Topic: Public Education

Spotlight on Public Education Covers Timely Issues for Fire Safety Educators and Advocates

Each year, the Spotlight on Public Education (SOPE) conference brings together leading fire and public safety advocates from a diverse range of communities, providing numerous opportunities to learn, network with peers, and share ideas for better navigating roadblocks and challenges. As part of the NFPA Conference & Expo® in Las Vegas, this year’s SOPE conference featured eight dynamic education sessions, including:   ·      Promoting Public Education Programs: From the Firehouse Kitchen Table to the Community ·      Adverse Childhood Experiences and Community Risk Reduction: Mitigation with Evidence-Based Approaches ·      Fire Prevention and Education Programs: Engaging the Community ·      Data-Driven Prevention Programs for Older Adults ·      Demonstrating Results: Evaluating your Fire and Life Safety Education Efforts ·      Fire Prevention Week: Repurposing History to Create Informed Communities ·      Enhancing Fire Safety Education with Virtual Reality ·      Utilizing Community Partnerships to Save Lives   Each of these sessions included time for attendees to ask questions, share information, and learn from one another, bringing up challenges they’ve faced, lessons learned, and ideas for more effectively addressing fire and life safety issues in their communities. Key themes among the sessions were the critical importance of aggregating data to identify the leading risks and the most vulnerable populations within a community, along with the tremendous value of building partnerships with other groups and organizations to best meet the community’s needs.   At Fire Prevention Week: Repurposing History to Create Informed Communities, presenters Brene Duggins and Maria Bostian, two of NFPA’s Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year recipients, focused on repurposing historical Fire Prevention Week™ themes and transforming them into fire and life safety activities for stakeholders of 2023 and beyond. This session helps set the stage for the 2023 Fire Prevention Week theme to be announced on July 10.   The 2024 Spotlight on Public Education conference will be held in Orlando, Florida. Call for 2024 proposals is open you are interested in being a presenter.    NFPA offers a wealth of public education information, data, and resources that address many of the timely issues covered at SOPE. You can find them at

With E-Bike Fires on the Rise, an Expert Panel Takes a Deeper Look at Lithium-Ion Battery Safety at the NFPA Conference & Expo

