Topic: Public Education

Ahead of the holiday weekend, NFPA offers tips to stay safe in short-term rentals, hotels, and elsewhere

  This Fourth of July weekend, nearly 48 million Americans are expected to travel, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).  Many of those travelers will forgo traditional lodging in a hotel and opt for something more unique—perhaps a beach house, an urban apartment unit, or a remote cabin on the lake. Over the past several years, companies like Airbnb and VRBO have grown in popularity, promising travelers unique stays in properties like this, which are known collectively as short-term rental properties. But unlike hotels, short-term rentals often don’t have the same code requirements and enforcement as hotels. Fire and life safety protection measures as basic as smoke alarms can be missing.  That’s why experts say it’s critical for guests to be mindful of the spaces they’re in, checking for things like working smoke alarms, two ways out of a building, and more. “Safe travel and lodging needs to be a component of your overall travel plans,” says Andrea Vastis, director of the Public Education division at NFPA. “Choosing places with smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, bringing travel alarms with you, and making sure everyone knows how to safely escape with an agreed-upon meeting place at your destination is critical.” An injury ‘every 44 seconds’ It’s unclear exactly how many people get injured—or worse—in hotels or motels each year, but it does happen with some regularity. The internet is littered with websites for injury lawyers who specialize in cases involving injuries that occurred at hotels. In January, comedian Bob Saget died after reportedly falling and hitting his head in a Florida hotel room.  But according to Justin Ford, guests in short-term rental properties get injured at a higher rate than guests in hotels. Ford has been involved in the short-term rental industry for decades and has advised companies like Airbnb on creating safer environments in short-term rentals.  “We know the home is the most dangerous place. More than 50 percent of our accidents happen in the home. Now we’re taking people who aren’t familiar with that home, and we’re putting them in that home, and that amplifies and makes the accidents even more common,” Ford says on a recent episode of The NFPA Podcast. “I’ve come up with a number that I believe is accurate: Every 44 seconds someone is injured in a short-term rental.” While some communities have made strides to enforce fire and life safety codes and standards in short-term rental properties—Palm Springs, California, is one example, Ford says, where even pools being rented within properties must pass electrical inspections—many short-term rentals never get inspected by a safety professional.  “I’ve stayed in a lot of rentals, and I’ve seen more than most people,” Ford says on the podcast. “I’ve looked up and realized, hey, that smoke alarm up there doesn’t have a flashing light, and I pull it down and it doesn’t have any batteries in it, and it’s because the last renters burned some popcorn and pulled the batteries and no one checked.” To stay safe, Ford advises renters to be proactive about taking safety into their own hands. “You’ve got to do your due diligence if you are a renter to look around a take a minute and ask, is this a safe place for me to stay?” he says. Check that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are present and working; make sure fire hazards like matches and lighters aren’t accessible, especially to children; ensure there are two ways out of the building in case of a fire or other emergency; take note of where fire extinguishers are located; if you can, eliminate any trip or fall hazards on the property. NFPA offers similar recommendations for short-term rental guests and a number of additional ones in two tip sheets, “Fire Safety at Your Home Away from Home” and “Take Safety with You!” Ideally, Ford envisions a future where guests don’t need to take as many steps to ensure their safety. Owners of properties would be more dedicated to investing in and maintaining fire and life safety protection equipment in the first place. “We can make these short-term rentals as safe as possible with very little financial impact on the owner,” Ford says. “We’re not talking about a lot of money to put in these safety features. So we’re not saying to get rid of them—they’re great—but let’s put a little effort into making sure they’re a safer experience for the guest.” NFPA resources for short-term rentals and beyond  In addition to its tip sheets on short-term rental safety, NFPA also offers tip sheets for staying safe in traditional hotels and even recreational vehicles.   At hotels, for instance, NFPA recommends guests take steps similar to what’s advised for short-term renters. If fire or smoke prevents you from safely evacuating the hotel, though, there are steps you can take to stay safe, including shutting off your room’s fans and air conditioning, stuffing wet towels in any cracks around the door, calling the fire department, and staying by the window. Read more in the “Hotel & Motel Safety” tip sheet from NFPA.  Recreational vehicles, or RVs, can also present risks to occupants. A report released by the Fire Protection Research Foundation in 2020 found that on average, 24 people die and 64 people are injured in nearly 2,000 RV fires in the United States each year. “Most fatal fires occur in older models of RVs, as they have fewer and less advanced fire safety measures,” the report reads. “They also have older engines and equipment that are more likely to fail, which is a common cause of fires.”  RELATED: Read an NFPA Journal article and listen to an NFPA Podcast on RV fire safety   To stay safe, NFPA advises RV renters and owners, among other steps, to make sure vehicle maintenance is up-to-date and performed by a qualified mechanic and that propane tanks and tubing are code compliant. Read more in the “Motor home, camper, and recreational vehicle safety” tip sheet from NFPA.
Boats on the water at sunset

