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Facade of August issue of Safety SourceThe August issue of Safety Source, the Public Education newsletter, shows ways for kids to put Fire Prevention Week into action with the Be a Fire Safety Hero lesson plan, includes a checklist for caregivers of older adults, highlights the 12th annual partnership between NFPA and Domino’s Pizza for Fire Prevention Week, and highlights NFPA’s “Get Ready” toolkit in time for National Preparedness Month. There’s also much, much more.

Washington, DC – Fire departments in the United States understand the importance of residential smoke alarm installation programs in helping to save lives. However, a number of them have expressed concerns about implementing such programs because of the potential for being held liable if a fire leading to property loss, injury or death should occur after installing smoke alarms.

 

These concerns are addressed in a new report from the Network for Public Health Law, No Reported Cases in the United States Hold Nonprofit Organizations, Including Fire Departments, Liable for Damages as a Result of Smoke Alarm Installation, that answered a key question:

 

Do reported cases in the United States hold nonprofit organizations, volunteer organizations, local governments, or fire departments liable for damages -- such as fire damage, death, or injury – that are caused by a fire that occurred after the organization installed smoke alarms?

 

After comprehensive research, it was reported:

 

Our research identified no cases -- at any level -- holding nonprofit organizations, volunteer organizations, local governments, or fire departments liable for damage or injury associated with installation of smoke alarms in non-public housing.

 

The study goes on to report that there are at least three states, Arkansas, Connecticut, and Delaware, that provide specific liability exemptions for fire departments and several other states address the liability concerns.

 

In Arkansas, volunteer firefighters may not be found civilly liable for injury or damage ‘resulting from any act or omission in the installation of a smoke alarm provided free of charge’ absent intentional misconduct. The statute additionally protects board members and administrative personnel for the acts and omissions of personnel.

 

Connecticut’s immunity statute exculpates fire departments that install smoke alarms or batteries at residential premises. The statute applies when the installation (1) complies with manufacturer instructions and (2) occurs within the course of the department’s official capacity. The term “fire department” in the statute encompasses municipal, independent, and volunteer fire departments and companies.

 

Delaware similarly provides immunity from liability for non-profit organizations, municipal governments, and fire departments that distribute or install smoke detectors for free.

 

While not specifically addressing smoke alarm installation, some states provide statutory immunity for a fire department’s failure to provide -- or method of providing -- fire protection services. It is unclear whether such statutes cover smoke and fire alarm installation. Some other states provide immunity for fire department activities in addition to fire protection services. Georgia, for example, provides immunity for any volunteer conducting a ‘safety program.’ including those related to home safety and fire hazards.

 

These are important findings that may help address the liability concerns of fire departments and non-profit organizations involved in installing residential smoke alarms. The full report is available from the Network for Public Health Law at https://www.networkforphl.org/_asset/4cttgz/Report_Smoke-Alarm-Installation-Liability-7-3-19.pdf

 

 

Vision 20/20 is a project focused on addressing the gaps in fire prevention and promoting Community Risk Reduction by developing free tools and resources, and fostering an exchange of ideas about best practices. More information can be found at www.strategicfire.org or on Twitter @strategicfire or Facebook @strategicfire

 

The most popular campfire treat is recognized each year on August 10th during National S’mores Day.  This delicious, gooey treat is loved by millions across the United States. Before you start preparing this scrumptious indulgence, review these precautions:

  • Before setting up a campfire, be sure it’s permitted.
  • If it is permitted, keep the campfire at least 25 feet away from any structure and anything that can burn.
  • Attend to the campfire at all times and watch children when the fire is burning.
  • If making s’mores with children, monitor them so that they don’t get burned.
  • Keep a campfire small. It will be easier to control.
  • Always have a hose, bucket of water, or shovel and dirt or sand nearby to put out the fire.

Check out our Campfire Safety tip sheet to keep your s'mores celebration and other activities around the campfire safe.

Photo of flames over logs, followed by a list of tips

The NFPA Public Education Network is made up of fire and life safety education representatives for every state and province who disseminate NFPA information to fire safety educators throughout their state or province. 

Periodically, NFPA will be highlighting success stories from network members. In this post we feature Fire Marshal Eric Guevin, Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District. The Lake Tahoe area is a year-round destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The dazzling waters, mountain peaks and forests make it a magnet for travelers. This stimulates the local economy, but Fire Marshal Guevin says it raises concerns for fire protection district because many of the vacationers aren’t familiar with the area and there’s a certain type of rental they’re booking.

