The Burning Question: Are You Doing All You Can to Be Fire-Safe?
It’s been a really busy summer, and I’m looking forward to the chilly days and the opportunity to relax a bit. As the cool weather is setting in, my thoughts are turning to lighting up the fireplace and getting cozy with a warm cup of cocoa and a great book. There’s nothing better than the first few weeks of fall in Minnesota and enjoying the warmth of a fire. But wait a minute—is there anything that I should be doing to make sure I am fire-safe?
September was National Preparedness Month (the 2018 theme was: Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How.), and now, October 7–13 is National Fire Prevention Week. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), it has sponsored the public observance of Fire Prevention Week since 1922. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed Fire Prevention Week a national observance, making it the longest-running public health observance in our country. The Chicago 1871 video on the organization's website is a sobering reminder of lives lost and property destroyed.
Last year, 21 catastrophic fires resulted in 150 fatalities, topped by a series of historic California wildfires that killed 44 people. Read the NFPA Journal's September/October 2018 article "Catastrophic Multiple Death Fires in 2017" for more information on these recent fires.
Visit the National Fire Protection Association web page for lots of information on fire safety for work and home.
The 2018 NFPA campaign is “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere.”
- LOOK: Look for places fire could start. Take a good look around your home. Identify potential fire hazards and take care of them.
- LISTEN: 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: Learn two ways out of every room and make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily and are free of clutter.
- BE AWARE: While children younger than 5 and adults older than 65 are at the highest risk for injury or death in a fire, people of all ages are vulnerable. In fact, the risk of a nonfatal fire injury is highest for those between 20 and 49, showing that fire-safety education is essential for everyone. Additional risk factors include race, socio-economic status, education level, and geographic location.
Fire Safety at Home
NFPA has some great free resources available for the home and community. Here are a few examples:
- Games and Apps: Who wouldn’t want to play Sparky’s matching game or try out the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms app?
- Activities: Check out I Spy and the Smoke Alarm calendar, promote cooking safety with Kids in the Kitchen or make a Party Hat.
- Safety Tip Sheets: Have a plan, especially for those who may need assistance. Take a look at Home Safety for People with Disability. Or how about things to think about when traveling in Hotel and Motel Safety. For those at college, take a look at Campus Fire Safety. Heating Safety has information on space heaters and fire places. Fire Safety in Manufactured Homes has information unique to this type of home. Information on how to create an emergency escape plan can be found in Escape Planning.
- Public education materials are available, such as Dryers and Washing Machine Fires.
- Fire Facts: Did you know:
- On average, seven people per day die in U.S. home fires?
- Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a reported home fire in half?
- While 71% of Americans have an escape plan in case of a fire, only 47% of them have practiced it?
- Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by the day before Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, Easter, and Christmas?
Other Great Resources
- Fire Administration also has lots of great safety information, such as: Clothes Dryer Fire Safety Outreach Materials. It states that 2,900 home clothes-dryer fires are reported each year and cause an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss.
- Consumer Reports How to Prevent Dryer Fires has four simple ways to keep your clothes dryer from building up lint and catching fire.
- Take a look at Fireplace Maintenance and Safety from HGTV.
What about Fire Safety at Work and in the Laboratory?
According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplace fires and explosions kill 200 people and injure more than 5,000 workers each year, and they cost businesses more than $2.3 billion in property damage. Explosions and fires account for 3% of workplace injuries and have the highest casualty rate of all probable workplace accidents.
Below are some resources you may find useful:
- OSHA has a great fact sheet Fire Safety in the Workplace and Fire Protection and Prevention that have information on related OSHA standards, including emergency action plans, fire exits, and fire extinguishers.
- Fire Extinguishers Save Lives video
- Making Sense of Laboratory Fire Codes – American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)
- Fire Safety in the Laboratory – Tufts University
- Lab Fire Safety – University of Oklahoma
- Laboratory: Fire Prevention - Prevor
- Fire Safety in the Lab video
- Laboratory Fire Safety video
Wow, that’s a lot of information on fire safety and emergency preparedness. Keep in mind, this is just a sampling of many wonderful resources available, so take a look through the items that relate to your work and personal time and learn about ways to take safety into your own hands.
Okay, I just threw a load of clothes into the dryer, but before I grab that new book I have been wanting to read, I think I’m going to schedule a chimney flue inspection and cleaning, make sure my cat doesn’t walk across my gas stove while I’m heating my cocoa, check the batteries in my smoke detectors, and schedule our family’s annual evacuation drill (if I can find them).
Hoping you all stay warm and safe in the cooler weather.