Electric bicycles and electric scooters—commonly known as e-bikes and e-scooters—are more popular now than ever. These micromobility devices give thousands of riders in metropolitan areas around the world a lower-cost and environmentally friendly way of getting around. But the presence of lithium-ion batteries in these devices introduces the risk of fires and explosions. Most notably, we’ve seen this issue rise to the forefront in New York City where e-bike and e-scooter fires are occurring weekly.   On Tuesday morning, a fire in an e-bike repair shop in Chinatown killed four people and left two others critically injured, according to the New York Times. “It is very clear that this was caused by lithium-ion batteries and e-bikes,” New York City Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said at a news conference.   One day before this tragic incident, at one of the first education sessions of the 2023 NFPA Conference & Expo®, a panel of experts moderated by NFPA Technical Services Engineer Brian O’Connor discussed how lithium-ion batteries present a unique hazard to first responders, designers, and the public; where this new technology fits into the future of fire protection and fire prevention; and what is being done now to help advance safety. EDUCATING THE PUBLIC One of the key points raised during the discussion was the need for more diverse and nuanced messaging to help educate consumers about this growing hazard. “It’s a huge challenge,” said panel member Steve Kerber of the UL Fire Safety Research Institute. “What we’re seeing is people trying to modify these batteries to make the bikes faster or to go for longer periods of time without charging. They’re often using people not qualified to do maintenance on these bikes or they themselves don’t know how to fix them, and this creates a very dangerous situation. Public education is important.” RELATED: Read “Full Throttle,” an August 2022 NFPA Journal article about the rise in the popularity of e-bikes and the fire risks they pose “There is a level of expectation of safety of these devices on the part of consumers,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of Outreach and Advocacy, who also served as a panel member during the Monday morning session. “If people buy something new, they expect it to be safe. But we know that is not always the case. A more expensive device does not necessarily mean it is safer.”   “ If people buy something new, they expect it to be safe. But we know that is not always the case.   “What I’m observing is a socio-economic issue,” added Nick Petrakis, an engineer with the Energy Storage Response Group, who joined Carli and Kerber on the stage. “Many people, like delivery workers for instance, rely on e-bikes for their livelihoods, taking advantage of this low-cost means of transportation to get them to their jobs that help support their family. But these people are the hardest to reach when it comes to safety messaging.” The panel then discussed how to socialize this information when traditional means are not the most effective direction. “These are real issues that need to be solved in simple terms,” Petrakis said, “and we need to meet people where they are.” Providing messaging that is digestible and easy to understand is the best way forward, he said. Carli agreed, saying it is going to require some new ways of thinking and delivering information. Ideas such as video messaging and partnering with more non-traditional community and local organizations are just a few of the ways to reach these audiences. She then pointed to the grassroots efforts of NFPA public safety educators in communities and research from UL that has helped inform the association’s safety messaging. BATTERY REGULATION & RESOURCES   As the session began to wind down, the panel touched on research and the use of data, which they say will be able to inform the decisions we make in the future, as well as the role regulations or stricter requirements can play in reducing fire incidents. Kerber pointed to the research UL is involved in which came about from hazmat discussions with the FDNY and their work with sprinklers. “The good news is this is where codes and standards can play a big role,” Kerber said. “Without requirements and only suggestions for safety, manufacturers don’t feel the need to follow the rules. Having stricter guidelines can lead to a more quality product and less incidents. While it’s slow, it does appear that more people seem to be following this trend of safety first.” Last fall, NFPA cosponsored a symposium with the FDNY Foundation and UL in New York titled “Lithium-Ion Batteries: Challenges for the Fire Service.” The symposium focused on the concerns fire officials have about the growing number of fires caused by lithium-ion batteries that are powering many of today’s electrical vehicles, in addition to smartphones, smoke alarms, toys, and power tools. In response, NFPA created a new webpage and tip sheet that provide important safety information for public educators, building and store owners, the fire service, and electricians on the hazards of lithium-ion batteries, most notably around why e-bikes and e-scooters catch fire, what some jurisdictions are doing to better regulate that risk, and what people can do to stay safe if they use, store, or charge e-bikes or e-scooters, and other products that use lithium-ion batteries. You can find this information and more at If you’re a member of the fire service, you’ll also want to check out our informative NFPA Podcast series, and in particular, a recent podcast devoted to the topic of e-bike and e-scooter safety. Host Angelo Verzoni interviews an FDNY chief about New York’s experience over the last few years with micromobility devices and digs deeper into the subject, talking to a technical advisor at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Looking for additional information about lithium-ion battery safety? A new NFPA webpage,, brings together several existing resources including code information, educational materials, and talking points that can help promote safer use of lithium-ion batteries across a wide range of applications from cellphones to vehicles to energy storage systems. Whether you’re a consumer, member of the fire service, or other fire safety industry professional, find the resources you can share to help educate your community. Stay tuned to this page over the next few weeks as new resources including a toolkit and instructive Q&A section will be added. With the topic of lithium-ion battery safety at the forefront of today’s news, you can stay on top of the very latest in research, safe practices, and trainings when you attend this week’s Conference & Expo. On Tuesday, Chargepoint experts Kevin Cheong and Gary Eldridge discussed Rapid Charging a Li-Ion Battery Without Killing the Electrical Grid. Later today, David Paoletta from the BSI Group will provide an overview of how lithium-ion battery research and development laboratories, together with EV auto service shops and other companies, are integrating high-voltage lithium-ion batteries into their products and managing the shock, arc flash, and fire hazards presented by the technology. Check out the full schedule by visiting our website or Conference app.

