Safety Source

A fire and cup of hot chocolate

Engaging your Community to Prepare for Winter Fire Safety

On Monday, November 16, the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) hosted a live Facebook event featuring ways for Fire & Life Safety (FLS) Educators to reach their communities with life saving winter fire safety information and resources.  Promoting winter safety isn’t anything new, however the impacts of COVID-19 have created new challenges in connecting with our communities.   Moderated by Michael McLeieer of the Michigan State Firemen’s Association, the event focused on key fire & home safety risks during the winter months and innovative ways to connect communities with education and resources.  From cooking to heating to electrical to candles and decorations, I along with co-panelists Teresa Neal, Fire Program Specialist of the US Fire Administration, and Blaise Harris, Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Rocky Mount Fire Department in North Carolina, answered a variety of questions related to how FLS educators can package and promote fire safety.  “One thing is for sure,” says Harris, “this virtual environment isn’t going anywhere. Even when we are able to be in a room together again, we will still be using technology.”  Getting comfortable and partnering with those who have the skills using the various platforms is key to staying relevant and staying connected.  “Reach out to your day care and pre-schools,” suggests Neal, adding, “this is a great way to send home materials like home safety checklists, home escape planning sheets and other materials.”  While many schools and organizations may be closed to the public, take advantage of what is still operating to partner and use as a vehicle to deliver your educational messages. “Collaborate and learn from each other,” says McLeieer, promoting participation in the Fire Life Safety Educators and Coordinators Facebook Group, an open forum to share, ask, and learn.  Taking advantage of local and national webinars and virtual conferences for professional development will continue to a need and the norm for FLS educators to keep up with a changing world. Other ideas generated from the conversation included: Partnering with your local library to host virtual education sessions and support outreach, Partnering with local take out and deliver services to incorporate educational materials for home safety, Use of all social media platform – YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to both create repetition of messaging and reach a variety of demographics in your community, Use good, credible resources like those from NFPA and USFA to assure up to date, relevant and accurate information, Use the NFPA Educational Messaging Desk Reference A recording of the event is available for those who missed it.  Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and follow NFPA on Twitter, Facebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division at NFPA.

Keep fire safety top of mind when preparing your feast this Thanksgiving, the peak day for U.S. home cooking fires

Keep cooking safety top of mind when preparing this year’s Thanksgiving feast! According to our latest Home Cooking Fires report, Thanksgiving was the peak day for U.S. home cooking fires in 2018; the day before Thanksgiving was the second-leading day (tied with Christmas Day). Cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home and home fire injuries year-round, and the second-leading cause of home fire deaths.   Between 2014 and 2018, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 1,630 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day, three and half times an average day. Unattended cooking was by far the leading cause of associated fires and fire deaths.  Thanksgiving often involves cooking multiple dishes at once, which can be particularly tricky with lots of distractions in and around the kitchen. From getting ready for guests and managing family needs to entertaining when everyone arrives – these types of activities make it all too easy to lose track of what’s cooking, and that’s when cooking fires tend to happen. Because of the pandemic, many people will likely choose to celebrate the holiday in smaller groups, which may mean more kitchens being used to cook Thanksgiving meals. Regardless of group size, there will still be lots of the usual cooking and distractions that contribute to a sharp increase in cooking fires on and around Thanksgiving. NFPA offers these tips and recommendations for cooking safely: 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, or other items in the oven, stay in your home and check on it regularly. Set a timer on your stove or phone 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 away from direct contact with the cooking area. Avoid long sleeves and hanging fabrics that could 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 a grease 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 three feet away from the stove and areas where hot food or drink is being prepared or served. Steam or spills from these items can cause severe burns. In addition, NFPA strongly discourages the use of turkey fryers, as these can lead to severe burns, injuries, and property damage. For a safe alternative, NFPA recommends grocery stores, food retailers, and restaurants that sell deep-fried turkey. Share our Thanksgiving safety tip sheet with your community to help minimize the likelihood of home cooking fires and visit our website for additional Thanksgiving statistics and resources.

