Safety Source

Malden Fire Department discussing CRR

CRR Week: An opportunity to reflect on your leadership

On January 25, NFPA is hosting a virtual event, Leadership for Emergency Responders, which will provide opportunities to dig into three dimensions of leadership specific to emergency responders: personal, technical and community leadership. My colleagues, Meredith Hawes and Chelsea Rubadou, and I will be presenting at the event to share some of our insights related to Community Risk Reduction (CRR). As we worked to figure out what messages to focus on, these are some of the leading questions we wanted to address: What does it mean to be a CRR leader? How do we meet the needs of fire department leaders and also engage a wider group of responders across a community? How can we serve motivated CRR champions who do not yet wear bugles on their shirts? What if attendees work in a role that doesn’t require a uniform? Could our message be important to them? As we filtered our thoughts through real-world examples, it became clear that role and rank are secondary to passion, dedication, and the ability to inspire others to explore the value that CRR brings to the toolkit of any safety-focused agency. While we have lots of CRR leadership examples to look to, one particular group of motivated professionals provided this clarity. These are the folks who dreamed of holding a national event to elevate CRR across the fire service and brought CRR Week to life. CRR Week arose out focused problem-solving, energetic networking, and pencil-sketched bar napkins. This celebration is a now solidified as an annual event designed to heighten awareness of the role and impact of the CRR process as a result of passionate leadership. The third annual CRR Week begins on Monday, January 17 intentionally aligning to a National Day of Service that honors Martin Luther King, Jr. CRR Week is an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership. It can help you start the conversations in your community about the importance of making data-driven decisions to guide risk reduction plans; encourage the fire chief to support a prevention initiative designed to support high-risk residents; and help operations crews understand the important roles they play in community safety before, during, and after 9-1-1 calls are made. To learn how to best achieve these and other CRR goals and objectives, I strongly encourage everyone to register for the Leadership for Emergency Responders virtual event taking place on January 25 or one of the many face-to-face conferences taking place this year to learn more about NFPA 1300, the industry standard for CRR. Show your passion and dedication. Inspire others to take action. Be a CRR leader. NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development provides guidance for professionals working to improve community safety. Also, CRAIG 1300 is a new digital tool that can help communities conduct an effective CRA and establish a well-informed CRR plan.

It Is Time to Do More: Community Risk Reduction

Recent news out of Philadelphia tells a tragic story about the devastating fire in which 12 people died on Wednesday. While investigators work to uncover the cause of the fire and neighbors mourn those who perished, this tragedy is truly heartbreaking for all of us work each and every day to reduce the likelihood of fire in our communities. It also makes us question where the cracks within our own communities remain, and how we can do more to ensure that no one suffers this type of loss moving forward. The fire problem is complex and there are no easy answers. Risk is inherent and exists in every building. While it is nearly impossible to eliminate the risk of home fires, we can certainly work strategically to gain traction in the fight against fire. We can build on our existing knowledge. Working smoke alarms provide an important piece of the safety puzzle and provide critical early warning in a home fire. We also know that planning and practicing home escape plans helps family members learn the route to safety ahead of a scary, disorienting event. These are messages all of us well know, and they’re ones we continually work to promote among our audiences time and again. When a devastating fire like this happens, it’s a resounding signal that it is time to do more, and that it’s a time to do things a bit differently from the way we’ve long done them. Derrick Sawyer, the former Commissioner of the Philadelphia Fire Department, is a long-standing advocate for Community Risk Reduction (CRR), a process of identifying local risks and planning targeted interventions to reduce those risks. In the article, Connecting the Dots, Chief Sawyer explains how data are important fire prevention tools that provide insights into the unique needs of neighborhoods across a community. The data should be considered in a Community Risk Assessment (CRA) alongside input from local stakeholders and partners to get a comprehensive view of the risks and capacity at the neighborhood level. Community Risk Reduction arms prevention specialists with a deeper understanding of the unique qualities and characteristics of each neighborhood and the people who live, work, learn, and play there.  This knowledge guides tailored interventions designed to meet specific needs and ensure resources are deployed to address those experiencing the highest levels of risk. It is an equitable approach to prevention that leads to impactful, multifaceted initiatives. Data-informed assessments, rich community partnerships, and targeted plans guided by the CRR process reduce the likelihood and the impact of home fires. It is time to embrace this new approach to fire prevention. Do you have all the data you need to accurately identify where risks within your community exist? Do you have the partnerships to effectively connect with your communities to address them? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you’ve likely put a lot of time and energy into capturing that information and making those impactful connections. But for the many fire departments and safety officials that still need more information and support to truly ensure that they are doing all they can to reduce the risk of fire in their communities, please consider what actions will you take today to better prevent fire in your communities. Taking the first steps can be daunting, but there are many ways you can begin to more effectively identify and address risks within your communities. Our CRR resources can help get you started and move toward better understanding and responding to the biggest safety threats impacting specific populations with your jurisdiction. NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development provides guidance for professionals working to improve community safety. Also, CRAIG 1300 is a new digital tool that can help communities conduct an effective CRA and establish a well-informed CRR plan.
a cat sipping milk

Do cats cause home fires and, if so, how often?

