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11 Posts authored by: avastis Employee


Every day, 10,000 Americans in the “Baby Boomer” generation are turning 65, with currently over 52 million Americans over the age of 65, representing approximately 16% of the population.  Adults 65 and over experience higher incidence, injury and deaths from fires and falls than the general population, regardless of sex, race, socioeconomic status and geographic location.  Whether you are over 65, or like me, the “Sandwich Generation,” taking on increased responsibilities for aging parents while still caring for children, preventing falls is critical to maintaining quality of life and independent living.


NFPA’s Remembering WhenTM (RM) Older Adult Fire & Fall Prevention Program  pairs fire service with public health and elder care agencies to support healthy behaviors among older adults and their caregivers.  Based upon eight key fire and eight key fall prevention messages, the program is used to support behavior change, community engagement and public education.   Program components includes a group presentation for use in the community, materials to support conducting home assessment visits, implementing community smoke alarm installation programs, and addressing hoarding issues.   All materials are free and available for download from the NFPA Public Education website.


The risk factors within aging populations are similar for fires and falls, making the need to educate older adults on adopting prevention and response behaviors critical.  The aging process alone creates limitations such as decreased mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive functioning.  Combined with aging homes/appliances, increased clutter, hoarding behaviors, and an increase in the use of medications for chronic conditions, the older adult population is consistently vulnerable to the effects of falls and fires. Medications to manage chronic conditions and disabilities too, increase the risk for fire and falls. 

As approximately 95% of older adults live independently in their own homes, helping aging adults navigate daily activities such as cooking, bathing, and moving through their home without incident is essential to maintaining their independence, reducing fires and falls, reducing strain on fire service resources for non-emergency lift assist calls.  Dori Krahn, Community Relations Coordinator for the Saskatoon, Canada Fire Department offers the benefits of the RW program to her population, Fire and falls are a great combination – fire safety gets us the group presentation and once there, participants are often surprised by how much they learned about fall prevention. Conversely, fall prevention gets us into people’s homes and once we are there, they are surprised that their smoke alarms haven’t just automatically taken care of themselves and their fire escape plans can’t be left to intuition.”


Falls send an average of one of every 17 people who was at least 65 to the emergency department per year.  Many firefighters see more fall victims than fire victims.  In some cases, they are called to help someone who has fallen get back into bed or chair.   In 2016 and 2017, local fire departments went to more “assist invalid” incidents than to structure fires. Many of these incidents were caused by falls.  NFPA found that “assist invalid” incidents increased 35% from 2014 to 2017   With increasing calls to fall-related incidents, the fire service is in a unique position to work with community partners for prevention. AG

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NFPA's Home Safety Checklist  helps public education and injury prevention professionals to engage with their residents in taking stock of simple, critical ways to prevent falls and fires, and creates opportunities to address barriers to behavior change.  From clearing stairways and exits of clutter, to installing proper lighting, to safety rails in the shower, there are numerous ways to prevent falls among older adults and support healthy aging across the life span.   NFPA's Remembering When Older Adult Fire & Fall Prevention Program  provides the tools, talking points, materials and motivation to help older adults reduce their risk of fire and fall.  Falls Prevention Day is sponsored by the National Council on Aging, is a great time to reach out to the older adults in your life and your community to protect and promote their quality of life.


Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and follow NFPA on TwitterFacebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest.

“Serve up Fire Safety in the Kitchen” is the theme for this year’s Fire Prevention Week, October 4-10, highlighting the need for people to “cook with care” in the kitchen. And it's less than a month away!


We know current circumstances present unique challenges to promoting the campaign this year.  While COVID-19 may have changed the way we work, play, and learn, it hasn’t changed the need to address the number-one cause of home fires and home fire injuries – cooking.


