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2020

May is Electrical Safety Month and NFPA and ESFI have been working together these last few weeks to help raise awareness of home electrical hazards. During this last week of the campaign, we’re talking about the importance of GFCIs, AFCIs, and TRRs. While these acronyms may look like alphabet soup, they are actually important devices that can help keep you and your loved ones safer from shock, electrocution, and fire in your home.

 

The formal name for AFCI is “arc-fault circuit-interrupters.” AFCIs are designed to detect arcing electrical faults within your electrical system that may otherwise go unnoticed, and result in a fire. Arc-faults can be caused by such innocent actions as putting a nail in the wall to hang a picture or plugging in an appliance with a defective electrical cord. If a nail makes contact with an electrical wire or a cord has a defect, arcing can happen, which can lead to high temperatures and sparking. An AFCI device, however, will continuously monitor the electrical current in a circuit and will shut if off when unintended arcing occurs.  

 

A GFCI, or ground-fault circuit-interrupter, works similarly to an AFCI. A ground-fault is an unintentional electrical path between a source of electrical current and a grounded surface, like a wall, counter, or table. GFCIs are designed to protect people from hazardous ground faults that can arise from such things as plugging in defective appliances or corded equipment. Electrical shock can occur if a person comes in contact with an energized part. GFCIs can greatly reduce this risk of shock by immediately shutting off an electrical circuit when that circuit represents a shock hazard (i.e. when a person comes in contact with a faulty appliance and the grounded surface).

 

TRRs, or tamper-resistant electrical receptacles, function electrically like a standard receptacle but they add a built-in safety mechanism that helps prevent electricity from energizing anything that is stuck into the receptacle that shouldn’t be. The receptacles have spring-loaded shutters that close off the contact openings, or slots, of the receptacles. When a plug is inserted into the receptacle, both springs are compressed and the shutters then open, allowing for the metal prongs to make contact to create an electrical circuit. But, when a child, for instance, attempts to insert an object into only one contact opening there is no contact with electricity because both springs must be compressed at the same time (i.e. from a plug) for the shutters to open.

 

Are you wondering if these devices can make a difference? Well, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), it is estimated that more than 50 percent of electrical fires that occur every year can be prevented by arc fault circuit interrupters, and 50 percent of home electrocutions have been prevented by the introduction of GFCIs.

 

Does your home have lifesaving AFCIs, GFCIs or TRRs? If you have any questions or concerns, a qualified electrician can survey the house and install these devices properly to help prevent shock and electrocution from happening in your home. Even during this time of social distancing, electricians are still working and considered essential businesses in every state that has issued a stay at home order. It is critical that you call your utility company or qualified electrician immediately if you experience any of the following:

 

  • Frequent problems with blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers
  • A tingling feeling when you touch an electrical appliance
  • Discolored or warm wall outlets
  • A burning or rubbery smell coming from an appliance
  • Flickering or dimming lights
  • Sparks from an outlet

 

Keeping a watchful eye on our surroundings can go a long way to helping reduce the risk of injury and damage from electrical hazards. More information about AFCIs, GFCIs, tamper resistant receptacles, and Electrical Safety Month, including tips sheets, infographics, videos, and more can be found on NFPA’s electrical safety webpage.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

 

 

Maria Bostian – Kannapolis, North Carolina

2020 NFPA Educator of the Year

 

NFPA congratulates Maria Bostian of the Kannapolis Fire Department who has been selected as the 2020 Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year.  Bostian has 21 years of experience delivering fire and life safety to her community through presentations to varied audiences, a robust Fire Prevention Week campaign, and an ongoing social media initiative.  NFPA materials and resources serve as the backdrop to all she does. 

 

In 2019, Bostian visited a preschool classroom with the Fire Prevention Week theme, “Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape.” During the lesson, she emphasized the importance of knowing two ways out of every room in the event of a fire and customized handouts to send home with students.  For one student in particular, her work proved life-saving.  Shortly after the classroom lesson, Maria learned that after a fire had started in the home of a student. Because of that FPW lesson, the preschooler knew to use a secondary means of egress and helped her two siblings get out through the window to safety. 

