Think about FIRE SAFETY in a totally new way! This is your source for insightful FIRE SAFETY information written by a retired fire department battalion chief with over 30 years of experience in the field of Fire and EMS response. