Topic: Public Education

Sparky and a group of kids

This Year’s Fire Prevention Week, October 9–15, Is More Important than Ever

At its core, Fire Prevention Week™ is a grassroots campaign that thousands of fire departments and safety advocates bring to life in their communities each year, delivering basic but critical home fire safety messages that better educate the public about home fire risks and how to prevent them. NFPA® statistics show a steady decline in the number of fires occurring in US homes over the past few decades. The work done in support of Fire Prevention Week each year has no doubt played a part in this progress. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the nation’s home fire death rate, which has stagnated in recent years. In fact, you’re more likely to die in a home fire today than you were in 1980. These numbers tell us that while we’ve made great strides in teaching people how to prevent home fires from happening, there’s still more work to do when it comes to educating the public about the speed at which fires grow and spread, the small window of time they have to escape from the time the smoke alarm sounds, and how to use that time wisely to get out as quickly and safely as possible. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week this October 9–15 and all that has been accomplished in reducing the fire problem over the past century, this year’s theme, “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape™,” addresses pressing challenges that remain. With the campaign just around the corner, we encourage all fire departments and safety advocates to take full advantage of the materials and resources available on our Fire Prevention Week website at www.firepreventionweek.org. A previous blog I wrote highlights the many ways the campaign can be promoted locally, whether it’s posting social media cards on your social platforms, hosting community events, sending a news release to local news outlets, or teaching age-appropriate lesson plans in the classroom—to name just a few. And there’s still time to do it! Much of this outreach can be completed quickly and easily. Overall, the public needs to learn about the value of home escape planning and practice more than ever. Fire Prevention Week presents an ideal opportunity to share these critical messages. Doing all we can to make sure as many people as possible hear and benefit from them can truly help increase their safety from fire.

Falls Prevention Awareness Week Is September 18–24

“Falls prevention is a team effort” is a key theme of this year’s Falls Prevention Awareness Week hosted by the National Council on Aging Center for Healthy Aging. This campaign raises awareness for older adults, their caregivers, and health care professionals about the increased risks and impacts of falls on those aged 65+. Fifty-two million Americans aged 65 or older make up 16 percent of the total US population. Yet they experience disproportionate injuries and deaths from fires and falls—twice the general population when it comes to fires. Falls are the leading cause of death from unintentional injuries for older adults, with nearly 1 in 3 seniors—that’s 17 million people—suffering a fall each year. This year’s Fire Prevention Week™ (FPW™) theme “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.™” pays particular attention to the needs of older adults in planning to safely escape their home in the event of fire.  Preventing slips, trips, and falls when evacuating is of key importance considering people may have as little as 2 minutes to safely escape their home.  Key fall prevention for safe home escape tips for older adults include:  Remove clutter in the hallways, stairways, and near exits/windows for a clear, safe path out of your home. Make sure all windows and doors can open in an emergency. If you use a walker or wheelchair, check all exits to be sure you can fit through the doorways. Keep your walker, scooter, cane, or wheelchair by your bed/where you sleep to make sure you can reach it quickly. Keep your eyeglasses, mobile phone, and a flashlight by your bed/where you sleep to be able to reach them quickly in an emergency. Consider sleeping in a room on the ground floor to make emergency escape easier. Fire service, elder care, and public health professionals have a unique opportunity to work together to reduce the growing incidence of injuries and deaths from fires and falls among older adults. As such, NFPA has undertaken a set of enhancements to our legacy Remembering When™ Older Adult Fire and Fall Prevention program, now called Steps to Safety™: Prevent fire and falls at home.   Coming out later this fall, Steps to Safety™ is still focused on pairing fire service with community partners to deliver group presentations, conduct home visits, and create a community network of resources to support older adults and their caregivers. Enhancements include a new online learning curriculum, new videos, and new social media assets.  The program remains rooted in key fire and fall prevention messages, with updated messaging on the role of medications in fire and fall risk. All training and program materials are currently being finalized and will be available on our website at a date to be released in the coming months.  Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis, Sparky the Fire Dog® on Twitter and Facebook and NFPA on Instagram to keep up with the latest in fire and life safety education.
Kids with fire hats