NFPA’s FPW Out of the Box ideas document provides multiple, creative options to bring fire safety messaging to your communities, such as virtual truck tours and open houses, poster contests, and distributing materials through local take out restaurants.   Here are some additional activities to consider:

  • Our Cooking Checklist has room for your logo and can be downloaded and copied to insert along with local take out restaurants, pizza delivery, school lunch programs, and food pantries, and is available in English, Spanish, and French.
  • Partner with your local grocer for the early morning hours dedicated to Older Adults to disseminate vital cooking safety information and FPW branded materials.
  • Use NFPA’s FPW social media posts which are formatted for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and available in English, Spanish and French. (All social media posts like the one shown to the right are formatted for specific platforms and available in English, Spanish, and French.)


These are just a few ways that fire and life safety educators can be creative and innovative in celebrating Fire Prevention WeekTM, the oldest public health observance on record in the U.S.  


It’s time to “Serve up Fire Safety” for your community!


Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and follow NFPA on TwitterFacebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest.


Remote school environments, distancing requirements and increased responsibilities for fire departments mean getting creative with public education and outreach activities. As Maria Bostian, Fire & Life Safety (FLS) Educator for the Kannapolis, NC Fire Department notes, “we are thankful to have strong partnerships to rely on to help us find new ways to disseminate our educational materials.”


When schools went remote in the spring, Bostian, who is NFPA’s 2020 FLS Educator of the Year, sprang into action, working with the school lunch program to assure cooking safety and related materials were distributed along with the lunches to students and their families. She also worked with a local caterer to insert FLS safety information into take out dinners reaching across multiple audiences in her community. Her department’s strong ties to the local parks & recreation department means that all three entities are working together to create and sell home pizza kits that will include goody bags of fire safety information as part of their “Pizza and Prevention” event. And residents are encouraged to join the Fire Prevention WeekTM fun by taking selfies around town with Flat Sparky.


FPW is going to look different this year, but fire & life safety educators are showing their commitment to public education by continuing to find new ways to reach their audiences. NFPA’s FPW Out of the Box Ideas document provides multiple options for FLS educators to promote this year’s campaign and year-round fire prevention education.   Use #firepreventionweek in all your FPW Social Media Posts.

Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and follow NFPA on Twitter, Facebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest.  NFPA’s COVID-19 page has resources to support your FLS education efforts including videos, tip sheets and social media cards.


Changing the Way We Learn

Posted by avastis Employee Aug 21, 2020

In April 2019, 90 fire and life safety (FLS) educators from various fire departments came to New Orleans, LA for a day of in-person learning. In 2020, when COVID-19 restrictions were rolling in, the possibility of such an event was in question.  Ashley Rodrigue, public affairs director of the LA State Fire Marshal's Office and state public education representative for NFPA describes the situation.


“At first, we thought we could still host an in-person event, just changing up things like swapping buffet lunch for boxed lunches.  But then vendors started pulling out because of travel restrictions and we realized this wasn’t going to happen,” she says.


When Kelly Ransdell, her NFPA staff contact, asked the planning committee if there was interest in moving to a virtual format, the answer was a resounding “YES.”


“Being able to have NFPA on board from the start, with the mechanisms to make it happen, and being the true partner that they’ve been, we were able to still provide our summit,” said Rodrique.


They modified the program and flexed to meet the virtual format. Round table discussions with vendors, for instance, wouldn’t work in a simplified virtual meeting. They selected three topics that were timely and would resonate:  Using social media for FLS efforts; addressing burn-out among first responders; and updates/national outlook from NFPA. Attendance at the event stayed steady at around 70 people, even with the built-in breaks. One benefit of the virtual environment was the attendance of FLS educators from outside LA.


A similar scene was unfolding in Mississippi and Alabama. In July of 2019, MS and AL each hosted an in-person summit with a full house of FLS Educator attendees. This year they joined forces to host a combined virtual summit.  “I had recently attended a virtual training and thought – this is a good possibility for us,” says Tamm Peavy, fire safety educator for the MS State Fire Marshal's Office, and state public education representative for NFPA.


Even with a few technical glitches, the combined summit had as many as 155 people logged into the event, including professionals from other states. The day-long event included planned breaks and allowed for attendees to log in and out for particular sessions, giving them the flexibility to work in between sessions. 


