A clock and a smoke alarm

As Daylight Savings approaches, keep NFPA’s smoke alarm battery messages in mind

The long-standing “Change Your Clocks, Change Your Batteries” campaign (which was not created by NFPA, contrary to popular belief) encourages the public to change their smoke alarm batteries when turning back clocks in the fall and ahead in the spring. This year, on Sunday, March 14, states throughout the U.S. will be turning their clocks forward. Many people will use this event as a reminder to change their home’s smoke alarm batteries. Because working smoke alarms are a critical element of home fire safety, NFPA supports any and all efforts to reinforce the importance of working batteries. However, today’s smoke alarms are not all designed the same, making battery messaging more nuanced. Following is information to help make sure all smoke alarms have working batteries, accounting for the multiple types of smoke alarms on the market and their varying battery requirements: Smoke alarms with non-replaceable 10-year batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps, warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away. Smoke alarms with any other type of battery need a new battery at least once a year. If that alarm chirps, warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away. When replacing a battery, follow manufacturer’s list of batteries on the back of the alarm or manufacturer’s instructions. Manufacturer’s instructions are specific to the batteries (brand and model) that must be used. The smoke alarm may not work properly if a different kind of battery is used. NFPA is sharing social media cards (from us and USFA) to help promote smoke alarm battery messages in coordination with Daylight Savings – feel free to use them on your social platforms as we all plan to spring forward!
EMAC Reference Guide

Worried you’re saying the wrong thing?

Promoting safety messages, whether in traditional learning settings, virtual settings, social media or other means is an important part of public education efforts to raise awareness and provide information to help keep people safe.  NFPA’s Educational Messaging Desk Reference, now in the updated 2020 Edition, offers Fire and Life Safety (FLS) educators and those involved in injury prevention and public education, a compendium of accurate, relevant and up to date messaging for a multitude of facets of fire and burn prevention. The Desk Reference is the result of the hard work of the Educational Messaging Advisory Committee (EMAC) in conjunction with NFPA Public Education Division staff.  The EMAC reviews current messages and all submissions made by professional and general public stakeholders, to determine what information is needed for public messaging, and how to position those messages in the most accurate and clear way.  New chapters on Pet Fire Safety and Youth Firesetting have been added along with new messaging/sections on: Carbon Monoxide – boating and marinas Home Fire Escape – for people who are deaf or have hearing loss, use a mobility device and are blind or have low vision Fire Safety Away from Home - peer-to-peer hospitality, motor home, camper and recreation vehicle safety, safety in places of public assembly, car fire safety Cooking - microwave ovens, gas grills Electrical- pools, hot tubs, and spas, equipment safety, marina and boating safety Candle - how to burn a candle, candles for religious/ceremonial use in homes Outdoor burning – campfire safety, fire pit safety, recreational fire use Flammable and Combustible Liquid and Gases – propane gas safety, propane appliance maintenance, gel fuel safety Battery Safety – 9-volt batteries, battery disposal The EMAC meets periodically to review NFPA’s fire and burn safety education messages and to provide recommendations to NFPA public education staff for messaging updates and revisions.  Submissions of comments, proposed revisions, and new messages is done on an ongoing basis from a wide variety of professionals and public audiences.  The report on proposed submissions considered for this 2020 edition is available along with the Desk Reference at www.nfpa.org/emac. My sincere thanks to our Committee: Ernest Grant, Chair, American Nurses Association,  Marty Ahrens, NFPA, Meri-K Appy, Vision 20/20,  Brett Brenner, Electrical Safety Foundation International, Kwame Cooper, LA City Fire Department, retired, Torine Creppy, Safe Kids Worldwide, Debbie Goetz, Seattle Fire Department, Michael D. Greenia, Vermont Division of Fire Safety, Kevin Kelley, American Red Cross, Michael Kozo, Fire Department New York, Teresa Neal, United States Fire Administration, Sylvia Peace, Greenville Fire Rescue, Zoe Susice, UL FSRI, Nancy Trench, Oklahoma State University, retired, and NFPA staff  liaisons Amy LeBeau and Kelly Ransdell.  The time, energy, and talent they give to assure NFPA is providing the most up to date, accurate and consistent fire and life safety messaging is tremendous and much appreciated. Download your copy today!  Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and NFPA on Twitter,  Facebook, and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division.
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 www.nfpa.org/education. 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.
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