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2020

With COVID-19 dominating the headlines, it is still a daily occurrence for fires to happen and with more people at home, fire safety can’t wait. Recently, our team has received many questions about how to handle the continued need for smoke alarm installations.

 

National organizations and their partners, have stopped canvassing efforts in light of the coronavirus risk, and in accordance with state and local quarantines. One fire chief stated he had lost more lives in a recent home fire than they have lost, to date, in this pandemic. He has challenged the fire marshal to figure out how we (as the fire service) can make sure that people have working smoke alarms, in spite of the pandemic.

 

Every community is different - so unfortunately, one size does not fit all. 

 

We know that working smoke alarms are key to early notification during a home fire. How can the fire service make sure homes have working smoke alarms without canvassing or directly installing? Consider these options, but also resist some shortcuts that might cause liability issues:

 

  • During emergency calls have the duty crew check the smoke alarms in the home. A battery replacement or alarm replacement may be needed. Advertise that smoke alarms are available through the usual media channels.
  • If there is a high-risk area, or following an incident, use door hangers to give instructions on what to do if you need a smoke alarm, as well as best practices for testing them  here are some tips from FEMA
  • If someone needs an alarm immediately, consider delivering it to their porch along with instructions on how to install it.
  • Set up a pick-up area outside your fire station – similar to what restaurants and grocery stores are currently doing for pickups. With many manufacturers posting videos, it is easier to give residents guidance on how to install the alarms properly. They also have a quick guide for each:  First Alert smoke alarms and Kidde smoke alarms.
  • Ask the resident if there are family members or a caretaker that can help install the alarms, once they have them.
  • Here are just a couple of YOU TUBE videos from manufacturers that you can also use.

 

First Alert Smoke Alarm Installation Tutorial - YouTube 

 

How to Install Kidde Worry Free Smoke Alarms - YouTube

 

As with any safety device, it is important to communicate to residents to follow manufacturer’s instructions. As fire and life safety educators, we need to get creative and figure out safe and effective ways to save lives during this difficult time. 

 

IT’S A BIG WORLD. LET’S PROTECT IT TOGETHER.

 

 

 

“Necessity is the mother of invention. A need or problem encourages creative efforts to meet the need or solve the problem,” is a quote often attributed to Plato’s Republic. While the saying may or may not have originated with Plato, it is an appropriate perspective during this major shift in our daily lives due to Covid-19.   

 

Fire and life safety education is also constantly flexing and innovating out of necessity: Shifting demographics in the US and the globe, rapid changes in technology and information sharing, and the decrease in some hazards and increase in others are just some of the paradigms to which FLS Educators must respond in order to be effective.

 

In my training as a K-12 health educator so many years ago, I was taught to always have a “plan B” method of presenting.  Back then it meant having a back up for my slide or overhead projector. Today it means finding a way to connect via virtual methods as many are using social media to keep the lines of communication open and shifting to on-line instruction.

 

As my daughter’s middle school figures out how they will continue instruction for the next three-plus weeks, and families are increasingly housebound, we are seeing amazing examples of fire and life safety educators maintaining contact with their communities. Rebecca Clark, life safety educator of the Windsor Severance Fire Rescue in Colorado has set up a You Tube channel with Firefighter Story Time and short safety videos. “Since all of our public education events were cancelled, and our libraries and schools are closed, we wanted a way to connect with our community,” says Clark. Storytime, in which a local firefighter reads a particular book, is an opportunity to share safety information and spark conversation among family members.  Some of her favorite titles include “Impatient Pamela Calls 911,” “Today I Feel Silly,” and “Arthur’s Fire Drill.”  In addition, Clark is promoting the link to NFPA's Home Fire Escape Planning Grid which is also available in Spanish, encouraging residents to download, fill it out and email it to the department.  All community members who do so will be invited to a future ice cream social to be held at the station.

 

In our quest to support the "Informed Public" cog of NFPA’s Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, we need to consider myriad ways to reach people to create an informed, activated public engaging in appropriate prevention and response behaviors.  While so many are homebound due to Covid-19, Sparky.org  has videos, printable activities, and downloadable Apps such as Sparky’s Brain Busters to fill the time with educational and fun activities.  If you’re looking for a lesson-based approach, Sparky School House has lesson plans, e-books, music and videos to supplement at home learning activities.  So “spark” some creativity with your fire and life safety efforts, and use the resources at hand whether in your living room or the office, to put some fun and learning into your “Coronacation.”

