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From Preparedness Month to Fire Prevention Week

September is National Preparedness Month in which residents are encouraged to plan ahead and take precautions against a myriad of hazards. From having an evacuation bag, to stocking up on batteries and food in case of power outages, to preparing your animals for storms and evacuations, the messages are clear – disasters can happen, and you can be ready to respond. NFPA's preparedness page offers up key information and actions people can take to prepare to respond quickly and safely in the event of natural disasters and home fires. The “Preparedness” discussion often leads to the question – “what’s the difference between preparedness and prevention?”  Preparedness is a measure of prevention – by planning for worst case scenario – wildfire, hurricane, home fire, and the like.  It’s the work you do to assure you and your family can respond quickly and safely.  A classic example is having a Home Fire Escape Plan. Prevention is a broader term which encompasses preparedness and includes taking all available actions to prevent the hazard/emergency. This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme from NFPA, “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety” encourages people to engage in the preparedness level of prevention by recognizing the sounds of their smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, and taking appropriate action to be prepared in case of home fire or CO exposure.  From beeps to chirps, to testing monthly, to installing strobe lights and bed shakers, this year’s theme is all about making a plan to maintain and respond appropriately to their alarms.  Now in it’s 99th year, Fire Prevention Week, celebrated October 3 – 9 (and really all month long) offers Fire and Life Safety Educators and Injury Prevention Professionals information, resources and tools to support teaching people a critical preparedness lesson – that of responding to the sounds of their smoke and CO alarms. Check out the Fire Prevention Week Toolkit and resources for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, and use the #FirePreventionWeek when celebrating 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.
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CRR in Action: 3 Questions with Lt. Erin Stehle of the Harrisonburg Fire Department

Community Risk Reduction (CRR) is a process to identify and prioritize local risks, followed by the integrated and strategic investment of resources to reduce their occurrence and impact. This process has been gaining traction in fire departments around the world as a tool to enhance efforts to increase the safety of residents, visitors, and first responders. But what does it look like in action? As a member of the Community Risk Reduction team at NFPA, I am fortunate to work with passionate, proactive fire professionals who have real world perspective about CRR and its merits. I recently interviewed Lt. Erin Stehle, public education officer at the Harrisonburg Fire Department in Virginia. Lt. Stehle is an expert at using the CRR process to boost the impact of her public education initiatives.   KBR: Fire Prevention Week™ (FPW) is coming up quickly! The FPW theme, “Learn the Sound of Fire Safety™”, is important for everyone. How does your Community Risk Assessment (CRA) help you strengthen your FPW efforts? ES: The data from our CRA makes our Fire Prevention Week initiatives more impactful as it provides us with direction and a big picture view. The data points to the areas towards which we should be directing our FPW efforts and highlights the who, what and where risks are occurring in your community. Oftentimes in fire departments we assume problems are happening in certain areas. W. Edwards Deming said, “Without data, you are just another person with an opinion.” By assessing the nine community profiles outlined in NFPA 1300, we have data to support assumptions with facts and figures, and have also uncovered some unexpected risks. This has been helpful when making a case to executive leadership about our strategy to reduce such risks. All in all, data is crucial to developing safety initiatives allows CRR professional to mitigate risks in our community, which in turn prevents more civilian and firefighter injuries and deaths. Lt. Erin Stehle spoke about Fire Prevention Week in NFPA's Conference Series in August.   KBR: Is it fair to say that your CRA is helping you drive diversity, equity, and inclusion in your fire & life safety education efforts? ES: Yes! Let me give you an example. For the past 30 years our department has used the same strategy for Fire Prevention Week, which includes static displays at our local mall. While this was the best location to promote FPW years ago, we are changing direction because of what we learned from our CRA. Specifically in our department, the data has allowed us to narrow our focus on underrepresented populations such as people experiencing language isolation, people with disabilities and older adults. This approach allows our departments to bring equity to our FPW efforts and meet the needs of vulnerable and underrepresented populations. Our community is quite diverse and over 70 different languages are spoken across our 55,000 residents. It is imperative that we consider this information to ensure we are effectively reaching our target audiences. This year we are either participating or hosting events that include these populations, as well as our usual elementary field trips and school visits to ensure the messages reach the broader population. KBR: Do you have any advice to offer CRR professionals who are planning for Fire Prevention Week this year? ES: Absolutely! If you are a CRR professional gearing up for FPW, consider these principles: Quality vs. Quantity- CRR professionals tend to be charismatic and compassionate people, which is a major strength when planning for Fire Prevention Week. It is exciting to celebrate a week that encompasses fire safety. However, we often feel like we have to do it all and that can be overwhelming. Therefore, it is important to consider developing programs and activities that maximize efficiency. For years we have continued to implement programs because “it’s how it has always been.” Or perhaps we feel internal and external pressure to continue to host certain events for public perception. Rather than giving in to the pressure, use your data to identify a plan with a clear focus. Stay attentive to your desired outcomes and high-impact interventions rather than high-touch. Give yourself permission to start small. We are in this together- You should never feel like CRR is only up to you. Identify the movers and shakers in the department who love working with the community. This can help create buy-in, so everyone knows their part in CRR. Of course, there is always going to be that 5-10% of a department that complains about CRR or pub ed, but don’t worry about them. CRR saves lives and what we are doing matters. There are many people within our departments that are compassionate and want to help. Seek them out because you are never alone in CRR. Tag-a-long- One lesson I’ve learned from CRR is that you do not have to host all of these events during FPW/month. Instead, look and see what’s already scheduled in your community and tag-a-long. There’s no reason to feel like you have to create new events. Partnerships are key in CRR. There is power in numbers and the more people involved in an event, that better it will be. So be sure to tag-a-long to community events happening during FPW/month. To learn more about CRR initiatives in Harrisonburg, reach out to Erin. Visit www.nfpa.org/CRAIG1300 to learn about CRAIG 1300, the NFPA Community Risk Assessment dashboard that Lt. Stehle used to drive her Fire Prevention Week efforts. This blog is part of a series intended to provide a peek into some commendable CRR initiatives and inspire those interested in CRR to jump in and join the momentum. Throughout the series, we’ll share brief interviews with CRR professionals about the unique efforts taking place at the local level.
Firefighter and kids