U.S. Civilian Fire Death Rates Present Concerning Trends

The United States has made remarkable progress in fire safety since 1980, witnessing a decrease in both fires and fire-related deaths. This positive trend can be attributed to various factors, including improved building codes, enhanced fire suppression systems, increased awareness, and better fire prevention strategies. To gain deeper insights into recent trends, NFPA® recently released the report Fire Loss in the United States During 2021, which highlights fire incidents and deaths in recent years. Its findings highlight the increase in reported fire incidents and related fatalities as well as the importance of promoting fire prevention, education, and preparedness efforts. It also sheds light on the disconcerting increase in the rate of injuries and deaths in reported home fires since 1980. As NFPA Fire Analysis Research Manager Shelby Hall and NFPA Director of Research Birgitte Messerschmidt discussed during the NFPA C&E session Civilian Fire Death Rate Trends from 1980 - 2021, the findings call for urgent attention and emphasize the need for enhanced fire safety measures. According to the report, the rate of injury and death in reported home fires is higher now than it was in 1980. While improvements have been made in fire prevention and safety measures, the data reveals that these efforts have not been sufficient to control the rising casualties. The estimate of total fires in 2021 was 55% lower than in 1980, while fire death and injury estimates were 42% and 44% lower, respectively, over the same period. In 2021, local fire departments, including departments protecting towns, townships, cities, and counties, responded to an estimated 1,353,500 fires in the U.S. These fires caused an estimated 3,800 civilian deaths, 14,700 civilian injuries, and $15.9 billion in direct property damage. Meanwhile, direct property damage decreased by 30 percent compared to the property damage in 2020. “Tackling this alarming trend requires a concerted effort involving education, regulatory measures, technological advancements, and community engagement,” said Messerschmidt. “Understanding the underlying causes and developing comprehensive solutions is paramount to reducing these incidents and protecting lives.”

The World of the Fire Protection Handbook Comes to the NFPA Conference & Expo

As you may have heard, NFPA has released the 21st edition of its flagship publication, the Fire Protection Handbook (FPH). It’s been 15 years since NFPA has released a new edition and the response has been positively overwhelming. Dubbed the most comprehensive, one-of-a-kind guide for fire and life safety students and professionals, the guide features content reflecting the very latest fire protection and fire safety information, research and data, emerging technologies, and safety practices. Since 1896, the FPH (previously called the Handbook of the Underwriter’s Bureau of New England) has been supporting practitioners as they advance in their careers, providing them with the answers they need to their fire protection questions. If you want to learn more about the handbook or are thinking about purchasing this latest edition for yourself or your office, library, or department, you won’t want to miss a special NFPA Conference & Expo® session happening today (Tuesday) at 11 a.m. in Oceanside D. During the session, Kristin Bigda, NFPA publications strategy director, and Jonathan Hart, NFPA technical lead for Engineering Technical Services, will take your questions and talk about how the world of fire protection has changed in the nearly two decades since the last edition of the FPH was published, and how this evolution is reflected in the many chapters of the 21st edition of the handbook. Interested in real world application? They’ll also provide examples of how the FPH is helping professionals everywhere grow their confidence and understanding of fire safety practices in our ever-changing workplace environment. Did you know that the handbook also forms the required body of knowledge for candidates pursuing the NFPA Certified Fire Protection Specialist (CFPS) exam? The CFPS is internationally recognized as the gold standard in certification for fire protection professionals to demonstrate their proficiency in fire safety, protection, prevention, and suppression technologies. Effective January 2024, the CFPS certification exam will be based on the new edition of the Fire Protection Handbook, but until then, the exam will continue to be based on the 20th edition of the handbook. Please note that if you’re a fire protection professional who wishes to certify before the updated exam is launched, you can schedule to take the exam before January. For more information about the CFPS certification and the upcoming exam updates, visit For those of you who have ordered a copy of the handbook to be delivered here at the Conference, don’t forget to pick it up at the NFPA Marketplace, right outside the Expo Hall in the Shoreline Foyer. A special offer is available for participants here at the Conference. If you buy now, you’ll get 10 percent off the Fire Protection Handbook (NFPA members receive an additional 10 percent discount). And while you’re in the Marketplace, take a moment to check out all the great NFPA merchandise and view some of the other NFPA publications of interest to you. We look forward to seeing you there!

