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39 Posts authored by: meredithhawes Employee

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


Salado Creek apartment fire image (KSAT)


According to a recent survey by the American Red Cross, many people overestimate their ability to react to a home fire, and miss critical steps to keep their loved ones safe. In fact, survey findings showed that 40 per cent of people believe they are more likely to win the lottery or get struck by lightning than experience a home fire. So . . . how unlucky is it to be struck by lightning AND have a home fire?


That has been the case recently for families in Louisiana, Florida and Massachusetts. And in Texas, 14 adults and three children were displaced by an apartment fire that was sparked by lightning.  Home fires burn faster than ever before, so if lightning strikes and a fire is sparked, occupants could have as little as two minutes to escape. And while we can’t control storms and weather, we can take steps to safeguard our homes, and prepare our families to respond quickly in the event of a lightning storm or lightning fire.


Remember to:

  •      turn off computers;
  •      stay off corded phones (cell and cordless phones are OK), computers, and other things that put you in direct contact with electricity or plumbing;
  •      refrain from washing your hands, bathing, showering, doing laundry, or washing dishes;
  •      prepare and practice a home escape plan.


A lightning protection system (LPS) that follows the guidelines of the NFPA 780 safety standard, provides a network of low-resistance paths to safely intercept lightning’s destructive electricity and direct it to ground without impact to a structure or its occupants.


Check out the NFPA Lightning Safety Tip Sheet and a short video created by the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI). The video highlights the many ways lightning impacts communities and the economic toll it places on homes, businesses and infrastructure. 


                                                               (No, these are not marshmallows)


As a public-education specialist, I am confronted daily with home fires. My passion for public education is driven by the knowledge that information and education can dramatically impact whether people make safe choices. One fire in 2015 stands out in my mind; the headline read “Toddler Rescued by Dad in House Fire Dies After Following Him Back Inside”. Two reasons: my younger son was the same age at the time; and the cause of the fire was an unattended candle used during a power outage caused by a storm.


NFPA has urged people for a VERY long time to practice safe candle use, and to consider battery-powered options in lieu of open-flame candles. And for good reason!  On average, 22 home candle fires are reported each day, and three of every five (60 percent) home candle fires occurred when some form of combustible material was left or came too close to the candle.


So, if you do burn candles, make sure that you . . .

  • blow out all candles when you leave the room (and that means the house too) or go to bed
  • avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep
  • keep candles at least 1 foot (30 centimetres) away from anything that can burn
  • use candle holders that are sturdy and won’t tip over easily
  • put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface
  • light candles carefully – keep your hair and any loose clothing away from the flame
  • put out the candle before it burns all the way down – before it gets too close to the holder or container
  • do not use candles if oxygen is used in the home
  • please . . . have flashlights and battery-powered lighting ready to use during a power outage; never use candles.


Share NFPA’s candle tip sheet and visit our public education page on candle safety for more information.



We have heard the phrase “unprecedented times” more in the last few weeks than ever before. Uncertainty and unpredictable events bring about unfamiliar situations with unusual responses. Everyone wants to help, and to keep their families safe, but sometimes those objectives lead to unwittingly dangerous situations.


Here are some guidelines to follow to ensure your own safety, and that of others, as we navigate new ways to protect ourselves and those around us.


  •      Hand sanitizerAlcohol-based hand sanitizer effectively kills most germs carried on the hands. It also contains ethyl alcohol, which readily evaporates at room temperature into an ignitable vapor and is considered a flammable liquid. To minimize the risk of fire, applied hand sanitizer must be rubbed into hands until dry, which indicates that the flammable alcohol has evaporated. Hand sanitizer containers and refills should be stored away from children, and away heat sources or open flames.
  •      Gasoline – With prices exceptionally low, people are filling up and storing gas. Be sure to use containers that are intended for gasoline storage that allow for the liquid to expand and contract. Gasoline containers need to be placed on the ground when filling. Flowing gas entering the container can create static electricity. The gas dispenser nozzle can create a spark and ignite the gas vapors. The correct way to fill a gas can is to remove the gas can from your car or truck and place it on the ground about five feet from your vehicle.
  •      Masks – Many different kinds of masks are being worn to help slow the spread of COVID-19. While homemade cloth masks may be washed following the Centers for Disease Control recommendations, other masks such as the N95 or disposable surgical masks cannot be thoroughly disinfected without jeopardizing the integrity of the mask (although researchers are working on protocols for this). Always refer to manufacturer’s guidelines when available, or refer to the CDC recommendations on these types of masks. Never place a mask in the microwave; metal fixtures may melt or spark, and fabric is flammable.


