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November 2015

Historic fire is a reminder of the importance of Christmas tree safety

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Christmas Tree tips sheetOne of the deadliest Christmas tree fires on record occurred almost 25 years ago when a Michigan father and six of his children were killed after the Christmas tree caught fire and the fire spread throughout the home. According to the Plymouth-Canton Patch, Martin Dell’Orco tried to remove the burning tree from the house while his wife, Debbie, called the fire department.

She and one of the couple’s nine children survived, but Dell’Orco died when he went back into the house to rescue six sleeping children, ages 4 through 12, who died. Two other children were not at home. When firefighters arrived at the house, it was fully engulfed.

A FEMA report stated the following: “In this fire the tree was dry and overheated or defective lights provided the ignition source. This fire reached overwhelming proportions at lightning speed and left the family helpless to survive.”

NFPA’s safety tips sheet on Christmas trees provides a list of precautions.

  • Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
  • Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2 inches from the base of the trunk.
  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, or lights.
  • Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.

NFPA’s Project Holiday provides extensive safety information to help ensure the holiday season is a safe one. If a fire does occur, smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries. Smoke Alarm Central is a complete source of smoke alarm information.

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NFPA shares with Martha Stewart 8 simple fire safety tips to follow this holiday season

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With Thanksgiving in our rear view mirror (already???), it's now fast forward all the way to Hanukkah and Christmas!

And as a content partner with our friends at Martha Stewart Living, NFPA recently shared a few of its fire safety tips for the holidays with her audience. Everyone enjoys being part of the holiday preparations, right? From testing family recipes to decorating cakes and cookies, the possibilities are endless, and Martha and her readers know how to come up with some beautiful creations. But when there are a lot of people and lots of activity going on around you, it's easy to get distracted.  DSC_1770

Read our latest blog and get eight simple fire-safety tips that touch on cooking, baking with the kids, using and storing cooking equipment and more – everything that can help you and your family reduce the risk of kitchen fires during this joyous time of year.

For more great info about holiday fire safety, don't forget to check out (and share!) our newly designed winter holiday safety web page, and stay tuned for some great new holiday assets you can use and share … coming soon!

Unsafe Science . . .pass it on! How students may be at risk for injuries in the classroom.

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The September NFPA Journal Story “Hey Kids Watch This” brought the trend of disastrous science experiments in the U.S. onto my radar.  As a former classroom, and fire & life safety educator, the idea of unknowingly putting my trusting student audiences in peril’s way, shook me to the core. 

Then just a mere month later, in Fairfax, Virginia, yet another chemistry class blast hit the news.  Five students and one teacher were injured as a result of another “rainbow demonstration” in which flammable solvents were used on an open bench in an attempt to examine chemicals as they burned at different light frequencies. 

When carried out on an open bench using a flammable solvent, the rainbow demonstration is a high-risk operation. The conditions for a flash fire or deflagration are met—a fuel, oxygen, and a source of ignition. Highly flammable solvents, such as methanol, can produce heavier-than-air vapors that move across surfaces and down toward the floor where they spread undetected among unsuspecting, and often up-close, viewers of the demonstration. Even carrying out this demonstration in a chemical hood poses risks if fuel sources are not controlled, and teachers with a limited understanding of the inherent risks endanger both themselves and their students at unnecessarily.

NFPA engineer Laura Montville joined me recently on the Christal Frost Radio Show to talk about these dangers and what NFPA is doing in response.  Laura serves as the staff liaison for the NFPA 45 Standard, the standard for fire protection for laboratories using chemicals, and she highlighted warnings put out in a recent NFPA news release and also a similar one by the Chemical Safety Board (CSB).  In December 2013, the CSB released the video “After the Rainbow” that features Calais Weber, a young burn victim of a similar demonstration that was carried out in 2006.  The video emphasizes the dangerous risks associated with this demonstration and the need to follow safer practices.  

If you are reading this now, I urge you to take a moment to read and pass along the NFPA Lab Fire Safety 101 Tips Sheet to a teacher you know, whether they are a science teacher or that of another subject area.  We need to work together to spread this important information to prevent even one more young person, parent, or well-meaning teacher from having to live with the devastating consequences of unsafe science.