 “In Tahoe Douglas one in every five homes was an Airbnb type of rental,” he said. “A lot of the fires we had involved smoking materials not being discarded properly; people visiting didn’t understand the fire risk in our community so they would discard cigarettes directly into the wildland and brush.”

Another danger involved wood-burning appliances. Owners and visitors were not disposing of ashes properly. Chimneys were not being cleaned. Education has been key to addressing these problems, he said.

“We do a lot of education to let the ash cool before it’s disposed of in the regular trash stream. We also put dumpsters outside of our fire stations; the community can dump into the ash dumpsters so that the ash can cool.”

Strengthening enforcement power was another critical step in improving safety,” he said. The fire district was able to obtain a code change—a change of use—so that these short-term rentals fall under the purview of the Authority Having Jurisdiction, the fire marshal. “Because it’s a special operational permit you can put your requirements on there. This gives you the legal right to be in a home, because it is open to the public. It’s not a private domicile, they’re not just living there.  It’s open to the public.”

“If they have an occupancy of 10 or more we actually have the owner post their occupancy and post an egress plan on the bedroom door so they know how many people can stay there and how they would get out. We instituted changes to make sure the fire extinguishers are in place, that they are the right size, and that it’s a safe environment for visitors.”

He added that inspections are being done to make sure that smoke alarms are in place, that they’re working, and that they’re interconnected.

Another big concern is making sure visitors know what to do if there is a wildfire. Guevin says the fire district has directed owners to make that information readily available to renters. 

“The big thing for us too is we wanted people to know escape plans, how to get out of the house, and also, emergency evacuation plans in the event of a wildfire, what radio stations to tune to and then what routes and safe zones are in their community. They may not be familiar with the area so in each home the owner includes a brochure that has that information for the renter. It’s usually in a binder for them.”

In his role as NFPA Public Education Network Representative Fire Marshal Guevin encouraged NFPA to produce a safety handout for renters of peer-to-peer hospitality services. The Fire Safety at Your Home Away from Home checklist is a frequently downloaded educational tool.

 

Photo courtesy of KEPR-TV/CBS

 

I recently came across a news story about four people who safely escaped a fast-moving fire in their Kennewick, WA home. Working smoke alarms were credited for awaking them in time to get out safely.

 

It’s always great to hear stories about smoke alarms alerting people to fire, and I’m always grateful when local news outlets highlight their life-saving impact. But here’s where this new story differed from most others. It addressed another vital part of home fire safety that’s often overlooked: home escape planning and practice.

 

While I’m appreciative of the KEPR-TV news reporter who included this information in the story, I’m particularly thankful to Battalion Chief Tod Kreutz of the Kennewick Fire Department, who clearly made a point of highlighting the critical importance of home escape planning and practice.

 

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

 

“He (Kreutz) says they're still not sure why the man was forced to break the glass but says it shows the importance of planning ahead… The battalion chief is reminding families about the importance of having a plan in place, saying it's nearly as important as a working smoke detector. He recommends reviewing everyone's escape routes and your designated meeting place at least once a year.”

 

The story goes on to provide a series of home fire safety tips and recommendations.

 

As public educators in the fields of fire and life safety, we know today’s home fires burn faster than ever, leaving people with a minimal amount of time to safely escape from the time the smoke alarm sounds. While smoke alarms are surely the first line of defense in a fire, knowing how to use that time wisely takes advance planning and practice, and can make the difference between life and death in a home fire.

 

This year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape,” serves as an ideal platform for communicating these messages in the months ahead.

 

Finding opportunities to promote home escape planning and practice, whatever the circumstances, is incredibly valuable; its importance can’t be overstated. I applaud Chief Kreutz for capitalizing on a local news story to do just that.

Cover image of July Safety Source

The July issue of Safety Source, the Public Education newsletter provides cautions in an around the water with our Marina and Boating tip sheet, a fun family Fire Prevention Week activity in the form of a fire escape checklist, and details on the recently released NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development. There’s also much, much more.

With the arrival of summer and the July 4th holiday just around the corner, NFPA is reminding people about potential electrical hazards that exist in swimming pools, hot tubs and spas, onboard boats and in waters surrounding boats, marinas, and launch ramps.

Most people have never heard of nor are they aware of electrical dangers posed in water environments such as electric shock drowning (ESD), and each year people are injured or killed from these hazards.