Visit NFPA’s COVID-19 page to find up-to-date information and resources.


During the spread of COVID-19, people are doing what they can to disinfect and keep their homes clean. Limited availability of particular products may lead people to concoct their own cleaning solutions, and unknowingly create serious health risks.


It is important to follow instructions on the labels of cleaning products, and not to mix products; doing so can lead to the production of dangerous combinations of liquids and gases.


Consumers should also ensure safe storage of household cleaning products; keep them in their intended containers and never place combustible products near a heat source.


Be aware:

Bleach + rubbing alcohol = chloroform.

Highly toxic.  May lead to dizziness, nausea, loss of consciousness and even death


Bleach + ammonia = chloramine.

May lead to shortness of breath and chest pain.


Hydrogen peroxide + vinegar = peracetic/peroxyacetic acid.

Highly corrosive.  May lead to irritation of the skin, eyes, and respiratory system.


Bleach + vinegar = chlorine gas.

May lead to coughing, breathing problems, burning and watery eyes. (Chlorine gas and water also combine to make hydrochloric and hypochlorous acid which may lead to irritation of nose/throat and respiratory system).


Visit USFA for a downloadable tip sheet on the dangers of mixing household chemicals, and click here for more NFPA resources around the COVID19 pandemic.

Over 200 public education and community risk reduction specialists from 14 states gathered in Edison, New Jersey this week to hear from a variety of subject matter experts from across nine states at the Mid-Atlantic Safety Summit.  Topics included; the ABC's of Public Education Messaging, an update on NPFA 3000, the Remembering When Program, an overview of Regional data, and model programs from the Mid-Atlantic Region. Charles Lavin, from the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety, encouraged attendees to take advantage of the networking opportunity at the event as well, noting that the concept for this Summit came out of a similar setting this past June at NFPA's Conference and Expo.

Pictured (L to R) Charles Lavin NJDFS Community Risk Reduction Unit. Meredith Hawse Pub Ed Specialist, NFPA, Richard Mikutsky, Director NJDFS and NJ State Fire Marshal, Kevin Krushinski, Chairman, NJ Fire Safety Commission.


Big, bold efforts were made in Michigan this week in effort to raise awareness for Fire Prevention Week, with an end-goal to affect the fire fatality rate that seems to be on the rise in Michigan.  A state-wide proclamation was signed by Governor Rick Snyder proclaiming October as not just Fire Prevention Week, but Fire Prevention Month, stating that "the majority of fire deaths, (4 out of 5) occur at home each year, and if you have a fire in your home you are more likely to die today than you were a few decades ago according to the National Fire Protection Association".  And he continued "Michiganders are urged to create and practice a home escape plan that includes identifying two exits from every room in the home".


State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer shared Governor Snyder's proclamation along with a Community Risk Reduction (CRR) National Fire Prevention Week Social Media Toolkit across the state encouraging prevention specialists and educators to follow the calendar that was provided, and to focus on messaging for the entire month of October. "Please also encourage your friends and family to share the daily message" he urged.