Fire Prevention Week™ Webinar

“Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.™” is the theme of this year’s Fire Prevention Week (FPW) held October 9 – 15. The theme highlights the speed with which fire and smoke spread in a home fire, giving residents as little as two minutes or less to escape from the time the smoke alarm sounds. In addition, this October represents the 100th anniversary of FPW, the longest-running public health observance on record in the U.S. View our free webinar to learn about this year’s theme which reinforces the critical importance of developing a home escape plan with all members of the household and practicing it regularly. Learn about the fire science behind the theme along with tools and resources to help your organization have a successful FPW, and what you can do to celebrate 100 years of fire safety. Special guest speaker Wendy Shields, Ph.D., MPH, from Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, will discuss the “The intersection of housing, socioeconomics, and fire.” This webinar is designed specifically for fire and life safety, injury prevention, burn prevention, and public health education professionals to support your efforts to raise awareness of critical fire safety issues, expand your reach in your community, and make an impact on fire injury and death rates.  Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis, Sparky the Fire Dog® on Twitter and Facebook and NFPA on Instagram to keep up with the latest in Fire and Life Safety education.

New Semester, New Responsibilities: A Reminder about Campus Fire Safety as Students Head into the New School Year

As the new school year draws closer, college students across the country are gearing up to return to campus, especially with in-person learning in full swing again. No matter if they are new or returning students, the journey back to campus marks new experiences and a new chapter in their lives. However, with new experiences and chapters, comes a set of new responsibilities. Now that they’re living on their own (or with a friendly roommate or two) students will be in charge of taking care of themselves, their living space, and their safety. It’s not nearly as bad or as hard as it sounds though, as there is an abundance of resources dedicated to helping them through this process, such as the annual Campus Fire Safety for Students campaign from NFPA and The Center for Campus Fire Safety (CCFS). NFPA and CCFS work together every September for Campus Fire Safety Month to raise awareness about the threat of fires in both on- and off-campus housing. By putting relevant information in the hands of the students, their parents, and campus housing staff and administrators, the hope is to encourage everyone to share this life-saving information and take proactive measures to protect students from fires and make their living spaces as safe as possible upon their return to school. Data from NFPA research shows that from 2015 to 2019, US fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 3,840 structure fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and other related properties, causing a yearly average of 29 civilian injuries and $11 million in direct damages. The first two months of the school year (September and October) were the peak months for these fires, especially during the evenings between 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., with 87 percent caused by cooking equipment. Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA, and CCFS Advisory Council member, says, “It is important for [students] to review fire safety tips to learn how to prevent fires. The more prepared students are, the more we can do to reduce fire risk. Campus Fire Safety Month provides a great opportunity to share materials and action steps and foster a culture of awareness and preparedness about fire safety on our college campuses.” Here are some quick tips from NFPA and CCFS to help students reduce the risk of fires and save lives: Know and practice the building’s evacuation plan, as well as alternate routes. Cook in intended areas only, and never leave cooking equipment unattended when in use, even briefly. Test smoke alarms monthly in an apartment or a house. Ensure smoke alarms are installed in all sleeping areas, outside of all sleeping areas, and on every level of the apartment or house. NEVER remove or disable smoke alarms. Keep combustible items away from heat sources and never overload electrical outlets, extension cords, or power strips. Many fires are caused by portable light and heat sources, like space heaters and halogen lamps. Keep common areas and hallways free of possessions and debris. Never block exit routes. As part of its continuing education about fire safety on college campuses, CCFS will host an in-person Campus Fire Forum, “A Look Back and Forward to the Future of Fire Safety,” from November 1 - 3, 2022. As part of the Forum, a special panel will examine the Boland Hall Fire, a fatal fire that took place in a freshman residence on the Seton Hall University campus in January 2002 and named one of the deadliest college fires in recent U.S. history. It took the lives of three students and injured 58. During the panel discussions, participants will explore and learn about the progression of fire safety education over the last 20 years, including research, advanced technologies, legislation, and more. Learn about the Forum and register to attend today.  Find shareable videos, checklists, infographics, and additional information about the Campus Fire Safety for Students campaign at nfpa.org/campus or on the CCFS website and its Share! For Students webpage. Photo by Parker Gibbons on Unsplash

Use our FREE Fire Prevention Week (FPW) toolkit to make this October a true success in your community!