 

Follow us on Twitter @Sparky_Fire_Dog, on Facebook at Sparky the Fire Dog and on Instagram @nfpadotorg to keep up with the latest.

 

The public at large has been urged to stay at home, restaurants and bars are closed, and grocery stores are working diligently to keep shelves stocked. All this points to a lot more cooking in homes than usual in the weeks (or maybe even months) ahead, and that could mean an increase in home cooking fires and burns.

 

Cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home fires year-round, with 49 percent of all reported home fires involving cooking equipment. Moreover, unattended cooking is the leading cause of home cooking fires, meaning that home cooking fires occur most often when people aren’t keeping a close eye on what they’re cooking.

 

As many households are now dealing with unusual routines and out-of-the-ordinary circumstances, such as kids home from school and parents working from home, the potential for distracted cooking may increase.

 

All these factors make it critically important to remind communities about best practices for cooking safely.

 

Fortunately, by following some simple safety precautions and guidelines in the kitchen, people can continue to cook safely while doing their part to help minimize the spread of the coronavirus.

  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.
  • Make sure all handles are turned inward, away from where someone can grab a hot handle or tip a pan over.
  • Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, refrain from using the stove or stovetop.
  • If you have young children in your home, create a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet (1 meter) around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.

 

NFPA offers a wealth of additional information and resources on home cooking safety, including safety tip sheets and other materials that can be shared online and through social media. We encourage you to use these messages to help reduce the risk of cooking fires in your community, and/or feel free to share our social media content posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

 

As the world grapples with the unprecedented health crisis known as COVID-19 or the coronavirus, NFPA, like many organizations, is monitoring the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and governmental sources for COVID-19 updates and adjusting business practices as recommended.

 

We know that the information available through NFPA is of paramount importance to safety in both ordinary times and extraordinary ones. NFPA is fully operational and providing our tools and resources to those who depend on them to continue to do their jobs safely and protect their communities. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve put out a number of communications related to the pandemic.  For your convenience, here’s an overview of them and some additional information in one single post.

 

Emergency Planning

In a blog earlier this month, our Emergency Services Specialist John Montes wrote a blog entitled, Organizational Planning Tips for Pandemic Preparedness. While many may not immediately think of NFPA as the first place to go for resources in a medical emergency, Montes points to NFPA 1600, Standard on Continuity, Emergency, and Crisis Management  which was recognized as the US National Preparedness Standard by the 9/11 Commission. Widely used by public, not-for-profit, nongovernmental, and private entities on a local, regional, national, and global basis, NFPA 1600 has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a voluntary consensus standard for emergency preparedness. The standard is available on the NFPA website for free viewing, and offers key information for entities who want to conduct a risk assessment, business impact analysis, capabilities and needs assessments, and develop emergency and recovery plans.

 

He also references NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code which provides critical safety information and requirements for isolation spaces, emergency planning, IT and data infrastructure, and more. An additional resource is the NFPA Emergency Preparedness Checklist.

 

Responder Safety During Pandemics

When tragic events unfold, it is our first responders that are on the frontline, risking their own safety to help others. Staff Writer Angelo Verzoni speaks to a number of fire service professionals in the latest NFPA Journal Podcast. The timely podcast looks at the additional precautions that can be put in place to enhance the well-being of first responders.

 

Fire Doors and Life Safety

Kristin Bigda, the NFPA technical lead on building and life safety posted a blog - Don't Compromise Fire Safety While Responding to Coronavirus: Keep Fire Doors Operable – after hearing that  facilities had begun propping fire doors open so that people didn’t have to touch handles for egress. While she recognizes the logic in terms of germ spread prevention, Bigda stresses that propping fire doors open presents significant hazards and risks in the event of a fire.  “It is imperative that we not forfeit institutional elements of safety while working to address others. In this case, we need to balance the risk of the coronavirus against other real hazards that have the potential to harm multiple people in a very short window of time,” the popular NFPA 101 blogger said.

 

NFPA codes and standards such as NFPA 1, Fire Code, NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, and NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, govern the installation, inspection, testing and maintenance of fire doors.  Fire doors and other opening protectives such as shutters and windows must be operable at all times. 

 

Trainings and Certifications

Amidst travel bans and cancellations of face-to-face gatherings, we understand that individuals are not able to participate in live training programs or conferences aimed at keeping them up to date on the latest learnings for their professions or meeting various certification requirements. NFPA offers a full array of online training and certification programs to help meet those needs.