String of Tragic New Hampshire Fires Exposes Gaps in Smoke Alarm Protection

Over the past few decades, there have been great strides in public awareness around home fire safety and prevention. One example of this success is around smoke alarms, which shows that most homes now have at least one installed. But even with measures of progress, we continue to see that more work needs to be done around better educating people about the critical importance of properly installing, testing, and maintaining smoke alarms.  In New Hampshire, seven deadly home fires have occurred in 2020, collectively claiming the lives of eight people. The common thread between these tragic incidents is that none of the homes had working smoke alarms. In the last five years, 49 people have died in home fires in New Hampshire. In more than half of those fires, smoke alarms were not present. According to NFPA smoke alarm statistics, nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no working smoke alarms. Following are NFPA requirements and recommendations around proper installation, testing and maintenance of smoke alarms: Install smoke alarms on every level of the home, in each bedroom, and near all sleeping areas. Test all smoke alarms at least once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working. Consider installing interconnected smoke alarms, so that when one alarm sounds, they all do. For the best protection, use smoke alarms that feature ionization and photoelectric technologies; combination alarms that include both in a single device are available. Replace batteries when the alarm chirps, signaling that the batteries are running low. Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old. Use this 10-minute mini-lesson to deliver smoke alarm information in an easily sharable format, along with our other smoke alarm resources to better educate your community about their importance and value.
SOPE 2020

Public Educators and Fire and Life Safety Professionals Learn New Ways to Improve their Efforts at SOPE 2020

The 2020 NFPA Spotlight on Public Education conference went virtual this year, featuring four professionally led workshops that provided fire & life safety educators, injury prevention, and public education leaders with knowledge and networking opportunities to address public education in today's world. Here are some of the highlights, if you missed out. “Hoarding: From Enforcement to Engagement” This workshop highlighted the risks to residents and first responders from hoarding, along with methods to address these situations for the safety and well-being of all involved. Hoarding is a complex issue that can affect people from all socioeconomic levels and types of housing. Hoarding behavior is indicated by excessive accumulation inside or outside the home combined with an inability to give/toss anything away. In hoarding situations, residents have an increased risk of falls, fire, and exacerbating their chronic conditions due to the inability to find things, use the kitchen/bathrooms, and unsanitary and cluttered conditions. First responders find their ability to deal with fires and other emergencies at a higher risk due to increased fire load and the lack of clear pathways to maneuver through the home. Once hoarding behavior has been identified, there are a number of ways to address the resident: For community engagement -Get buy-in from church members, family, or neighbors -Consider creating a task force with primary partners like housing and public health to address social, psychological, or environmental questions in treatment -Establish procedures like ongoing visitation For addressing hoarding behavior -Set realistic expectations -Aim for home functional and safe, not home beautiful -Engage in their goals for their home using an empathetic approach “Community Risk Assessment: The First Chapter in Your CRR Story” Conducting a Community Risk Assessment (CRA) is the vital first step of Community Risk Reduction (CRR), a process that helps communities recognize potential risks and develop proactive plans to alleviate them, improving safety outcomes for residents and first responders. This session helped public educators and first responders explore how to use their data as a strong launch-pad into addressing specific risks in their communities.  South County Fire was able to use their CRA to identify areas of the county that produced higher call volumes requesting COVID-19 tests. With the tools gained from the NFPA CRA pilot project, they introduced a set of education campaigns and new procedures that is beginning to create a decrease in those calls. Windsor used the dashboard to more accurately track their demographics, leading to COVID-19 outreach that focused on high-density areas and new materials that better reflect the community. To put your best foot forward in completing a Community Risk Assessment for CRR, remember: When collecting data, get as local as you can, as often as you can. Use the data to tell a story about your community Form partnerships with your key stakeholders Measure the capacity of emergency services to deal with crises Fire departments can also apply to be a part of the next phase of NFPA's CRA pilot project. For more information, please contact our CRR team at CRR@nfpa.org.  “Taking your education programs virtually anywhere” Fire and life safety educators gained a deeper understanding of how to engage with their participants in a virtual world and enhance their experiences by using digital tools, tips and tricks. Taking presentations online can be a great way to meet the audience where they are, increase convenience, reach a larger audience, and open collaboration opportunities. They are fun, interactive, and help participants take in information at their own pace with recording and re-watching capabilities. When considering what virtual tools work for you, remember these tips from Brene Duggins, fire prevention coordinator for the Holly Grove, NC Fire Department and media coordinator of the Oak Grove High School in Davidson County, NC: Don't panic—it may be new, but it's easy to do! Collaborate with other educators Find areas in the community that increase internet accessibility for students that might need it Consider tools such as breakout rooms, exit tickets, and more uses for Google Forms  “Falls Prevention among Older Adults” Falls send approximately 1 in 17 people over age 65 to the ER each year. The fire service is often first on the scene, responding to more lift assist calls than fire calls for older adults. In this workshop, participants learned about the impacts of the aging process, and the physical and environmental conditions which the increase risk of falls. A first fall increases the fear of falling, which in turn can actually create greater risk, engaging the older adult in a vicious cycle. Using  NFPA Remembering When® A Fire and Fall Prevention Program for Older Adults from NFPA as a base, Saskatoon, Canada Fire Department created a proactive-reactive-proactive approach that adds home visits and education to decrease the potential for a first and subsequent falls. By connecting residents with local health agencies to perform follow-up, their activities have resulted in a reduction of “repeat” falls among residents. According to Dori Krahn of the Saskatoon, FD, their program has helped residents stay in their homes longer, engage them in manageable changes, socialize, and gives the fire department an opportunity to check homes for additional risks of fire including assuring working smoke alarms.  Farmington Hills, MI Fire Department partners with the Knox Box and File of Life tools to assure quick access and information when helping senior residents when they experience falls or other medical emergencies. And in Greenville, North Carolina, the Remembering When program is made sustainable by the Vidant Health Center Injury Prevention Program through a partnership with local colleges to recruit and train public health and gerontology students to conduct home visits. The program is further sustained through a robust partnership with the regional falls coalition.   Remembering When materials are free and available on NFPA's public education website and are available in in English, Spanish, Russian and Mandarin.  As we find ourselves dealing with new ways to reach our audiences, this Spotlight on Public Education event gave an opportunity for fire and life safety and public education professionals to learn, connect and energize their efforts. Overall, it was an event filled with resources and real-life examples on how to improve public education and fire and life safety outcomes for your community. For more information, visit NFPA's Public Education page.
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NFPA Receives Grant to Enhance Remembering When™ Fire and Falls Prevention Program for Older Adults, Helping Broaden its Scale and Reach

NFPA has received a $526,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Fire Prevention & Safety (FP&S) program in support of reducing fires and falls among older adults, a key high-risk population. The funding will help broaden the reach and scale of Remembering When: A fire and fall prevention program for older adults through the development of updated digital training and resources, which are used by public health and safety officials for implementation in their communities.   People ages 65 and older comprise 16% of the total US population, but experience a disproportionate percentage of injuries and deaths from fires and falls; nearly one in three seniors (17 million people) suffers a fall each year. The fire service and EMS now see more fall victims than fire victims, often being called to the same homes repeatedly for falls. This reliance on the fire service presents a unique opportunity for fire and elder care services to work together to provide needed assistance and services to older adults. In order to more fully and effectively meet those growing needs, the reach, scope, and scale of the Remembering When program must be broadened and strengthened.  Through the grant funding, NFPA will create new educational assets and a process to monitor local program activity and collect key data, and to develop online learning modules that deliver training to greater numbers of fire and elder/public health professionals. The funding will also work to expand Remembering When messaging to include information around proper use of medication. Year one of the project will focus on development of these resources; year two will focus on pilot testing them.  In order to meet the project's objectives, NFPA will work with numerous partners for subject matter and technical expertise, as well as program guidance. Partners include the multi-disciplinary Remembering When Advisory Group, Fire and Life Safety Education stakeholders, the NFPA Educational Messaging Advisory Group, the National Disability Rights Network, the University of Iowa's School of Public Health, and the Fire Protection Research Foundation. 
Patio heater