 

Maria’s primary role is to serve as educator to her school district’s preschool and elementary students and because of her efforts, a great working relationship has been established.  Bostian reaches nearly 4,000 children with fire safety every month during the school year.  Using her experience as a former Montessori elementary teacher, Bostian incorporates movement and hands-on activities into NFPA’s Learn Not to Burn lessons to connect with and motivate students.

 

When Bostian isn’t on duty at Kannapolis Fire Department, she can be found promoting fire safety through the two children’s picture books that she has authored, connecting vital safety messaging from NFPA’s Educational Messaging Advisory Council’s Desk Reference.

 

In addition, Bostian regularly reaches older adults in her community with the Remembering When Program, including those homebound with special “Birthday Boxes” that are filled with personal items, including NFPA’s safety tip sheets, and smoke alarms are installed where needed.  Bostian’s fire safety even reaches her community’s four-legged furry friends as she teams up each year with a local pet supply store July 15th for Pet Fire Safety Day!

 

For her work, Bostian has been honored with many local and state awards including the 2012 North Carolina Fire & Life Safety Education Coalition State Council's Award of Excellence and the 2016 B.T. Fowler Lifetime Achievement Award.  She can now add the 2020 NFPA Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year Award to that list.  “We congratulate Maria on this honor. It is always gratifying to have one of our staff recognized for their hard work and years of dedication to our City,” said Kannapolis Fire Chief Tracy Winecoff.

 

While Bostian will receive her award this year, she will be honored officially at the 2021 NFPA Conference and Expo to be held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, June 22-25, 2021.

            

 

A recent Louisiana fire claimed the lives of two people. The fire likely started from an overloaded extension cord where an air conditioning unit was plugged into. This is not an isolated scenario. It is often tempting for people to reach for an extension cord if the device cord does not reach an intended outlet, but there are do-nots and “nevers” when it comes to fire safety when using an extension cord.

 

Extension cords are intended for temporary use and should never be used to connect a major appliance.  The biggest concern with using an extension cord to power an appliance is using the wrong cord, which can lead to overheating of the cord, damage to the appliance, and increased risk of fire or electric shock.

 

Electrical Safety Foundation International (EFSI) offers many extension cord safety tips. Here are just a few:

  • Do not overload extension cords or allow them to run through water or snow on the ground.
  • Do not substitute extension cords for permanent wiring.
  • Do not run through walls, doorways, ceilings or floors. If cord is covered, heat cannot escape, which may result in a fire hazard.
  • Do not use an extension cord for more than one appliance.
  • Multiple plug outlets must be plugged directly into mounted electrical receptacles; they cannot be chained together.
  • Make sure the extension cord or temporary power strip you use is rated for the products to be plugged in, and is marked for either indoor or outdoor use.
  • The appliance or tool that you are using the cord with will have a wattage rating on it. Match this up with your extension cord, and do not use a cord that has a lower rating.
  • Never use a cord that feels hot or is damaged in any way. Touching even a single exposed strand can give you an electric shock or burn.
  • Never use three-prong plugs with outlets that only have two slots for the plug. Do not cut off the ground pin to force a fit. This defeats the purpose of a three-prong plug and could lead to an electrical shock. Never force a plug into an outlet if it doesn’t fit.
  • Buy only cords approved by an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL) or Canadian Standards Association (CSA).

 

So, whether you are in a climate that has more of a need for an air conditioner, or a space heater, always practice fire safety when plugging in appliances! And check out more information on electrical safety and May’s Electrical Safety Month

 

With the world on high-alert due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to forget that two children perished in a home fire in Georgia, or that a fire in a highrise apartment building, which killed a number of people, created incredible chaos because residents there were unsure about whether they should escape or wait in their apartments for help. Inevitably, the challenges of present day can overtake yesterday’s events.

 

Year in ReviewHowever, there is still much to learn from last year’s tragic events. For that reason, the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute released the 2019 Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem Year in Review report. The report, which highlights a number of U.S. and international life safety incidents, looks at the circumstances that led to each tragedy and examines the current, overall health of the global fire and life safety system.

 

With each incident in the report, we’re reminded of the current safety system that repeatedly fails to protect the public and first responders; taken together, they represent a catastrophic failure of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, a framework NFPA developed in 2018 that identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards.