Sign up to attend Spotlight on Public Education (SOPE) on Tuesday, September 14!

The fifth annual Spotlight on Public Education (SOPE) is less than one week away! The one-day online program will address some of the leading challenges and opportunities facing today’s fire departments and public safety educators working to mitigate fire and life safety risks in their communities. The day will feature nine in-depth educational sessions, along with industry roundtable discussions, networking opportunities, live chat sessions, sponsor demonstrations, and more. A wide range of issues and topics will be covered, such as the critical importance of inclusiveness among multiple populations, demographics, and age groups; tips and tricks for implementing successful fire and life safety programs in today’s virtual and hybrid environments; and the reasoning behind this year’s Fire Prevention Week™ theme, to name just a few. Attendees can tune in live to earn up to five credit hours (0.5 CEU) and earn an additional five credit hours on-demand for a total of 10 credit hours (1.0 CEU). Alternatively, the content can all be viewed on-demand for a total of 10 credit hours (1.0 CEU). All programs will be available on-demand for up to a year starting on September 14. Register for Spotlight on Public Education (SOPE) today and check out the full list of presentations offered. Also, the BOGO offer to attend SOPE has been extended, so make sure to use the code EARLYBIRD125 to attend the conference and invite a friend at no cost!
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Generator Safety: Being Prepared When It’s Needed Most

For many of us, it is hard to fathom the devastation that a natural disaster like Hurricane Ida can cause and what it is like to personally live through that experience. Living in the Midwest my entire life, I have only seen the destruction as depicted on news channels. While I am grateful that I never personally experienced a hurricane, my empathy runs deep every time I see those that are impacted by these catastrophic events. One of the things that strikes me the most is what people must feel during the anticipation, knowing that the hurricane hitting landfall is inevitable. Some of the first footage that news channels typically start showing is the community preparation before the storm arrives. Boarding windows, filling sandbags that create barriers, gathering supplies, or even helping to get one another out of the impacted area. Individuals working together for a common goal of minimizing the potential damage of the unknown. It truly is remarkable how collectively communities work together to be prepared for an event that’s sole aim to tear them apart. As I wrote this blog, it made me start to think more about how I would handle my own preparedness should I ever be faced with this situation. Where do you even start? Where most searches start in the year of 2021 – Google. A quick internet search leads to great hurricane resources like those found at ready.gov which is a website overseen by the United States government. This month also happens to be National Preparedness Month, sponsored by ready.gov to provide tips to help be prepared for disasters. But my natural innateness as an electrician drives my thoughts to the inevitable power loss that communities face with many natural disasters. Then, the immediate need for power restoration to be able to maintain and restore when the event subsides. Without question, generators are a necessary part of this equation. Generators not only need to be well maintained so they are ready to operate, but they also need to be utilized in a safe manner when they are called to action. Here are the first things that come to mind when it comes to operating a generator safely: Proper connection to the premises wiring. Temporary connections of the generator to premises wiring system will likely lead to more safety concerns. For example, hooking up a generator to a home where it back-feeds through the home wiring and back onto the utility power lines is a major safety concern. With utility line workers working diligently to restore power after storms, having voltage imposed back onto the electrical grid they are repairing can be fatal. Buildings and homes should always have listed transfer devices installed to National Electrical Code® (NEC®) standards by a licensed electrician. When installed properly, a transfer device will make a clean switch between utility power and back-up generator power. Having a listed transfer device is critical to safety, regardless of the generator being portable on wheels or a stationary “whole-house” generator that are commonly installed these days. Test ground-fault circuit-interrupters (GFCI’s) before each use. The NEC has requirements that generator manufacturers install GFCI protected receptacles in generators to disconnect power when a ground-fault is detected. The faults can commonly occur from items such as damaged extension cords or contact with water. GFCI receptacles should be tested based on manufacturer’s instructions but ideally before each use of the generator receptacle. GFCI receptacles that do not function properly should not be utilized until they can be replaced. Generator location placement is critical. Generators need to be operated outside, in an area where they are not subject to rain saturation whenever possible. Aside from electrical concerns, operation of a generator also emits carbon monoxide which is a major concern. With carbon monoxide being odorless, areas that are unventilated can expose individuals to carbon monoxide poisoning which can often result in death. A little over a month ago, at a three-day concert being held in Jackson, Michigan, three young men died due to carbon monoxide inhalation emitted from a generator assumed to be placed in a poorly ventilated area. A tragic event that reinforces how crucial it is to place generators in a spot that provides proper ventilation. While we can’t always anticipate the destruction a natural disaster may bring, we know that each event comes with a new day and a time to rebuild. Utilizing generators to help with the process is necessary, but preparation must be done to ensure they can be operated in a safe manner when needed. As part of being prepared, there are some great resources available to help with the process. Here at NFPA, we offer a generator safety tip sheet that offers additional advice as well additional resources on carbon monoxide safety. Taking advantage of resources that are available will help you to be better prepared when disaster strikes. While the storm itself can seem unbearable, there is rarely more beauty than the rainbow that awaits on the other side. Preparing to be safe is a necessary component that ensures we are able to see the beauty that the new day brings.
Storm in Miami