Michael McLeieer, President of E.S.C.A.P.E. Inc., kicked off live broadcasts for Fire Prevention Week 2018 at WOOD TV 8 in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a great representation from fire officials from all over the state representing both the career and paid on call / volunteer fire service. Support was on hand from AARP, the NFPA, and Sparky the Fire Dog to encourage Michiganders of all ages to "Look.  Listen.  Learn.  Be aware.  Fire can start anywhere".  "Despite the cold and damp weather, it was another huge success." Michael reported, "We were able to get a lot of messaging out to the viewers".  Michael and "Jake the Fire Dog" continued to spread the fire safety messages through Jake's social media page

Last week a unique partnership came together in an effort to reach more youth in after school programming with fire safety messages.  The East Providence Fire Department, along with the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Providence, and staff from NFPA spent time together reviewing NFPA's Learn Not to Burn Program for kids preschool to grade 2.  As the Club members rolled in after school, a fire engine and energized fire department personnel and Club staff were waiting to greet them with important messages about smoke alarms and home escape plans.  The East Providence Boys and Girls Club is piloting the Learn Not to Burn Program over the next few weeks, and with over 4,000 Boys & Girls Clubs across the U.S., and nearly 30,000 fire departments, the opportunity for more collaboration is surely in the future!


An interview with Simon!

Posted by meredithhawes Employee Sep 27, 2018

As Fire Prevention Week draws closer and closer, the calls and emails are pouring in to NFPA’s Regional Education Specialists for assistance and direction on the tools and resources available to share this year’s theme “Look.  Listen.  Learn.  Be aware.  Fire can happen anywhere”!  It should have come of no surprise that our newest Fire Prevention Week champion and character, Simon, also received a request!  The Fire Marshals Association of Minnesota reached out the NFPA with a few key questions for Simon.  And of course, the smart and resourceful friend of Sparky the Fire Dog®, was happy to offer an interview to inform the public on the fundamentals of reducing the likelihood of fires and how to respond in the case of an emergency.


FMAM:  What is your role at NFPA?

Simon:  I am a new pal of Sparky the Fire Dog, and a spokes-character for NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week theme this year, “Look.  Listen.  Learn.  Be aware.  Fire can happen anywhere.”   

FMAM:  What intrigues you the most about fire prevention? 

Simon: This year’s FPW campaign, “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere,” works to educate people about three basic but essential steps to take to reduce the likelihood of having a fire––and how to escape safely in the event of one:

“LOOK” for places fire could start. Take a good look around your home. Identify potential fire hazards and take care of them.

“LISTEN” for the sound of the smoke alarm. You could have only minutes to escape safely once the smoke alarm sounds. Go to your outside meeting place, which should be a safe distance from the home and where everyone should know to meet.

“LEARN” two ways out of every room and make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily and are free of clutter.

And as Sparky’s friend, I am helping teach this year’s FPW messages by spreading fire-safety messages to adults and children alike.

FMAM:  How does this year’s fire prevention theme, “Look. Listen. Learn.” speak to you?

Simon:  Well it speaks to me because it speaks directly to grown-ups and kids about the things that they need to do to be safe!  No matter where you are, it’s important to think about your safety from fire. Home is the place people are at greatest risk to fire, but it’s important to be aware and prepared no matter where you go.

This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme, “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere.” highlights critical ways to ensure your safety from fire, and I would like to share some ways to stay safe outside of your home:

Out and About

When you’re out and about, situational awareness is key! Remember to be aware of your surroundings and make a plan for how you would escape a building in the event of a fire or other emergency.

  • When you’re preparing to enter a building, ask yourself if it looks safe and well-maintained.
  • Check to see that doors aren’t locked or blocked from the inside.
  • Look for the two closest exits and identify the path you would take to reach them.
  • If you hear the fire alarm system sound, take it seriously and exit the building calmly but quickly. This is particularly important in larger occupancies like malls and movie theaters, where it may be too late to escape if you wait to see evidence of fire.

You can find more information, tips, and talking points on being safe inside and outside your home, here

Thanks for the interview! I hope everyone has a great Fire Prevention Week Campaign! And for my full interview click here!