When I saw a news story in the Washington Post the other day titled, “Your Cat Could Burn Your House Down, Korean Officials Warn after 107 Fires Sparked by Felines,” I was curious to learn more. What were these crazy cats doing? As it turns out, cats have reportedly started an estimated 100-plus fires in Seoul, South Korea over the past few years, many of which started with furry paws turning on electric stoves. In more than half the cases, the owners were not home when the fire started. While the article included some solid tips for preventing cats and other pets from starting home fires  – such as either removing cooktop knobs or putting guards on them, clearing the cooking area of things that can burn (dishtowels, oven mitts, etc.), and working to make sure pets don’t have access to cooktops and other cooking equipment altogether – a couple of pieces of information were a bit misleading. First, the story incorrectly referenced an NFPA statistic about the number of U.S. home fires started by pets each year. The data used was from a report detailing the number of fires in livestock facilities, not homes. But it does beg the question: how often do our furry friends cause home fires? The answer is not all that often: an estimated average of 790 homes fires are started by animals each year. However, this statistic includes all types of animals, not just domesticated ones. So, for example, a chipmunk or squirrel chewing through electrical wiring is included in that number. In short, cats and other animals represent a very small part of the overall home fire problem, especially when you consider that there are more than 130 million pets living in U.S. homes. Still, it’s worthwhile to take precautions to minimize the likelihood of animals coming in contact with any type of equipment that can generate heat or flames – inside your home and out. The Washington Post article also noted that pets can be heroes in fires, referencing an incident in which a cat alerted a family to fire while they were sleeping, enabling them to escape safely. While these anecdotal stories are pretty amazing, it’s misleading at best, and downright dangerous, to expect that a pet will alert people to a home fire. As always, the best, most reliable form of detection is working smoke alarms and having an escape plan that the entire household has practiced together. For more information on pet fire safety, download and/or share our “Pet Fire Safety” tip sheet.
Christmas tree removal

Nearly one-third of Christmas tree fires occur in January

Nearly one-third (30 percent) of U.S. home fires involving Christmas trees occur in January. With this post-holiday fire hazard in mind, NFPA strongly encourages people to remove Christmas trees from their homes as soon as possible if they haven’t done so already. For many people who enjoy the look and feel of Christmas trees in their homes, this can be a tough message to follow. However, it’s important to impress upon the public that Christmas trees are large combustible items that have the potential to result in serious fires. The longer they remain in homes, the longer they present a risk. According to the latest NFPA winter holiday fire data, 160 home structure fires began with Christmas trees, resulting in two civilian deaths, 12 civilian injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage, on average each year between 2015 and 2019. Fresh Christmas trees, which continue to dry out and become more flammable over time, are involved in a much larger share of reported Christmas tree fires than artificial trees. Overall, fires that begin with Christmas trees represent a very small but notable part of the U.S. fire problem, considering that they are generally in use for a short time each year. To safely dispose of a Christmas tree, NFPA recommends using the local community’s recycling program, if possible; trees should not be put in the garage or left outside. NFPA also offers these tips for safely removing lighting and decorations to ensure that they remain in good condition: Use the gripping area on the plug when unplugging electrical decorations. Never pull the cord to unplug any device from an electrical outlet, as this can harm the wire and insulation of the cord, increasing the risk for shock or electrical fire. As you pack up light strings, inspect each line for damage, throwing out any sets that have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked or bare wires. Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags or wrap them around a piece of cardboard. Store electrical decorations in a dry place away from children and pets where they will not be damaged by water or dampness.
Hot cocoa and candy canes