Charging Up National Electrical Safety Month Around E-Mobility

Each May provides an opportunity to highlight how we can safely work with electricity. National Electrical Safety Month is an annual campaign spearheaded by Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), which aims to educate people on how to reduce the number of electrical fires, fatalities, injuries, and associated property loss. The theme of this year’s campaign is “Electrification: E-Mobility.” While there is no shortage of stories about electric vehicle (EV) and e-bike incidents in the news, the reality is that it is also a topic many Americans do not know a lot about. And with a lack of knowledge often comes a lack of safety. Many of the reported incidents likely could have been prevented had individuals been more aware of unsafe practices when using these products. This year’s National Electrical Safety Month campaign addressing e-mobility safety provides a great opportunity to spread more safety awareness in this area, and NFPA® has many resources to help accomplish this goal.   E-bikes: The news story vs the full picture   Electromobility, also known as e-mobility, uses specific technologies, such as lithium-ion batteries, to provide electric propulsion of electric vehicles, e-bikes, and various other means of mobile transportation. Incidents involving e-bikes are regularly in the news and a high concentration of those happen to be in New York City, an area with a dense population and significant use of e-bikes for delivery jobs and general travel around the city. What often gets relayed as part of the newscast is a description of the incident itself and a connection to the lithium-ion batteries that propel these e-bikes. What isn’t always communicated is the human factor that can lead to many of these incidents and, more importantly, ways in which individuals can begin to safely charge and utilize e-bikes to prevent further incidents.   As of early April, New York City had reported 59 total e-bike–related fires this year, 5 of which had been fatal. To add perspective, there were 6 total fatalities due to e-bike–related fires in all of 2022. One recent incident involved two youths that perished because an e-bike was being charged near the building entrance, and when a fire involving the device erupted, the exit was blocked.   Since the onset of these tragic e-bike events, NFPA has been proactive in trying to educate e-bike users to ensure that they know the best ways to utilize these products in a manner that maintains their personal safety, as well as the safety of others. In fact, NFPA put together a webpage with safety information around e-bikes and e-scooters to help spread awareness. Watch a related video about e-bike and e-scooter fire safety from NFPA Journal®.   Here, individuals can find great resources such as answers to frequently asked questions, videos, and a downloadable e-bike safety tip sheet that is available in both English and Spanish. NFPA staff are also working to be safety advocates by spreading messaging around the lithium-ion batteries that power most e-bikes. At a recent NFPA staff event, a panel of several staff members who specialize in fire protection, electrical safety, and research discussed recent incidents and the safe use of lithium-ion batteries. Many in the audience expressed that they learned something valuable about how to be safer when charging their personal lithium-ion powered devices. NFPA technical services engineer Brian O’Connor also provided a recent interview to CBS News New York to help spread the word to the public on how e-bike lithium-ion batteries work and the safety precautions that users should take.     EVs: Building a safe charging infrastructure   Electric vehicles (EVs) are another means of e-mobility transportation that are very much in the public spotlight. There is a clear shift taking place among major automotive manufacturers worldwide from production of vehicles with internal combustion engines to electric vehicles. There are also significant financial investments being made by the government to build an electrical charging infrastructure that can support the increase in the number of EVs that are projected to reach the pavement in the near future.   A primary step in bettering the EV charging infrastructure happens when it is initially built. But another key component that shouldn’t be overlooked is the continued maintenance of the charging infrastructure.  Both the initial installation and continued maintenance are areas where NFPA is able to help ensure safety. Article 625 in the National Electrical Code® (NEC®) provides requirements that will help to ensure a safe electrical vehicle charging installation. Some of the requirements revolve around a personal protection system, properly sizing branch circuits that power the EV charger, and utilizing ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection for receptacles that power EV chargers.     RELATED: NFPA also has resources to help firefighters train for responding to incidents involving electric vehicles. Learn more at   From a maintenance standpoint, Chapter 33 of NFPA 70B, Standard for Electrical Equipment Maintenance, addresses electric vehicle charging systems. Within this chapter, users can find information on the necessary frequency and documentation of maintenance and the procedures that should be taken when maintenance is performed. With NFPA 70B changing from a recommended practice to a standard in January of 2023, governments and municipalities now have the ability to enforce the maintenance requirements of NFPA 70B regarding the electrical charging infrastructure being installed within their particular areas. With the high level of use that EV chargers will see on a daily basis, continued maintenance will be paramount to ensuring that EV chargers remain safe for consumers to use.   Embracing the electric future   Since the beginning of human history, there has been a constant development of new technologies that drive our means of travel—for example, shoes (7th millennium BC), the domestication of the horse and invention of the wheel (3500 BC), the bicycle (1816), and the Ford Model T automobile (1908). These were all significant developments in means of travel that we still use today.   Although electric vehicles are at the forefront of developing travel technologies today, using electricity for powering means of transportation actually dates back to the early 19th century, when using electricity to power locomotives and boats was being explored. Continued technological advancements over time, such as the development of lithium-ion batteries, has provided an opportunity to explore new transportation options within the e-mobility realm. While the advancements in the technologies used for transportation have a wide variance over time, one commonality is that, in all applications of those technologies, there was a learning curve that had to be overcome to utilize the new technology safely.   “ We are still learning how to use e-mobility products like e-bikes and EVs safely. ... It is important that we all continue to gain knowledge around how to safely use them and then continue to share that knowledge with others.     It is hard to imagine that it took very long after the wheel was invented to determine it was a bad idea to leave your foot under it while it was rolling. This may sound like a silly example because it seems just common sense to us nowadays, but someone had to learn the danger from trial and error and then share their findings with others so that they didn’t make the same mistake. In that same regard, we are still learning how to use e-mobility products like e-bikes and EVs safely.   The reality is we often fear most that which we do not understand. As we work through determining how best to incorporate these e-mobility products into our everyday lives, it is important that we all continue to gain knowledge around how to safely use them and then continue to share that knowledge with others. National Electrical Safety Month is a great opportunity for all of us to start doing just that.          For quick tips on how to use e-mobility devices more safely, please consider downloading the NFPA E-bike and E-scooter Safety tip sheet in English or Spanish, as well as our Lithium-Ion Battery Safety sheet.  