The Maranda's Park Parties are a familiar and treasured summer event in West Michigan, bringing 24 years of fun in the form or entertainment, attractions, food, and tons of prizes to local communities.  One of the greatest assets in the line-up are the resources available from local non-profits, including fire safety information from nearby fire departments.


This year 5 events took place in July, and recently the Dutton Fire Department participated in Gaines, Michigan serving over 9,000 people up with a chance to learn how to keep their families safe, while also sharing what it means to be a firefighter . . . and that means a chance to spray the hose!

Kraig Herman


A new theme, and new products, combined with input and inspiration from our stakeholders across the country, have turned this year's Fire Prevention Week catalog into a "road-map for success" when planning for the October campaign, or advocating fire safety all-year-round!  And our newest FPW Advocate - Simon helps to spread the word.  "Look.  Listen.  Learn.  Be aware.  Fire can happen anywhere!"

Watch for the catalog - coming to you soon or check out all of the new FPW resources on-line!

May 17th marked the very first Fire Safety Summit in Ames, Iowa.  The Iowa State University campus provided a beautiful backdrop as over 60 attendees from across the state rolled in for a diverse line-up of topics on the agenda, including state updates on carbon monoxide and fireworks. On site that day were NFPA representatives from the divisions of Public Education, Codes & Standards, and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative, along with presentations from Consumer Safety Product Commission, the American Red Cross and Sioux City Fire Department.   Special Agent in Charge for the Iowa Department of Public Safety and NFPA Public Education Network Representative for the State of Iowa commented  “Our first annual Iowa Fire Safety Summit was a success.  It was very beneficial to introduce Iowa’s fire service to NFPA and the great resources and information their organization can provide.  We’ve heard great feedback from the attendees and feel we have a strong foundation to build upon for the coming years.”

It came as no surprise to me to learn that Ron Farr had been recently bestowed with the high honor of the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Volunteer Fire Council.  In my mind the only thing that prevented him from receiving it much sooner, would simply be the "lifetime" qualification.  


While I have only known Ron for the past 10 years, he had dedicated over 50 to the fire service, and undoubtedly made a huge impact on a great many lives.  As the former State Fire Marshal in Michigan, Ron was one of the first people to reach out and provide support for fire & life safety education initiatives I was spearheading, and he was quick to offer hands-on assistance delivering training and information alongside me to our school administrators and educators.  His guidance helped to develop vital safety programs offered in our local area, and his mentoring was influential in shaping the direction of my work.  And still today, Ron is a trusted resource and good friend.  I am proud to give a shout-out for a well deserved award to a rock-solid guy.  Congratulations Ron Farr!

When a fatal fire occurs, the whole community feels it.  From responding firefighters, grieving family members, to neighbors and local citizens.  There is often a heighten sense of anxiety while a cause is determined, and questions swirl as to “what could we have done to prevent this”. 

This scenario is all too familiar to me right now as my local community has recently experiences the 5th fatality in just a few short months.  The most recent happening just blocks from my home.  This time an electric space heater was the culprit, leaving a 94 year old, retired teacher, to be overcome by smoke before our City firefighters could arrive in just minutes. 

And while my “territory” encompasses a vast 16 states in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic portions of the US, my heart and home are in this little town nestled in Northern Michigan.  As I read my morning paper with emerging details of the fatality, I couldn’t help but jump on my computer and pull up some resources to share following the fire. 

NFPA’s Community Took Kits are a fantastic resource for outreach initiatives and include helpful tools such as templates for letters to the editor, op eds, talking points, and press releases.  The information is up-to-date and targeted at fire causes including electrical, smoking, and heating.  They also cover topics such as carbon monoxide, smoke alarms, and home escape planning.  For this most recent fire, the letter to the editor on space heaters was packaged perfectly for me to add in my personal information and customize around the season.  In minutes my letter was off to the local newspaper, and information, education, and hope is in the hands of readers.  We often use the phrase that “fire is everyone’s fight”, and if we truly believe that, then we all can, and should, take advantage of the easy-to-access resources available through NFPA to help keep everyone safe.

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