 

During this time, we are all focused on responding appropriately and continuing our efforts to enhance safety. Thank you for the work you all do. For the latest from NFPA, please visit our website.

This Wednesday, March 18th marks Sparky the Fire Dog’s 69th birthday.  Sparky plays an important role as both a mascot and cue to action within NFPA’s mission to eliminate loss of life & property from fire, electrical and related hazards.   Indeed, Sparky encourages the “Informed Public” cog of our Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem, to assure people are engaging in appropriate prevention and response behaviors, making personal investments in safety, and holding their government officials accountable.  While Sparky is truly ageless and timeless, as a 69-year old, he is also a Baby Boomer, offering insight into a major need for Fire & Life Safety Educators – a way to reach varied audiences with tailored, relevant, and accessible information and resources.

 

The Boomers are an especially unique generation as they have participated in some of the most dramatic technological changes in society.  They are the ones who went from two cups and a string as a telephone, to using their smart phones to respond to “Ok, Boomer” remarks on social media.  Every day, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 in the US.  By 2030, all Boomers will be at least 65 years old.  While they will be older and wiser, they will still need us for their changing fire & life safety needs including increased risk of falls, medical complications from chronic conditions, and increased risk of death/injury by fire.  

 

It is imperative that we in the world of Fire and Life Safety Education know our audiences not only in terms of their demographics and data-informed risks, but of how they consume their information.   Flyers and brochures alone won’t cut it.  Unless we do our diligence to learn about our audiences – who they trust, how they communicate with each other, and how they want their information, we will still struggle to get full reach and scale of our programs.  My own Gen Z kids, for instance, are happy to remind me (a Gen X/Boomer cusp) that Facebook “is for Boomers” and that neither they nor their friends are doing anything on Facebook.

 

The Public Education Division at NFPA is continuing to find ways to support your efforts to reach people across the lifespan.  Sparkyschoolhouse.org and Sparky.org offers a variety of lessons, games, apps and videos for children and their families.  The Remembering WhenTM Older Adult Fire & Fall Prevention Program provides education, tools and resources for communities to prevent and intervene with their older adult residents.   

 

Our social media efforts are targeting a greater variety of audiences with tailored messages across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and our Public Education pages on NFPA.org contain numerous resources that can be tailored for your needs. 

 

Sparky’s birthday is a great time to look at your fire and life safety programs and consider who in your community could use some updated information and resources to help them lead safe and healthy lives.  And, since so many are now stuck at home for the next few weeks, consider throwing a Sparky Birthday Fun party with all the trimmings.  

 

Follow us on Twitter @Sparky_Fire_Dog, on Facebook at Sparky the Fire Dog and on Instagram @nfpadotorg to keep up with the latest.

 

March is here, the days are getting longer, and spring is in our sights. Still, as many of us continue to heat our homes in the final weeks of winter and even into early spring, it’s important to remember that home heating presents potential hazards, including the risk of carbon monoxide.

 

Carbon monoxide is created when fuel (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil and methane) from heating and cooking equipment doesn’t burn properly. It’s often called the silent killer because there are no obvious signs of its presence; CO is invisible, odorless, and colorless, and it can be deadly.

 

In 2016, local fire departments responded to an estimated 79,600 carbon monoxide incidents, or an average of nine such calls per hour. Data from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Center for Health Statistics shows that in 2017, 399 people died of unintentional non-fire carbon monoxide poisoning.

The dangers of CO exposure depend on a number of variables, including the victim's health and activity level. Infants, pregnant women, and people with physical conditions that limit their body's ability to use oxygen (i.e. emphysema, asthma, heart disease) can be more severely affected by lower concentrations of CO than healthy adults would be.

 

A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time.

 

One of the best ways to prevent carbon monoxide during the heating season it to have your home heating systems inspected and cleaned, if needed, each year - ideally before the start of the heating season - to make sure they’re working properly.

 

Also, make sure CO alarms are installed in a central location outside each sleeping area, on every level of the home, and in other locations where needed. Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

 

Following are additional CO safety tips and recommendations:

  • If you have been exposed to CO, move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel.
  • 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.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
  • A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings.
  • Only use gas or charcoal grills outside.

 

For additional information and resources on CO, as well as a wealth of fire and life safety safety issues, visit www.nfpa.org/public-education

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