“I would definitely consider a hybrid event in the future. The in-person experience is important, but a virtual option allows people from far away to participate,” says Peavy. COVID-19 has made Peavy rethink many of her future FLS education efforts, especially as schools are less likely to invite fire departments to do in-person education, and fire department open house events are difficult to manage.  Her team is planning for how to engage for Fire Prevention Week this year and using


As the the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and our fire and life safety educators are on it! 


Follow us on Twitter, Sparky the Fire Dog’s Facebook page, NFPA’s Facebook page, Instagram, and YouTube to keep up with the latest!


This year’s Fire Prevention WeekTM (FPW) theme of “Serve up Fire Safety in the Kitchen” is even more compelling as the incidence of home fires and burns related to cooking climb amid COVID-19 stay at home orders.   With resources in English, Spanish and French, fire and life safety (FLS) public education professionals can use the free resources found on and purchase specially themed products from NFPA to support their FPW activities.


On July 30th, over 1400 people tuned into NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week 2020: Out of the Box Ideas Webinar  to learn new ways to reach their communities through a blend of traditional, digital and virtual activities.  Featuring Maria Bostian, NFPA's Fire & Life Safety Educator of the Year, the webinar offered easy to implement ways to use the tools and resources found on to provide critical, lifesaving education that is fun and engaging for all audiences. This year the much-anticipated Sparky the Fire Dog stuffy has made its way into our product offerings, and FLS educators are finding new ways to reach their audiences amidst community contact restrictions.


John Yacovino, Fire Marshal and Director of Emergency Management in Meriden, CT is just one of many getting creative with outreach efforts.   With funding from a local grant, he purchased 100 Sparky stuffed dolls to have on hand for children who are displaced due to house fires.    As schools are unlikely to have fire service professionals come into classrooms, he is working with his local Board of Education to assure FPW materials find their way to the students and their families. 


Other FLS educators are collaborating with their community partners to provide FPW materials at school-lunch pick up sites and food pantries in their communities.  Some are taking advantage of their artistic sides to create YouTube videos reading The Story of Sparky , delivering NFPA Mini-lessons, and even reaching Gen Z with Tik Toks about fire safety. Our Out of the Box Ideas document can help you and your colleagues plan for  your FPW 2020 efforts. 


Share what you are doing in your community to get the word out about cooking safety using the hashtag #firepreventionweek on social media!

Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and Follow NFPA on twitter @Sparky_Fire_Dog, Facebook Sparky the FIre Dog and Instagram @nfpadotorg to keep up with the latest.  NFPA’s COVID-19 page has resources to support your FLS education efforts including videos, tip sheets and social media cards.


This year, Fire Prevention WeekTM activities may look different due to continued COVID 19 restrictions. Join us for our FREE webinar discussing the latest data on cooking fires & burns, free resources available on and learn new ways to educate your community when you can’t all be together in one room.   Register Now for the webinar on Thursday, July 30th from 1:00 – 2:00 pm EST.


Time to Serve up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!



Recreational vehicle (RV) living and travel offer the flexibility to live, work, and play while exploring new places. With media outlets reporting a sharp increase in RV rentals this year as people work to travel safely amid continued COVID-19 restrictions, NFPA’s RV Safety Tip Sheet  offers simple but critical advice for enjoying them safely safely, as there are potential fire safety hazards associated with RVs. For example, when a vehicle is used as a structure, the most common area for fires to start is the kitchen or cooking area, followed by the engine area, running gear, or wheel area. As a result, it’s important to fully inspect the vehicle to make sure it’s functioning properly inside and out, and to follow recommended guidelines.


As fire & fire safety educators look for new ways to connect with their communities and keep up with changing trends, NFPA offers numerous resources for public educators to support those efforts, particularly as the summer continues, COVID-19 restrictions remain in place, and the school year approaches. We also have our usual suite of fire & life safety education lesson plans, tip sheets, videos and infographics.


Help your communities enjoy their vacations and adjust safely to the new ways in which we live!

Follow us on Twitter, Sparky the Fire Dog’s Facebook page, NFPA’s Facebook page, Instagram, and YouTube to keep up with the latest.