Peer Learning for Fire and Life Safety Education

Those who can … share how they do it with their peers. The NFPA Spotlight on Public Education (SOPE) conference is an exciting and cost-effective way to connect with fire and life safety professionals for learning, sharing, and networking. This “conference within a conference” is specially designed for professionals to educate and empower their communities for fire, burn, and related hazards prevention. Now in its seventh year, SOPE takes place Monday and Tuesday, June 19 and 20, at the 2023 NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. Registration for SOPE includes eight unique fire and life safety–related workshops, access to the Expo floor and General Session, and a dedicated lounge for people to network and grab a snack. SOPE participants also have free admission to the “Community Risk Reduction: Making Neighborhoods Safer” workshop on Wednesday, June 21, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. This year’s workshops cover a variety of topics for learning and skill development, including:   ·      Promoting public education programs: From the firehouse kitchen table to the community ·      Adverse childhood experiences and CRR: Mitigation with evidence-based approaches ·      Fire prevention education programs: Engaging the community ·      Data-driven prevention programs for older adults ·      Demonstrating results: Evaluating your fire and life safety efforts ·      Fire Prevention Week™: Repurposing history to create informed communities ·      Enhancing fire safety education with virtual reality ·      Utilizing community partnerships to save lives   Register for the 2023 Spotlight on Public Education today. At $125, it’s a great value for dedicated fire and life safety professional development and networking in sunny Las Vegas! 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.
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