departments responded to an average of 7,600 home fires started by candles per year. These fires cause an annual average of 81 civilian deaths and 677 civilian injuries, as well as $278 million in property damage. Candles were the third leading cause of bedroom fires and fourth leading cause of living room fires, as well as the sixth leading cause of home fire injuries. The rate of 89 injuries per 1,000 reported candle fires was three times the rate for all fire causes. Three out of every five candle fires started when a flammable piece of décor ­— such as furniture, mattresses, bedding, curtains, home decorations, paper, or clothing — was too close to the lit candle. In 16 percent of home candle fires, the candle was left unattended. Over one-third of candle fires (37%) started in the bedroom, while candles are only used in the bedroom by 13% of users. Sleep was a factor in 10 percent of home candle fires, 15 percent of candle fire deaths, and 22 percent of candle fire injuries. NFPA recommends using battery-operated candles, which eliminate the risk of candle fires,  but if you plan to use real candles on Valentine’s Day, following are tips from NFPA to do so safely : Keep candles at least 12 inches 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. Blow out all candles before you leave a room or go to bed. Never leave children alone in a room with a burning candle. Light candles carefully. Keep your hair and any loose clothing away from the flame. Don’t burn a candle all the way down — put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep. NFPA also reminds the public to make sure they have working smoke alarms and to develop and practice an escape plan. For more information about candle safety, please visit our candle safety page.  
Plugging into an outlet

National Burn Awareness Week focuses on electrical safety

“Electrical Safety from Amps to Zap (A to Z)!” is the theme for this year’s National Burn Awareness Week from the American Burn Association.  Every year in the U.S., approximately 400,000 people receive medical treatment for burn injuries; in 2019, U.S. Emergency Departments treated over 3000 electrical burns alone.  Fires and burns are more than just incidents. Every electrical burn injury has an impact and a story behind it. NFPA's Faces of Fire, in collaboration with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, is a campaign that features stories of people impacted by electrical incidents and demonstrates the need for continued education and awareness about electrical hazards both at work and at home. Use these tips to promote Burn Awareness Week in your community: Use electrical safety themed social media assets provided by NFPA, American Burn Association, and US Fire Administration to send out messages related to electrical burn risks and safety precautions Use the #NBAW in your posts to align with other Burn Awareness Week posts Work with your local retailers to disseminate information such as NFPA's Electrical Safety Checklist Visit NFPA's Electrical Safety Page for videos and tip sheets that you can use year round Working smoke alarms, in every bedroom, level and outside every sleeping area and Carbon monoxide alarms, on every level are a must for all homes. Make sure everyone in your home (including guests) are part of your Home Fire Escape Plan including knowing 2 ways out and the outside meeting place. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and NFPA on  Twitter, Facebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division at NFPA.

The role of trust in behavior change

In December of 2003, my then 65-year-old mother went into congestive heart failure the same weekend my then 78-year-old father in law had a heart attack.  Really. Thankfully each was identified early enough to prevent death or disability. That’s where the similarities end. As we visited them in the same hospital, the scenarios played out differently. For my mom, the doctor came into the room and said, “Mrs. Vastis you are a very sick woman,” and went onto describe what she would need to do to get better and manage her newly diagnosed cardiomyopathy. She turned to me, holding the stack of paperwork and said, “please read this with me so I can make sure to follow all of his directions.” Down the hall in my father in law’s room, the conversation was a little different. The doctor informed him that two of his three coronary arteries were 100% occluded and the third, 60% blocked. Without bypass surgery, mortality was imminent. As the doctor left the room and we started talking about surgery, my father in law said, “I’m not getting surgery. All those doctors want to do is cut you open and make their money.” (He got the surgery; my mother in law made sure).  Fast forward to 2021, and I revisit this story as we in the world of fire and life safety (FLS) education struggle with getting people to believe that certain health behaviors like wearing a mask, and having a smoke alarm in EVERY bedroom and level will reduce the risk of illness and injury. Providing health and safety information is one thing; getting people to believe that information will help keep them safe is another. In my story above, a belief system centered around trust of health care professionals was at play. Trust in the validity of the information and the deliverer of that information is a huge factor in people’s beliefs about the effectiveness of taking precautions against disease and injury. A recent Gallup Poll found that nurses top the list of most trusted professionals in terms of honesty and ethics, a full 20 points ahead of doctors and 45 points ahead of state governors.  An International Poll found that firefighters are the most trusted of community professionals, with politicians ranking least.  Trust as a profession is just one of the reasons why fire service personnel are well suited to deliver prevention education, along with the fact that they’ve “been there, done that, seen it all” with regards to the tragedies and saves of fires and burns. Public education efforts must be accurate, action-oriented, relevant to the population, and credibly delivered to gain the trust of the community. NFPA's Division of Public Education provides FLS educators with a myriad of tools to use when delivering educational messages and programs in person, virtually and through social media. Check out Motivational Interviewing (MI) as one technique to engage and gain trust when conducting home fall/fire risk assessments.  These questioning techniques can be used across a variety of settings and topics to learn more about what motivates people, what they value, and what will actually get them to adopt safety behaviors. MI is another engagement tool for your to provide trusted, credible FLS education to your community. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and NFPA on  Twitter, Facebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division at NFPA.
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