Electric shock drowning happens when marina or onboard electrical systems leak electric current into the water. The current then passes through the body and causes paralysis. When this happens, a person can no longer swim and ultimately drowns. 

 

Here are tips for swimmers, pool and boat owners:

Tips for swimmers

  • Never swim near a marina, dock or boatyard, or near a boat while it’s running.
  • While in a pool, hot tub or spa, look out for underwater lights that are not working properly, flicker or work intermittently.
  • If you feel a tingling sensation while in a pool, immediately stop swimming in your current direction. Try and swim in a direction where you had not felt the tingling. Exit the water as quickly as possible; avoid using metal ladders or rails. Touching metal may increase the risk of shock.

 Tips for pool owners

  • If you are putting in a new pool, hot tub or spa, be sure the wiring is performed by an electrician experienced in the special safety requirements for these types of installations.
  • Have a qualified electrician periodically inspect and — where necessary — replace or upgrade the electrical devices or equipment that keep your pool, spa or hot tub electrically safe. Have the electrician show you how to turn off all power in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure any overhead lines maintain the proper distance over a pool and other structures, such as a diving board. If you have any doubts, contact a qualified electrician or your local utility company to make sure power lines are a safe distance away.

Tips for pool owners

  • Avoid entering the water when launching or loading a boat. Docks or boats can leak electricity into the water causing water electrification.
  • Each year, and after a major storm that affects the boat, have the boat’s electrical system inspected by a qualified marine electrician to be sure it meets the required codes of your area, including the American Boat & Yacht Council. Make the necessary repairs if recommended. Check with the marina owner who can also tell you if the marina’s electrical system has recently been inspected to meet the required codes of your area, including the National Electrical Code® (NEC).
  • Have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) installed on the boat; use only portable GFCIs or shore power cords (including “Y” adapters) that are Marine Listed when using electricity near water. Test GFCIs monthly.

 

NFPA has additional resources for swimmers, boat and pool owners, including tip sheets, checklists, and more that can be downloaded and shared. Please visit www.nfpa.org/watersafety.

With the month of June roaring like a lion through the nation with severe storms, it is the perfect time to prepare for hurricanes and other natural disasters.  Thanksgiving in June: Be Hurricane Ready was designed by Life Safety Education Systems to be an easy and effective program for families to manage the food portion of their hurricane supply kit. Hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 1st making Thanksgiving a perfectly timed opportunity to utilize the food component of their hurricane supply kit if not used during hurricane season. The program follows a micro-learning approach, which focuses on one key component of an overall topic. In this case our focus is on the food supply component for hurricane preparedness. While the program can be a standalone community outreach activity, it can also be added into a more comprehensive program which covers all the recommendations for a hurricane supply kit. 

Since everyone’s Thanksgiving meal can be different, this program allows the community to create their own hurricane food shopping list tailored to their own tastes and traditions. To begin with, brainstorm recipes one may typically make during the Thanksgiving and winter holidays. These recipes can include traditional meals as well as some non-traditional favorites. Then, identify the ingredients in those recipes that are non-perishable items for the hurricane food shopping list. Lastly, evaluate the shopping list to ensure the quantities of all the items will provide enough food for all family members to last at least 7 days. Remember to include water (1 gallon per person per day) and a can opener for the kit!

In the event of a Hurricane, the Thanksgiving in June kit that was assembled can be used. If the kit is not used, the non-perishable items can be enjoyed as part of the holiday recipes or donated to a food bank to assist the community.

The Thanksgiving in June: Be Hurricane Ready Program can be delivered to the community in a variety of different formats such as a social media campaign, part of a community hurricane forum, or even hosted by a local supermarket. We are excited to partner with our local South Florida Wal-Mart locations which will be providing a table display of sample non-perishable items and a sample shopping list handout. We hope to grow the program nationwide and look forward to assisting other communities with implementing the program.  To gather more tips on how to prepare before, during and after a disaster download the Get Ready Community Kit which includes lesson plans, training tips and more. 

 

Cover issue of June Safety Source

The June issue of Safety Source, the Public Education newsletter, sizzles with a “hot dog” of a Father’s Day e-card from Sparky the Fire Dog®, helpful hints on how to stay safe while traveling in the RV or camper this summer, and the highly anticipated details about this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme. There’s also much, much more.