 

The examples referenced in the new report point to gaps, cracks, and weaknesses in the Ecosystem that otherwise should protect communities. By examining these incidents, communities can see the breakdowns that led to each calamity and use them as learning opportunities to help address fractures in their own fire and life safety ecosystems to create safer areas to live.

 

The 2019 Year in Review report is now available for download, for free. You can find it along with additional resources and information about the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, on NFPA’s Ecosystem webpage.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

 

 

As if there were any doubt that cats rule, a rescue named Joey woke his sleeping owners and alerted them to a malfunctioning slow cooker – while the family dog slept.

 

According to CBC News, the family in the Newfoundland town Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s was rustled from sleep by Joey, at about 4:30 a.m. on April 30.

 

 

“He was standing on my chest,” owner Scott White told the Toronto Sun. (Joey had been adopted in Toronto in 2017 and then moved with the family to Newfoundland.)

 

 “He had his paw on my cheek, desperately trying to wake me up,” White said.

 

 “As soon as I awoke and I could smell the burning dinner from the kitchen, it didn’t take long to get out of bed.”

 The source of Joey’s anxiety was a slow cooker. White found a “haze” in the kitchen, and immediately turned off the appliance and opened a window.

 

While slow cookers – or crock pots – are meant to operate for several hours at a time, manufacturers, and NFPA, recommend that users observe several safety steps, which you can find in NFPA Educational Messages, Chapter 8, page 17 (s.8.7 Portable Cooking Equipment Safety):

 

  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions on how and where to use a slow cooker. Most manufacturers recommend keeping at least six inches (15 centimetres) of clearance around the appliance.
  • Keep things that could catch fire away from the slow cooker.
  • Inspect the cord to the slow cooker to be sure that it has not been damaged. Do not use any appliance with a damaged cord.
  • Make sure the slow cooker is in a place where it won’t get bumped. If the lid gets dislodged, the liquid could boil away, the appliance could overheat, and a fire could occur.

 

Several manufacturers recommend placing slow cookers on hard surfaces such as tile or ceramic rather than wooden butcher-block type counters and making sure the appliance is on low if cooking for eight hours or longer.

 

In addition, working smoke alarms on every level of the home provide early detection and will ensure residents are alerted to smoke or fire. For peace of mind, use appliances such as slow cookers, clothes dryers and dishwashers only while someone is home, awake and alert. 

 

Meanwhile, the White family puppy – which is just 10 months old – has some guard-dog training to do!

 

NFPA offers safety tips on myriad topics. Visit www.nfpa.org/public-education. Follow us on Twitter at @nfpa, @Sparky_Fire_Dog and, in Canada, @LauraKingNFPA.

 

                       

 

Schoolhouses might be closed but “school” is not.

 

As parents and caregivers balance working at home and home school, and learn firsthand the challenges of young attention spans and middle-school math, it’s only fitting that we celebrate teachers.

 

Each year, near the end of the traditional school year, we observe Teacher Appreciation Week. The traditional teacher-appreciation activities are still available from NFPA for fire departments to share with their communities, but instead of in-person deliveries, encourage students to send the messages by email or post on  school platforms.

 

NFPA provides fun activities to help students show appreciation for the many types of teachers who work hard every day. Coloring is a great stress reliever for adults and kids. Download our Teachers Rock coloring sheet and have kids email or post to their teachers.

 

NFPA’s “favorite things” bookmarks are sweet reminders of this school year and great mementos for teachers to receive from students.

 

Visit www.sparky.org for more ideas.

It’s not unusual for the mother of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be in the news. Margaret Sinclair Trudeau is a celebrity in her own right – author, speaker, and mental-health advocate.

 

But Ms. Trudeau, 71, made headlines in late April for another reason: she was hospitalized, briefly, for smoke inhalation, after a fire that started on the terrace of her Montreal apartment.

 

 

Spring in eastern Canada is fleeting and, like so many who are house-bound with little or no greenspace, Trudeau used a propane patio heater to ward off the evening chill.

 

Montreal fire department section chief Matthew Griffin told CTV News the fire was accidental, caused by combustible material coming into contact with the propane patio heater.

 

About 70 firefighters responded; the fire was contained to one apartment but three other families evacuated the building.

 

 

With long weekends approaching – Victoria Day in Canada and Memorial Day in the U.S. – outdoor heaters are likely to be a center point of small gatherings with immediate family.