Sparky practicing according to CDC guidance for proper social distancing behavior in Farmington Hills, Michigan


At the start of the “stay at home" orders in Rhode Island, my 81-year-old father continued his daily habit of going to his varied grocery stores to pick up his fruit and whatever was on sale that week. He’d call me from the store saying, “Can you believe Shaw’s is out of milk!?” to which I would reply, “This is not a game – stay home!”


Fire and life safety educators are often finding themselves banging their heads against the wall, wondering, “What will it take to get people to do what they are supposed to do?”  The fact is, driving behavior change is a complex process under the best and even most dire of circumstances.  Our daily behaviors are rooted in and derived from the interplay of attitudes, beliefs, access to resources, socioeconomics, geography, and cultural norms. Changing behavior, even when motivated to do so, is hard because behaviors are ingrained into our daily lives, have an emotional component (we like our comfort zones), a physical and/or social environmental component, and generally require some form of support to get started.


At this time when people are being asked to double-down on their COVID-19 mitigation efforts, fire and life safety educators are maneuvering through emergency response, code compliance and getting their residents to adopt critically important behaviors for disease and home fire prevention.  As part of their efforts, providing accurate and timely information is essential, especially in times of crisis management. 


Information alone, however, does not equal action.  To support behavior change we must also address people’s perceptions of their personal risk.  Consider those who will admit to having read and/or sent a text while driving.  Most will tell you they know that texting and driving increases the risk of a car crash.  What they often perceive however, is that the risk is increased for the other driver, not for themselves.  People overestimate their perceptions of their driving skills, visual acuity, reflexes, and underestimate the time their eyes off the road making it easier for them to justify what is widely evidenced as risky behavior. 


Getting individuals to make change is the cornerstone of our work and involves engaging people as they conduct their own cost-benefit analysis when making decisions.   It’s the classic “There’s not too much traffic, and I am a good multi-tasker, so I can text while I drive,” conversation that is going on, even subconsciously, in people’s brains, that we find ourselves pushing against and prompting them to reconsider their belief system.   


Another factor in behavior change is what is widely accepted as the three elements needed to move individuals through change.  Regardless of what behavior change model you use, most agree that critical to behavior change are:


  • A motivator: a reason to do a behavior
  • An enabler: help, support, resources to adopt the behavior
  • A reward: a benefit to doing/maintaining the behavior


It’s not enough to tell people to keep 6 feet apart, or that they need working smoke alarms and an escape plan.  We need to provide people with valid reasons to do it that they can latch onto. Asking people to prevent infection not just for themselves, but for the elders in their life, their healthcare workforce and their first responders is one way we’ve seen public health education efforts motivate people.   


The amazing work being done by our school and community educators in providing digital learning opportunities, and in local businesses providing free delivery services, are examples of providing resources and support, enabling people to stay home and stay connected. 


Tom Malcolm, chief & EMA director (left) and Matthew Farrington, 2nd chief (right) of the Millonocket, Maine Fire Department use persuasive language and visuals to prevent the spread of COVID-19


The reward?  Well, that’s the tricky part. It’s hard to accept a reward for something that doesn’t happen, making “not getting sick” or “not having a home fire” a non-tangible. That’s why so many programs have incentives built in. Yes, people should do things for the right reasons, but getting people to change behavior means sweetening the pot sometimes. Kudos to the Coppell, Texas Fire Department for putting together bags of fire safety education materials to deliver to their residents as both encouragement for home safety and a thank you for doing their part. 


Whether dealing with emergency issues or our constant struggle to get people to adopt proactive fire and life safety behaviors, it’s important that we go beyond information and consider how we are motivating, enabling and rewarding our community members.  Consider how you will use your information and communication channels.   Create the conversation in your social media posts, shape the perception of risk using local data, appeal to the values of your residents through local partnerships (note – the messenger is just as important as the message), and reward and thank your community members for doing their part.  


My sincere thanks to all of you out there doing amazing work every day for the benefit of your community.  For resources to support your fire & life safety education efforts, go to and stay on top of NFPA’s COVID-19 efforts at


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




“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,  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.

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. and 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 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.

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.

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