Cover image of Desk Reference. Safety Words in French

For years the NFPA Educational Messages Desk Reference has been the “go-to” document for fire and life safety educators looking for accurate and consistent burn and fire safety messaging to use when providing information to the public. Now the document is reaching a broader audience–French Canadian speakers. The 2019 NFPA Educational Messages French Canadian Edition is available on NFPA’s Canadian Fire Education Materials page as well as the Educational Messaging page. We express thanks to the catalysts behind this effort– Laura King, NFPA’s Public Education Representative for Canada, Paul Dainton, public education network representative in Nunavut, the government translators, and the Nunavut Office of the Fire Marshal. A Spanish edition of the Desk Reference is in the works.

Summer boating season is here. Recreational boaters are encouraged to be responsible through public awareness campaigns, such as National Safe Boating Week, which concluded on May 24th and National Fishing and Boating Week, which takes place June 2-10.  According to the National Safety Council, more than 11 million recreational vessels are registered in the U.S., an indication that many, many people are enjoying time on and in the water. It’s important to stay safe by being prepared for emergencies and exercising good judgment. NFPA’s Marina & Boating Safety tip sheet explains how to avoid electrical hazards in and around the water as well as the dangers of carbon monoxide.

As NFPA works alongside the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) to increase electrical safety awareness throughout May—National Electrical Safety Month—we take a look at electrical safety around the home. The home electrical safety section of the ESFI website, along with NFPA’s home electrical safety materials, including the entertaining while informative “A Shocking Revelation” video, provide basic electrical safety principles to help educate homeowners, consumers, older adults, and children.

National Electrical Safety Month was introduced by ESFI in the mid-1990s to bring awareness to home electrical safety. Home electrical fires can start in wiring, electrical distribution systems, and lighting equipment, as well as any equipment powered by electricity, such as cooking, heating, office and entertainment equipment, washers, and dryers.

generator safety

 

As NFPA works alongside the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) to increase electrical safety awareness throughout May—National Electrical Safety Month—we take a look at portable generator safety. ESFIs Generator Safety Infographic and NFPA’s tip sheet on portable generator safety provide tips on proper installation and use of generators as well as statistics on high-risk groups, causes of fatalities, and the importance of having working carbon monoxide alarms.

National Electrical Safety Month was introduced by ESFI in the mid-1990s to bring awareness to home electrical safety. Home electrical fires can start in wiring, electrical distribution systems, and lighting equipment, as well as any equipment powered by electricity, such as cooking, heating, office and entertainment equipment, washers, and dryers.

The campaign highlights safety activities throughout the month that can be used by safety advocates, educators and consumers.

 

 

As NFPA works alongside the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) to increase electrical safety awareness throughout May—National Electrical Safety Month—we take a look at safety during hurricanes. ESFI’s Hurricane Electrical Safety Infographic and NFPA’stip sheet on hurricane safety provide precautions before, during, and after the storm. The Atlantic hurricane season is June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October. On average there are 6 hurricanes, three which are categorized as “major,” each year. History provides important examples of the potentially dangerous impact hurricanes can have and the need to be prepared.

Prepare for the storm:

•Charge all phone and communications devices

•Unplug all electronics and move them as high as possible

•If recommended by utilities or emergency offices, turn off breakers to avoid power surges

Weather the storm:

•Stay indoors during hurricanes and away from windows and glass

•Never operate a portable generator inside your home

•Never connect a generator directly into your homes wiring unless a transfer switch has been installed

•Always use GFCIs in areas where water and electricity may come in contact

Recover from the storm:

•Do not use electrical equipment and electronics, including receptacles, that have been submerged in water

•Have a qualified electrician inspect any water damaged electrical equipment and electronics

•Stay away from downed power lines. If you encounter a downed power line, stay at least 35 feet away and do not touch the line or anything that may be in contact with the line

National Electrical Safety Month was introduced by ESFI in the mid-1990s to bring awareness to home electrical safety. The campaign highlights safety activities throughout the month that can be used by safety advocates, educators and consumers.

ESFI infographic on flooding and electrical safety

NFPA flooding safety tip sheetAs NFPA works alongside the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) to increase electrical safety awareness throughout May—National Electrical Safety Month—we take a look at safety during flooding. Flooding can occur anywhere, but water and electricity don’t mix. Electrical hazards may linger after flood waters recede. ESFI provides an infographic and NFPA has a safety tip sheet that can be used to reinforce messaging noting dangers and ways to reduce risk. National Electrical Safety Month was introduced by ESFI in the mid-1990s to bring awareness to home electrical safety. The campaign highlights safety activities throughout the month that can be used by safety advocates, educators and consumers.

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