AUTHOR: Andrea Vastis


What to Know about Apartment and High-Rise Escape Planning

A major lesson of the 2022 Fire Prevention Week™ theme “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.”™ is that today’s home fires burn hotter and faster than ever, leaving occupants with as little as two minutes or less to safely escape from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Planning and practicing Home Fire Escape with all members of the household and having working smoke alarms are two critical elements increasing residents’ chances of surviving a home fire.  For community members living in apartment and high-rise buildings, additional considerations may be needed for home fire safety planning. This can include communicating with the landlord/manager about the building’s safety features, practicing fire drills with neighbors, and knowing when to shelter in place rather than escape. The new Fire Safety in the City kit was developed to provide a simple, picture-filled way to teach about the unique considerations for home fire escape planning in multifamily housing. This kit includes information on escape, smoke alarms, and keeping children away from items that can burn or start fires, such as lighters and matches.  Help your community members navigate their apartment/high-rise living spaces by educating them on the importance of escape planning using these resources along with our High-Rise Apartment & Condominium Safety Tip Sheet and our new Older Adult Home Fire Escape video.  Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis, Sparky the Fire Dog® on Twitter and Facebook, and NFPA on Instagram to keep up with the latest in fire and life safety education.

Putting a Freeze on Winter Fires

The new year brings hopes of fresh starts and new habits.  Fire and life safety (FLS) educators can support their communities in making fire safety a habit by highlighting the unique fire risks and prevention tips during the winter months. The annual Put a Freeze on Winter Fires campaign, with assets co-developed by NFPA® and the US Fire Administration (USFA), offers FLS educators dedicated infographics, downloadable social media assets, and data to share with the community. Heating, winter storms, and the increased use of space heaters, candles, and portable generators all contribute to the fire and carbon monoxide risks in the winter months.  Half of all home heating fires occur December through February. Space heaters are the type of equipment most often involved in home heating equipment fires, accounting for one-third of the fires, as well as the majority of deaths and injuries in home fires caused by heating equipment.  And home fires caused by candles is highest in December and January.* Kick off the new year helping you community build fire safety habits with these assets along with the Dan Doofus Heating Safety video from NFPA and our 10 Tips to Get Ahead of the Winter Freeze with space to add your department/organization logo for co-branding. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis, Sparky the Fire Dog® on Twitter and Facebook, and NFPA on Instagram to keep up with the latest in fire and life safety education. *Statistics provided by NFPA Applied Research Division.

Decking the Halls with Fire Safety

My favorite thing to do each season and holiday is to decorate. Whether it’s for the fall, Christmas, or Chinese New Year, I bring up my boxes of lights, decorations, and tableware from the basement and have at it.  (That’s a piece of my mantle pictured here.)  While fun and festive, decorations can increase the risk of home fire.  US fire departments respond to just under 800 home decoration fires (not including Christmas trees) each year. More than two of every five decoration fires happen because decorations are placed too close to a heat source.* The NFPA® Winter Holidays page has information and resources to support fire and life safety (FLS) education efforts during this time of year, including tip sheets, videos, and downloadable social media assets. Candle safety tips Consider battery operated flameless candles (which look like real candles). Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets. Do not place lighted candles where they can be knocked over by children, pets, or anyone else. Keep candles at least 12 inches (30 cm) from anything that can burn, such as furniture, curtains, and other decorations. Blow out all candles when you leave the room and/or go to bed. Safe lighting tips Check electrical cords often. Replace cracked, damaged, and loose electrical or extension cords. Do not try to repair them. Use lights that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory.Check the label. Follow manufacturer's instructions on how many strings of lights you can connect. Some lights are approved for indoor and/or outdoor use.Check the label to make sure you are using the proper lights for your needs. Watch and share the Deck the Halls with Fire Safety video.   *Statistics provided by NFPA Applied Research Division. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis, Sparky the Fire Dog® on Twitter and Facebook, and NFPA on Instagram to keep up with the latest in fire and life safety education.

With Rising Costs and Lower Temperatures, Promoting Safe Heating Practices Is of Utmost Importance