Summer is for Swimming, Sailing, and Safety

Summer months mean an increase in outdoor recreation activities such as swimming and sailing. Safety precautions such as wearing life vests, keeping an eye on children in the water, and avoiding alcohol while swimming/boating are ways to have fun and stay safe. One hazard not often thought of is the risk of electric shock drowning, which happens when marina, onboard electrical systems, and pools/spas leak electric current into the water. The current then passes through the body, causing paralysis, and results in drowning. NFPA’s What is electric shock drowning video offers Fire and Life Safety (FLS) educators a PSA style option of informing people of this often-overlooked risk, and can be paired with our marina and boating safety tip sheet and electrical safety around swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas tip sheet. These resources offer people key information on how to enjoy their water activities safely. Key tips include (but are not limited to): For swimmers in marinas, lakes, and ponds: Never swim near a marina, dock, or boatyard. Obey all “no swimming signs” on docks. For boat owners: Avoid entering the water when launching or loading your boat. These areas can contain stray electrical currents in the water, possibly leading to electric shock drowning or injury from shock, including death.  Know where your main breaker(s) are located on both the boat and the shore power source so you can respond quickly in case of an emergency. For people in pools, hot tubs, and spas: Look out for underwater lights that are not working properly, flicker or work intermittently. If tingling occurs, immediately stop swimming in your current direction. Try and swim in a direction where you had not felt the tingling, Exit the water as quickly as possible and avoid using metal ladders or rails. Touching metal may increase the risk of shock. Do not swim before, during or after thunderstorms. For swimming pool owners: Have a qualified electrician periodically inspect and—where necessary—replace or upgrade the electrical devices or equipment that keep your pool, spa or hot tub electrically safe. Have him/her show you how to turn off all power in case of an emergency. Electrical appliances, equipment and cords should be kept at least 6 feet away from the water. When possible, use battery-operated instead of cord-connected appliances and equipment, such as televisions, radios, and stereos. 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.
Person jumping into a pool

Know the Risks and Signs of Electric Shock Drowning and Ways to Stay Safe This Summer

Each year as the warm weather approaches we are struck here at NFPA by the number of news headlines we read about deaths related to electric shock drowning (ESD). Most people have never heard about nor are they aware of ESD and the electrical dangers posed in water environments, and each year people are injured or killed from these hazards. As we head toward the July 4th holiday weekend, a time when more people travel to the water’s edge, head out on their boats and enjoy time at the pool, we remind everyone about potential electrical hazards that exist in swimming pools, hot tubs and spas, onboard boats and in waters surrounding boats, marinas, and launch ramps. Electric shock drowning occurs when faulty wiring sends electric current into the water that can pass through the body and cause paralysis. When this happens, a person can no longer swim and ultimately drowns. To help explain ESD in more detail and how to avoid it, NFPA Journal created the following short video:     Swimmers, pool and boat owners can also familiarize themselves with the following information and share it with people they know before embarking on any water activities: Tips for swimmers Never swim near a marina, dock, or boatyard, or near a boat while it is running. While in a pool, hot tub or spa, look out for underwater lights that are not working properly, flicker, or work intermittently. If you feel a tingling sensation while in a pool, immediately stop swimming in your current direction. Try and swim in a direction where you had not felt the tingling. Exit the water as quickly as possible; avoid using metal ladders or rails. Touching metal may increase the risk of shock.  Tips for pool owners If you are putting in a new pool, hot tub, or spa, be sure the wiring is performed by an electrician experienced in the special safety requirements for these types of installations. Have a qualified electrician periodically inspect and — where necessary — replace or upgrade the electrical devices or equipment that keep your pool, spa, or hot tub electrically safe. Have the electrician show you how to turn off all power in case of an emergency. Make sure any overhead lines maintain the proper distance over a pool and other structures, such as a diving board. If you have any doubts, contact a qualified electrician or your local utility company to make sure power lines are a safe distance away. Tips for boat owners Avoid entering the water when launching or loading a boat. Docks or boats can leak electricity into the water causing water electrification. Each year, and after a major storm that may affect the boat, have the boat's electrical system inspected by a qualified marine electrician to be sure it meets the required codes of your area, including the American Boat & Yacht Council. Make the necessary repairs if recommended. Check with the marina owner who can also tell you if the marina's electrical system has recently been inspected to meet the required codes of your area, including the National Electrical Code® (NEC®). Have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) installed on the boat; use only portable GFCIs or shore power cords (including “Y” adapters) that are Marine Listed when using electricity near water. Test GFCIs monthly. Join NFPA this holiday weekend and throughout the summer by sharing resources and important information with people you know about electric shock drowning and ways to reduce your risk. For more information about electric shock drowning, please visit nfpa.org/watersafety.

“Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape™” is the theme for Fire Prevention Week, October 9-15, 2022

“Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape™” has been announced as the theme for Fire Prevention Week™, October 9-15, reinforcing the critical importance of developing a home escape plan with all members of the household and practicing it regularly. In addition, this October represents the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week, the nation’s longest-running public health observance on record. This year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign capitalizes on its milestone anniversary, celebrating all we’ve accomplished in reducing the public’s risk to fire over the past hundred years. At the same time, the theme, “Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape,” addresses challenges that remain. According to NFPA data, home — the place people feel safest from fire — is actually where they are at greatest risk, with three-quarters (74 percent) of all US fire deaths occurring in homes. When a home fire does occur, it’s more likely to be serious; people are more likely to die in a home fire today than they were in 1980. A contributing factor is that today’s homes burn faster and hotter than they used to, minimizing the amount of time they have to escape safely. In a typical home fire, people may have as little as two minutes (or even less) to get out from the time the smoke alarms sounds. “Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape” promotes potentially life-saving messages that can mean the difference between life and death in a fire. Developing a home escape plan with all members of the household and practicing it regularly ensures that everyone knows what to do when the smoke alarm sounds and uses that time wisely. Following are key messages behind this year’s “Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape” theme: Make sure your home escape plan meets the needs of all your family members, including those with sensory or physical disabilities. Smoke alarms should be installed inside every sleeping room, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level of your home. Smoke alarms should be interconnected so when one sounds, they all sound. Know at least two ways out of every room, if possible. Make sure all doors and windows open easily. Have an outside meeting place a safe distance from your home where everyone should meet. Practice your home fire drill at least twice a year with everyone in the household, including guests. Practice at least once during the day and at night. To learn more about Fire Prevention Week, its 100th anniversary, and this year’s theme, “Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape,” visit www.nfpa.org/fpw.

E. Brené Duggins is named 2022 Fire & Life Safety Educator of the Year

Congratulations to E. Brené Duggins, fire prevention coordinator/training captain at Holly Grove Fire Department in Lexington, North Carolina, for being named the winner of the 2022 Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year Award. “Fire safety education remains a critical community need,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA. “With 20 years as a volunteer in the fire service, Duggins has committed herself to teaching her community to lead safer lives. She has also consistently supported her peers in addressing fire safety issues through the use of sound educational practices and today’s technologies.” Each year, NFPA confers the Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year Award on a dedicated educator who works for a local fire department or fire marshal’s office in the U.S. or Canada and uses NFPA’s materials in consistent, creative ways. The recipient demonstrates excellence and innovation in reaching out to the community to meet their evolving fire safety needs. Duggins is being awarded a $1,000 honorarium, travel to the 2022 NFPA Conference & Expo, and an engraved Sparky statuette. The Holly Grove Fire Department will also receive a $1,000 donation to support public education activities. During her 20 years as a volunteer in the fire service, Duggins has shared her passion for technology and education not only in the state of North Carolina, but across the U.S. and Canada, teaching the public as well as fire service personnel how to enhance their own programs through the integration of technology. Furthering her commitment, Duggins has started “Ms. D’s Virtual PD”, a virtual professional development training program that combines live training sessions and on-demand training opportunities for public school and fire service personnel. She is well-regarded among her fire and life safety education peers for her dedication to not only serving her community, but helping others do the same. In addition, she is the chair of the NC Eastern Region Fire and Life Safety Educator Association and the second vice chair of the North Carolina Fire and Life Safety Educator Association State Council. Duggins officially received recognition for her award at the NFPA Stars at Night gala on Sunday, June 5. The event honors the brightest stars in fire and life safety.

CRR workshop guides participants through community risk assessment (CRA) process

CRR workshop was held at the NFPA Conference & Expo®  (C&E) today, guiding participants through the community risk assessment (CRA) process. The half-day program, which highlighted proven strategies for moving local CRA efforts forward, was led by Karen Berard-Reed, a senior strategist leading the community risk reduction (CRR) initiative at NFPA, and Chelsea Rubadou, an NFPA engineer who serves as a staff liaison and SME for standards dedicated to CRR, data analysis and fire prevention programs. Together, Berard-Reed and Rubadou discussed the true value of using data to answer the “who, what, when and why” of leading risks within a given community. From there, fire departments can create a a community risk reduction (CRR) plan that serves as a roadmap for effectively addressing those safety issues. Some workshop attendees noted that efforts to capture community data have felt overwhelming, limiting their ability to move forward. Berard-Reed and Rubadou recognized that this and similar challenges can curtail CRA efforts. Both shared strategies for working through them, while attendees also shared their experiences in breaking through roadblocks. Attendees also had ample opportunities to break into smaller groups to brainstorm and collaborate on a host of issues. These lively conversations were shared with and discussed among all workshop attendees. These conversations and interactions fostered new connections along with opportunities to continue learning from one another after the conference. Visit nfpa.org/CRR to learn more about CRA, CRR, NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development, and CRAIG 1300™, a community risk assessment (CRA) dashboard that helps fire departments and safety officials collect community data, enabling them to identify, assess and share local demographic, geographic and economic needs.
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