“Put a Freeze on Winter Fires” this holiday season

December, January, and February are the leading months for home fires with many of these fires caused by cooking, heating, and holiday decorations such as lights, candles, and Christmas trees. To educate the public on the increased risks during the winter months, the NFPA and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) have once again teamed up for the annual "Put a Freeze on Winter Fires" campaign, providing free resources for use in community fire and life safety/injury prevention efforts. Educators can participate by using the materials including social media assets, using the #wintersafety, and tagging @NFPA and @USFA in their posts. The goal of the "Put a Freeze on Winter Fires" campaign is to educate the public on increased fire risks during the winter months. Resources include the Put a Freeze Infographic, topic specific infographics, and social media assets formatted for use in all social media channels, NFPA’s Winter Holidays Page has additional video, social media, and tip sheet resources to help your community celebrate safely, Some key tips: Keep Christmas trees 3 feet (1 meter) away from fireplaces, candles, and heat sources such as space heaters. Water your tree every day; remove it when it becomes dry. Make sure you are using the right lights listed for indoor or outdoor use.  Never use indoor lights outside Give space heaters space:  Keep space heaters 3 feet (1 meter) away from furniture, curtains, and other things that can burn. More than 1/3 of home decoration fires are started by candles.  Consider battery operated flameless candles. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and NFPA on Twitter,  Facebook, and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division.
burning candle

Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are among the leading days of the year for U.S. home fires

Christmas trees, holiday decorations, cooking and baking all contribute to an annual increase in U.S. home fires during the winter months. In fact, Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are among the leading days of the year for home fires (topped only by Thanksgiving Day). The NFPA Winter Holidays page offers a wide variety of tips and resources to reduce the risk of fires, while the latest NFPA statistics underscore the increased risk of fire during the holiday season: Christmas trees An estimated average of 160 home fires that began when Christmas trees caught fire caused an average of two civilian deaths, 12 civilian injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage per year between 2015 and 2019. Some type of electrical distribution or lighting equipment, including decorative lights, was involved in almost half of these fires. Nearly one in five Christmas tree fires were started by decorative lights. Eight percent of Christmas tree fires were started by candles. In nearly one-fifth of Christmas tree fires, the tree was too close to a heat source, such as candle or heating or lighting equipment. Decorations An estimated average of 790 home fires that began when decorations (other than Christmas trees) caught fire caused an average of one civilian death, 26 civilian injuries and $13 million in direct property damage per year between 2015 and 2019. One in five home decoration fires occurred in December. Year-round, 35 percent of home decoration fires began with candles; in December, the number jumped to 45 percent. In more than two of every five fires (44 percent) involving decorations, the decoration was too close to a heat source such as a candle, cooking or heating equipment. Candles An estimated average of 7,400 home fires (2 percent) started by candles caused an average of 90 civilian deaths (three percent), 670 civilian injuries (6 percent), and $291 million (4 percent) in direct property damage per year between 2015 and 2019. Candle fires peak in December and January with 11 percent of candle fires in each of these months. In three of every five candle fires, the candle was too close to something that could catch fire. Christmas is the peak day for candle fires with roughly 2.5 times the daily average; Christmas Eve ranked second.      Falling asleep was a factor in 10 percent of the home candle fires and 12 percent of the associated deaths. Cooking Cooking is the leading cause of reported home fires (49 percent) and home fire injuries and the second-leading cause of home fire deaths. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home cooking fires. Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve. Fortunately, a little added awareness and some basic safety precautions can greatly help reduce the risk of fire. Make sure to take full advantage of our resources to help better educate and protect your communities this holiday season. They’re free, easy to download, reprint, and/or share online.
A full shopping mall

Situational awareness and responsiveness are critical to safety in public spaces

Because home is the place people are at greatest risk to fire, much of our collective efforts and focus understandably focus on fire prevention and safety at home. However, the deadly crowd surge that occurred at the Astroworld festival in Houston, TX last month was a grave reminder of potential safety risks in public spaces – and the importance of better educating people about how they can protect themselves when they’re out and about. Situational awareness is a critical element of personal safety no matter where you go. Whether you’re shopping at the mall, dining at a restaurant, attending a concert, or going to the movies, making sure the building features the proper safety provisions and measures, along with knowing how to get out of it quickly and safely in the event of an emergency, can make a life-saving difference. In addition, sounding alarms must be taken seriously and responded to immediately. Unfortunately, when alarms sound in public spaces, people often assume that it’s a false alarm, in part because they may not initially see visible signs of dangers. In reality, by the time smoke, fire or other threats are more clear, particularly in larger buildings like a mall or hotel, it may well be too late to escape safely. Similarly, tragic fire incidents have repeatedly shown that people over-estimate their safety in public spaces and are slow to respond. In the instance of the Station nightclub fire, people first assumed the fire was part of the show; it took a few minutes for many to realize the gravity of the situation, which contributed to the fire’s staggering death toll. While the pandemic continues to impact all of us, a lot of people will be out and about shopping and attending holiday events and activities in public spaces.Our Safety in Places of Public Assembly offers a wealth of tips and recommendations to help people stay safe as they venture out into the world this holiday season and beyond – make sure to share this resource with your communities!
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