AUTHOR: Andrea Vastis


Providing a Safe Environment for Virtual Learning includes Working Smoke Alarms

A recent article in the Washington Post described a situation in which teachers were noticing the “chirping” sounds of smoke alarms in their students homes during virtual classes.  As the article notes, “And while the teachers heard it, the parents and students at the homes seemed so accustomed to the incessant noise that they didn't notice it.”  That prompted the principal of a Washington D.C. elementary school to call his local Fire Department, as did numerous leaders of other schools.       The response from Tony Falwell, Fire Marshal and Deputy Chief of the D.C. fire department was one of action.  “As soon as you hear it, you need to address it,” Falwell said in an interview. “Because if you continue to ignore it, it just becomes background noise.”   Staff from his department began a campaign working with the schools and Parent-Teacher organizations to promote smoke alarm education to the families through the virtual learning platforms used for classroom-based education.  The campaign includes installation of smoke alarms in homes of families who cannot afford to buy them.   They even came up with a catchy slogan “When you hear the chirp - it's time do the work.” Fire and life safety education happens at all levels, and at all times, day or night.  What started out as addressing a distraction during remote learning, created a life-saving opportunity for families.  This October, as you “Serve up Fire Safety in the Kitchen” as part of your Fire Prevention Week efforts, make sure to include smoke alarms in your fire safety plan.  Download NFPA's Smoke Alarm Tip Sheet and NFPA's Smoke alarms for deaf and hard of hearing people tip sheet to make sure you know what to do in your home.   And like they say in D.C., “When you hear the chirp – it's time to do the work!” Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and follow NFPA on Twitter, Facebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest.
InstallingLight (002)

National Falls Prevention Day is September 22nd

  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 V has 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 Twitter, Facebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest.
FPW artwork screenshot

Fire Prevention Week is Almost Here. Are You Ready?

“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.) Use #firepreventionweek for all your posts to show up in our live feed on 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 Twitter, Facebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest.
Unattending cooking social medai card

In light of COVID-19, Find New Ways to Reach People with Fire Prevention Week's Cooking Safety Messages

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

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!

Innovating our way toward Fire Prevention Week

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 30, 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.
1 ... 8 9 10 11

Latest Articles