With Fire Prevention Week™ (FPW™), October 9-15, just over two months away, now is the time to plan for successfully launching the campaign in your community. We have everything you need to put your plans into action. From social media cards, sample news releases, and safety tips sheets to lesson plans, videos and much more, our FPW materials can help you reach your entire community with age-appropriate messages that support this year’s theme, “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.™” Here's a sampling of the resources available from our FPW toolkit: Social media cards: Use our social media cards to promote home escape planning and practice messages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Available in English and Spanish, all cards have been properly sized for the associated platforms. FPW logos: The official FPW logo highlighting this year’s theme, “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.™” is available in multiple sizes and formats; English and Spanish versions are available. Lessons and activities: A home fire escape grid, fire safety action plan, and a smoke alarm safety calendar are just a few of the many educational activities and resources for all ages that you can download and share. Media and communications resources: Ready-to-use press releases, fundraising letters and proclamations can help promote FPW in your community with “fill-in-the-blank” areas to customize information for your community. Ideas and recommendations: If you’re not sure about how to implement FPW in your community, check out our “Out of the Box” section, which offers a host of events, projects, and programs to get your FPW campaign up and running. Of course, this is just a small sampling of all the resources available at www.fpw.org. Visit the site to see everything we offer to help support your FPW efforts. Also, the site is updated periodically, so make sure to check it regularly for new resources and information! Last but not least, the FPW catalog features a wide range of materials you can purchase to support your efforts this October. Products like brochures, banners, and stickers - to name just a few - make it easy to promote and distribute time-tested, age-appropriate information throughout your community.

Lessons learned on wildfire communication and community initiatives

Isabeau Ottolini is a PhD candidate from the Open University of Catalonia (Spain) and the European project, PyroLife. She is researching Community-based Wildfire Communication, and has recently done her research stay at NFPA’s Wildfire Division. In this blogpost, she takes us along her visit across the USA, and shares lessons learnt on communicating about wildfires. Recently NFPA hosted me for a research stay to allow me to learn first-hand about community initiatives on wildfires, and specifically NFPA’s communication activities in the USA. I started my journey in California, with Bethany Hannah - founder of The Smokey Generation and the American Wildfire Experience. Together, we visited recent wildfire sites such as the 2021 Caldor Fire and the KNP Complex Fire; met the Division Chief of Prescribed Fire and Fuels at Yosemite National Park to learn how prescribed wildfire is used in one of USA’s most emblematic national parks; and observed the impact of the recent wildfires in the Sequoia National Park. At the IAWF Fire & Climate Conference in Pasadena, Bethany and I also presented together on Fire Stories: a case for Community-based Communication. Creating viewscapes across Yosemite with the help of prescribed burns. Photo: Isabeau Ottolini   In Colorado, Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan and Aron Anderson from NFPA’s Wildfire Division took me on field visits to Boulder and Colorado Springs. We visited the Sites of Excellence site, Red Rock Ranch, as well as diverse other Firewise and Wildfire Partners communities, to learn which wildfire prevention and mitigation activities are happening at the community level. We also visited diverse areas affected by wildfires in the past 30 years (from the Berry Fire in 1989, the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012, to the most recent Marshall Fire), to learn how ecosystems and communities are impacted and recovering after wildfire disaster. Lastly, I had the great opportunity to present her research at the NFPA C&E in Boston. Here I shared Lessons from the US and Europe on Wildfire Communication with Communities at Risk. During my last days in the US, I partook in the day-to-day of the NFPA office, and together with Michele Steinberg visited a recent wildfire-affected area in the Blue Hills as well as the Six Ponds Firewise community in Plymouth. Lessons learned On my visit, I crossed the USA from west to east, observing very different fire landscapes and being inspired by many great community-based wildfire initiatives – including Firewise, the Sites of Excellence, Fire Adapted Communities, and Wildfire Partners – that make wildfire mitigation and prevention possible on the community level. Here are four lessons on how to communicate about wildfires and support community-based wildfire initiatives. There are no silver bullets nor quick fixes to prevent and mitigate wildfires. Wildfire communication needs to be adapted to local contexts, and this requires actively engaging with communities, listening to them, and reading the room. For instance, if a community has just lost homes to a wildfire, it is likely not the best time to talk about good fire. As wildfire communicators, we need to meet people where they are at. Take the time to first learn about their needs, knowledge, and interests, and then jointly develop wildfire actions that are most feasible, relevant and rewarding for each community. Sharing responsibility: the wildfire issue is too big to be addressed only by certain groups, like the fire service or public administrations. Experience shows that community-led initiatives can achieve so much in mitigating and preventing wildfire disasters, so it is crucial to involve and empower them to take action. In addition, recognizing and celebrating community achievements helps maintain motivation, such as by making visible their efforts (e.g. by putting up Firewise signs, sharing success stories in the media, etc.) as well as providing support (e.g. how to get grants for fuel reduction efforts). Lastly, it is essential to build trust and mutually beneficial relationships between communities, fire departments, public administrations, etc. Especially in informal settings, people can genuinely listen to each other, understand each other's challenges, find ways to help one other, and build great collaborations. Because at the end of the day it is all about building this human connection and working together on creating a more hopeful wildfire future.
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