Remembering When gets boost from top doc

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 Vivek MurthyI don’t know if U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., is familiar with NFPA’s Remembering When™: A Fire and Fall Prevention Program for Older Adults, but with the Call to Action he issued this fall, he’s encouraging activity that supports the work of Remembering When. Dr. Murthy has issued a call to the nation designed to significantly improve the health of the general public.

Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities, recognizes the importance of physical activity for people of all ages.

As Dr. Murthy calls for increased physical activity and improved  access to safe and convenient places to walk and use a wheelchair, he is also helping the public, in particular older adults, lessen their risk of a fall. Remembering When was developed to help older adults live safely at home for as long as possible and includes 16 key safety Exercise Behavior Cardmessages–eight fire prevention and eight fall prevention. The program includes a fall prevention message about physical activity. Exercise regularly to build strength and improve your balance and coordination. Ask your doctor about the best physical exercise for you.

As the public answers Dr. Murthy’s call to “step it up,” they are not only stepping it up for their physical health, but also for their safety from falls.

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Fire in the Northwest is a reminder to practice safety while heating

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CHIMNEY FIREFire investigators in Spokane, Washington, have determined that a fireplace and chimney were to blame for a house fire last week. Spokane firefighters were able to keep the home from burning to the ground. The three people living there said they had been using their fireplace the past few days without a problem. Last Friday they tended to it, went to bed and woke up Saturday morning to the sound of smoke alarms.

Spokane Fire Battalion Chief Ryan Reding was quoted by KXLY-TV, asking members of the public for vigilance in making sure they have working smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, (CO) and that they conduct regular maintenance on their heating appliances. These are important reminders anytime of the year, but especially now, as people are turning up the heat.

Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths. Half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February.

The heating safety section of the NFPA website provides a number of resources, including statistics, videos and reports, heating safety tips, as well as a safety tips sheet with information on chimney and fireplace safety. The tips sheet also highlights the importance of having working CO alarms.

Smoke Alarm Central is your complete source of smoke alarm information.

Sparky e-card sends greetings for Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving e cardYears ago when I was in the Midwest pursuing a career in television journalism, I couldn’t always get back to the East Coast for the holidays. Elana, a dear friend, welcomed me into her family’s home in Champaign, Illinois, for lovely Thanksgiving feasts. This year, I wanted to send Elana a Thanksgiving Day card to let her know just how much her hospitality meant to me.

But then I realized that the card wouldn’t get to her in time. I thought about Sparky® e-cards. I found a whimsical Thanksgiving Day e-card on Sparky.org that I knew would make Elana smile.

It depicts a team of marshmallows getting themselves in shape for the important role they play on Thanksgiving Day that many of us are familiar with.

Sparky's free e-cards provide us with ways to keep in touch during holidays, milestones, and just because we’re thinking of someone.

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Should you sleep with your bedroom door closed? NFPA’s Educational Messages Advisory Committee will discuss this issue at its March 2016 meeting

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  EMAC 2015Recent media coverage and new Underwriters Laboratories (UL) research has brought to the forefront again the issue of whether fire and life safety educators should be saying people should sleep with bedroom doors shut to be safer from fire. NFPA’s Educational Messages Advisory Committee (EMAC) has reviewed the issue in the past and determined that if residents sleep with bedroom doors closed, it is important that they have interconnected smoke alarms.

EMAC will meet March 30-31 at NFPA headquarters in Quincy, MA and is slated to discuss the topic again. And whether or not sleeping with the bedroom door closed should be added to EMAC messaging. EMAC will review new UL research documents, media clips, and other documentation submitted before making a determination on NFPA’s official position. NFPA is accepting comments for revision to the EMAC document through February 26, 2016.

UL research shows how a closed door can keep smoke out of a bedroom longer as well as change the flow of heat and toxic gases, acting as a shield for someone trapped and unable to get out of a fire. NFPA stresses the importance of having a working smoke alarm inside each bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home. For the best protection, smoke alarms should be interconnected so when one sounds they all sound. Read the full story and watch the videos of each of the UL tests for more information.

Fire runs for one department had a familiar ring

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During a four-hour span last Tuesday, a fire department in Georgia tackled three fires that had Cooking Safety Checklistsomething in common: they all happened in people’s kitchens. Gwinnett County firefighters responded at 9:40 a.m. to a report of an apartment fire in Norcross. Crews found a small fire on the stove that was smoldering on arrival. Firefighters quickly put the fire out. The fire caused minor damage to the stovetop and a pot of grease that was left unattended.