Keep Fire Safety in Mind When Using Outdoor Portable Heaters and Other Outdoor Equipment during Cooler Months

Over the past several months, outdoor gatherings have served as an effective way for friends and family to connect while minimizing exposure to the coronavirus. As temperatures drop in many parts of the country, outdoor portable heaters, fire pits, chimineas and campfires are being used to help comfortably extend social activities for as long as reasonably possible.  While these types of outdoor equipment can continue to be used safely, it's important to remember that they do present potential fire hazards. Fortunately, these risks can be significantly reduced by following basic but important tips and recommendations:  Use fuel and fire starters properly Carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions for fuel usage, only using the type of fuel recommended by the manufacturer. For firepits, chimineas, or campfires, never use gasoline or other flammable or combustible liquids to start or maintain a fire. For electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire, make sure the extension cord you use is designed for outdoor use. For outdoor propane heaters, store propane tanks in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.  Never leave equipment unattended Only use outdoor equipment when it's being monitored closely. Turn off outdoor portable outdoor heaters when you leave the area, even if it's just for a few moments. For campfires, fire pits, and chimineas, always have a hose, bucket of water, or shovel and dirt or sand nearby, and make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the area or going to sleep.  Carefully consider placement of equipment, keeping anything that can burn well away Outdoor portable heaters should be placed on a flat, sturdy surface and in a location where they can't be bumped into or knocked over. Fire pits should be located at least 10 feet away from the home/structure. In areas where campfires are permitted, they must be at least 25 feet away from any structure and anything that can burn. Also make sure to clear away dry leaves and sticks, overhanging low branches and shrubs. Keep children and pets at least three feet away from any type of equipment in use. Make sure combustible items, such as blankets and outerwear, are at least three feet away from equipment.  If a fire breaks out, call the fire department If a fire breaks involving any type of outdoor equipment, call the fire department immediately for assistance.  NOTE: If you're a local official working to ensure that outdoor portable heaters are used properly and safely at restaurants and other businesses in your community, our new “Outdoor Heater Safety” fact sheet provides guidance and recommendations for safe usage, including proper storage of propane tanks, in accordance with NFPA 1, Fire Code. We also have a wealth of free, downloadable public education resources addressing fire and life safety issues amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Make sure to check them out!
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Lowe's Educates Communities about Home Fire Safety and Supports Local Fire Departments during Fire Prevention Week

Along with the tremendous outreach efforts we saw from fire departments and safety educators in support of Fire Prevention Week this year, a wide range of businesses and organizations actively engaged in the campaign as well. These collective efforts are an important part of reaching communities with life-saving information, the true purpose of this campaign. In one example Lowe's used their stores and employees to educate communities about how they can protect their families and homes from the threats of fire and carbon monoxide (CO). On October 12, more than 1,700 Lowe's stores nationwide hosted fire safety events in their communities, featuring fun, family-focused activities to teach people about equipping their homes with smoke and CO alarms, as well as the importance of home escape planning and practice. Children were able to build a wooden fire truck in a special workshop and received firefighter hats, coloring books and educational materials. The effort drew more than 120,000 residents across the country. In addition, each store donated buckets filled with supplies to their local fire departments as a thank you for the tremendous work they do in communities. All told, they gave more than $173,000 in equipment to local fire departments.   A tremendous thanks to Lowe's for actively supporting Fire Prevention Week and promoting critical home fire safety messages communities nationwide. To learn more about the focus of Lowe's fire safety efforts, take a look at this article: https://corporate.lowes.com/newsroom/stories/inside-lowes/your-home-fire-safe-4-spaces-double-check
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