September is National Preparedness Month! Share information and resources with your community to help them stay safe from hurricanes, thunderstorms, wildfires and other natural disasters

While hurricane season began June 1 and ends in late November, according to the National Weather Service, most storms peak in late September and October, when the likelihood of hurricanes, thunderstorms, wildfires, and other natural disasters significantly increases across many areas of the U.S. You need look no further than the past couple of weeks to see the damage and disruption incurred by hurricanes Ida, Henri, and Fred along the east and gulf coasts. And it's not just hurricanes or wildfires that make the news: the Plains and Great Lake regions often start their battle with freezing conditions and snowfall during the fall months. Ready, a national public service campaign, has earmarked September as National Preparedness Month and urges all those who are tasked with protecting people and property from fire, electrical, and related hazards, to work together, help educate, and empower the public to prepare, respond to, and mitigate emergencies before they become tragedies. The theme for this year's campaign, “Prepare to Protect,” reminds everyone that being better prepared before, during, and after an emergency is key to getting our lives back to normal as quickly as possible. NFPA has a wealth of information to help public educators prepare ahead of weather events and other emergencies in their areas: A fact sheet and related information provides residents and businesses with easy wildfire risk reduction steps they can do around their homes and buildings to make them safer from wildfire and blowing embers. An escape plan activity sheet helps families prepare and practice an escape plan in case of a fire in the home. An emergency supplies kit checklist provides a list of items a family may need in case of an evacuation due to an emergency weather event. A tip sheet provides the facts and steps homeowners can take to safely use portable generators in the event homes lose power after a storm. With so much “weather” happening across the country, the time to start preparing communities is now. Make Preparedness Month the jump start you need to put plans in place. For these and other related information sources, visit www.nfpa.org/disaster and ready.gov/September.

Learn how to create data-driven programming at the upcoming Spotlight on Public Education virtual conference

How do you take your community risk assessment (CRA) to the streets with data-driven programming?  That question will be answered in the engaging workshop “From Craig1300™ to Sparky the Fire Dog: Taking your CRA to the streets with relevant, data-driven programming,” within the September 14th Spotlight on Public Education (SOPE) virtual conference hosted by NFFA. Now in its 5th year, SOPE is hosted by the Public Education Division of the National Fire Protection Association, and brings together fire & life safety educators, injury prevention, healthcare and public health professionals for a day of learning and skill building. The Taking your CRA to the Streets workshop provides participants with an opportunity to learn about the keys to a successful community risk assessment, along with the tools and “how tos” for turning that data into relevant programs to reach your community.  The workshop rounds out with a real-world example how all the pieces fit together from Amaris Vasquez, of the Tucson, Arizona Fire Department. Other SOPE workshop topics include: Creating culturally relevant education programs, Anatomy of a great fire prevention week campaign, Creating education programs in our new hybrid world, and many more! Registration for SOPE is now open and allows participants full access to the event for one full year. Take advantage of the special 2 for 1 registration – just select 2 tickets, use code EARLYBIRD125, pay the single ticket fee of $98.00 and receive a link to give that second ticket to whomever you want.  Register now, pick favorites later! Since 2017, the Spotlight on Public Education (SOPE) program has been part of NFPA’s Conference & Expo experience, providing tailored professional development for the needs of Fire & Life Safety, Injury Prevention, Public Health, and related education professionals. This program provides up to 10 hours of continuing education credit for both live and on demand access, and is available for one full year for all registrants. Learn more about the program at www.nfpa.org/SOPE.  Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and NFPA on Twitter,  Facebook, and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division.
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