At 10:52 a.m. firefighters responded to a report of a house fire in Buford. Crews found a small fire in the oven that was smoldering on arrival. The fire was contained to debris in the oven and was quickly put out by firefighters. The fire caused minor damage to the appliance and sent light smoke throughout the house. The fire appeared accidental and was sparked by debris ignited during preheating.

Just three hours later firefighters responded to a house fire in Lawrenceville. Crews found light smoke on arrival and a small fire in the kitchen. The fire appeared to be accidental and was sparked by food left unattended on the stove.

Needless to say, Gwinnett County fire officials are reminding the public to use safe cooking practices. “These types of incidents are an important reminder of the fact that proper cooking practices and kitchen fire safety are paramount,” said Gwinnett Fire Captain Tommy Rutledge.

Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home injuries.

Here’s what you need to know:

 

Keeping an eye on what you fry and other helpful cooking hints for a fire-safe holiday season

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Holiday cooking 2
I received the monthly newsletter from my gym the other day and they had an interesting statistic that caught my eye. Did you know that around 75% of annual weight gain takes place during the holiday season? That’s a sobering thought!

The article went on to say that eating healthy during the holiday season (usually between Halloween and New Years' Day) can be challenging, especially when there’s lots of oh, so delicious dishes and cocktails to choose from.

This stat definitely got me thinking. Not just about weight again, of course, though I know we can’t help but think about it, right? No, it actually got me thinking about fire safety. If you can imagine how much food is cooked, baked, sautéed and fried during this time, well, that adds up to a lot of time in our kitchens. It also means we’re probably hosting parties and/or when visiting others, talking to the host while he/she is busy preparing food.

So this holiday season, especially with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I just want to remind everyone to keep safety at the top of your list. The winter holiday season is the peak time for home cooking fires. It's really easy to get distracted this time of year and lose track of what you’re doing in the kitchen. Think you don’t? Liberty Mutual Insurance did a study in 2013 with over 1,000 people and here’s what they found:

  • Forty-Two percent of surveyed consumers say they have left the kitchen to talk or text on the phone, and 35 percent left the kitchen to use the computer to check email while food is cooking.
  • Nearly half (45 percent) of consumers say they have left the room to watch television or listen to music.
  • A large majority (83 percent) acknowledged that they have engaged in dangerous cooking behaviors such as disabling the smoke alarm and leaving cooking food unattended to perform non-essential activities – including watching television, talking or texting on the phone, checking email or doing laundry.
  • Looking at the general survey population, a startling one in 10 adults has actually left the home completely while cooking, and others left cooking food unattended to perform non-essential activities.

But we can reduce these numbers, right? NFPA has lots of great tips and ideas you can implement right now as you start working on your holiday party menus (my colleague, Susan McKelvey, recently wrote a great blog that outlines these for you). Why not download and review them today before the holidays really kick in? By doing so, you’ll feel great knowing you’re taking a proactive role in reducing your fire risk and keeping yourself and your loved ones safer.

And let’s face it, even if you do gain a pound or two over the next few weeks, give yourself a pass. Spending time with loved ones and enjoying friends and family is what makes the holidays so special. And heck, you still have all winter to take it off. So enjoy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Find more great information about holiday cooking on NFPA’s cooking webpage.

Volunteer firefighters push for protection for those diagnosed with cancer

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“You have cancer.” Those are perhaps the most dreaded words a patient could hear. A cancer diagnosis can be tragic, and tragedy has been mounting among volunteer firefighters. New York State is home to more than 90,000 volunteer firefighters who sacrifice their time, safety and, too often, their health in service to their communities.

Firefighters are significantly more likely to develop many types of cancer than the general population largely due to the high levels of carcinogens and other toxins found in burning buildings and hazardous environments. The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) has produced “Fighting Fires–Fighting Cancer: FASNY Members Share Their Stories.” The video features volunteer firefighters, including NFPA Education Section Director Brian McQueen, who’ve received a cancer diagnosis.

Volunteer firefighters diagnosed with cancer face escalating medical bills and the possibility of lost wages as they become sicker. There is no formal safety net currently in place to help those volunteer firefighters who need it most. This video is an example of one of the ways that FASNY seeks to see this change.

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