A recent press release from the National Energy Assistance Directors Association reported that US households will likely experience a 17.1 percent increase in home heating costs this coming winter. Heating is the second overall leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries, and the third leading cause of home fire deaths in the US*. As people balance their budgets against heating their homes, fire and life safety educators have an opportunity and critical need to reinforce safe heating practices geared to the safe use of heating equipment.  For instance, promoting the maintenance of heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional is important not only for fire and carbon monoxide prevention, but also for economic and mechanical efficiency.  And as people turn to portable space heaters to save on gas and oil expenses, fire and life safety educators need to stress the safe selection and use of these devices, which are involved in 44 percent of home heating equipment fires and the vast majority of injuries and deaths from home heating equipment fires*. (*Source: NFPA Applied Research) Chapter 10 of the NFPA Educational Messages Desk Reference for fire and life safety educators focuses on safe heating, including fireplaces and wood/pellet stoves, space heaters, central heating systems, and related heating equipment.  Some key tips for safe heating this winter: Have a 3 foot (1 m) “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters. That goes for pets too! Keep anything that can burn 3 feet (1 m) from heating equipment, including space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves. Plug only one heat producing appliance (like a space heater) into a wall outlet at a time. Never use an extension cord with a space heater or other heat producing appliance. Use heating equipment that is listed by a qualified testing laboratory. Never use your oven or stove for heating. Ovens and stoves are not designed to heat your home. Make sure fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Install and maintain smoke and CO alarms inside your home to provide early warning of smoke and carbon monoxide. Visit the NFPA heating safety page for facts, tips, and videos and visit our tip sheets in multiple languages page to download the Heating Safety Tip Sheet, available in Spanish, French, Haitian Creole, Hmong, and Somali. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis, Sparky the Fire Dog® on Twitter and Facebook and NFPA on Instagram to keep up with the latest in fire and life safety education.

Falls Prevention is also fire prevention

Fifty-two million Americans aged 65 or older make up 16 percent of the total US population. Yet they experience disproportionate injuries and deaths from fires and falls—twice the general population when it comes to fires. Falls are the leading cause of death from unintentional injuries for older adults, with nearly 1 in 3 seniors—that’s 17 million people—suffering a fall each year. This year’s Fire Prevention Week™ (FPW™) theme “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.™” pays particular attention to the needs of older adults in planning to safely escape their home in the event of fire.  Preventing slips, trips, and falls when evacuating is of key importance considering people may have as little as 2 minutes to safely escape their home.  Key fall prevention for safe home escape tips for older adults include:  Remove clutter in the hallways, stairways, and near exits/windows for a clear, safe path out of your home. Make sure all windows and doors can open in an emergency. If you use a walker or wheelchair, check all exits to be sure you can fit through the doorways. Keep your walker, scooter, cane, or wheelchair by your bed/where you sleep to make sure you can reach it quickly. Keep your eyeglasses, mobile phone, and a flashlight by your bed/where you sleep to be able to reach them quickly in an emergency. Consider sleeping in a room on the ground floor to make emergency escape easier. Fire service, elder care, and public health professionals have a unique opportunity to work together to reduce the growing incidence of injuries and deaths from fires and falls among older adults. As such, NFPA has undertaken a set of enhancements to our legacy Remembering When™ Older Adult Fire and Fall Prevention program, now called Steps to Safety™: Prevent fire and falls at home.   Coming out later this fall, Steps to Safety™ is still focused on pairing fire service with community partners to deliver group presentations, conduct home visits, and create a community network of resources to support older adults and their caregivers. Enhancements include a new online learning curriculum, new videos, and new social media assets.  The program remains rooted in key fire and fall prevention messages, with updated messaging on the role of medications in fire and fall risk. All training and program materials are currently being finalized and will be available on our website at a date to be released in the coming months.  Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis, Sparky the Fire Dog® on Twitter and Facebook and NFPA on Instagram to keep up with the latest in fire and life safety education.
Sparky parade with Sparky flag

Up your fire safety game with Kahoot!

Fire and Life Safety (FLS) educators know that “meeting people where they are” is one of the keys to providing accurate and consistent fire and burn prevention messaging.  It’s even easier now that NFPA® Kids has teamed up with Kahoot! ACADEMY to bring quality fire safety education where so many of us spend our time – on our phones and computers. Noted as the number one platform for K-12 educators, Kahoot! recently reached eight billion (yes billion!) cumulative participants since its launch in 2013.  NFPA Kids now has a collection of fire safety Kahoots! available so kids of all ages can learn about topics including cooking safety, home fire escape, and smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.  “Home fire safety is a critical element of personal injury prevention,” says April Hart, Program Manager of Public Education Programs at NFPA. “Home fires burn hotter and faster than 50 years ago, but there are ways kids and their families can prevent fire and burns, by acquiring the knowledge and skills to stay safe through these engaging kahoots. Sparky the Fire Dog® is proud to team up with Kahoot! to teach about fire safety in a fun and interactive way!” NFPA’s Division of Public Education is committed to providing FLS, public health, and injury prevention professionals with vetted, quality education materials to use in community education efforts. From lesson plans to safety tip sheets to Sparky School House for educators, and more, these free downloadable assets support the shared mission of eliminating loss of life and property from fire, electrical and related hazards. Check out and follow Sparky the Fire Dog® and NFPA® Kids on Kahoot! Academy to stay up to date on current and new games. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis, Sparky the Fire Dog® on Twitter and Facebook and NFPA on Instagram to keep up with the latest in Fire and Life Safety education.
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