 

Similar to barbecues and other outdoor appliances, users of patio heaters should follow manufacturer’s instructions, and these safety tips:

 

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet (one metre) away from heating equipment.
  • Keep a three-foot (one-metre) kid free zone around propane patio heaters.
  • Turn off the heater when you leave the area or go to bed.
  • Avoid using these types of appliances if you are tired or have taken alcohol or drugs that make you sleepy.
  • Make sure the heater has an anti-tilt or anti-tip switch so the pilot light turns off if the appliance is tipped.
  • Provide adequate clearances around air openings to the combustion chamber to prevent a build-up of carbon monoxide.

 

NFPA offers safety tip sheets on myriad topics that can guide folks who are working and learning from home. Visit www.nfpa.org/public-education. Follow us on Twitter at @nfpa, @Sparky_Fire_Dog and, in Canada, @LauraKingNFPA.

 

 

Who let the dogs out????? To kick off #NationalPetMonth, we want to remind everyone about pet fire safety. With stay-at-home orders in place in many jurisdictions, we have been made aware of many fire departments responding to fires, then searching for family pets. Many people have “fur babies” and we are very aware that animals are a part of many families. No matter the type of pet, putting safety measures in place will protect your human and animal family. With more home-cooked meals, there are more opportunities to think about pets in our kitchens and practicing cooking safety.

 

Pets are curious and can bump into, turn on, or knock over cooking equipment. Keep pets away from stoves                         and countertops.

Consider using battery-operated flameless candles. 

Some pets are chewers. Watch pets to make sure they don’t chew through electrical cords. Have any                                        problems checked by a professional.  

Make sure pets are included in your evacuation plan when possible. Never go back inside a burning                                     building for pets. Tell the firefighters if your pet is trapped. 

 

Download our Pet Fire Safety tip sheet to share online and provide to veterinarians in your area.

 

National Electrical Safety Month is an annual campaign sponsored by the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) that raises awareness of potential home electrical hazards, the importance of electrical fire safety, and the safety of electrical and non-electrical workers. NFPA actively supports this campaign each May, recognizing that electricity helps make our lives easier, but its potential for shock and fire-related hazards are often taken for granted.

 

Computers, kitchen appliances, heaters, fans, air conditioners – any equipment powered by electricity has the potential to be involved in an electrical fire. As the vast majority of people remain at home in response to the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of working professionals and students have left their offices and classrooms to continue their work from home. This means more family members are now online, watching television, and using appliances all at once, and for longer periods of time.

 

During National Electrical Safety Month, NFPA and ESFI are reinforcing that simple steps can greatly reduce electrical hazards, such as learning the proper way to plug in appliances, safeguarding electrical outlets in the home, and more. Here are safety tips and guidelines we’re asking residents to follow:

 

  • Check electrical cords to make sure they are not running across doorways or under carpets where they can get damaged.
  • Never put more than one plug in each receptacle. An outlet may have one or more receptacles – one to receive each plug.
  • Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage in a lamp or other light fixture. Check the sticker on the lamp to determine the maximum wattage light bulb to use.

 

Residents should also have all electrical work done by a qualified electrician, including scheduling electrical inspections when buying or remodeling a home. Even during this time of social distancing, electricians are still working and considered essential businesses in every state that has issued a shelter-in-place order. It is critical that residents call the utility company or a qualified electrician immediately if they experience any of the following:

 

  • Frequent problems with blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers
  • A tingling feeling when touching an electrical appliance
  • Discolored or warm wall outlets
  • A burning or rubbery smell coming from an appliance
  • Flickering or dimming lights
  • Sparks from an outlet

 

Electricity is a leading cause of workplace injuries and fatalities. Consequently, during National Electrical Safety Month, electrical and non-electrical workers are encouraged to participate in safety training programs that focus on personal protective equipment, safe work practices, and risk assessments to help avoid electrical injuries, deaths, and OSHA violations, as outlined in NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC) and NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace.

 

For additional tips and resources including infographics, fact sheets, and videos about electrical fire safety, visit NFPA’s electrical safety webpage.

 

Information about electrical codes and standards, and worker safety training, can be found on NFPA’s electrical solutions webpage.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

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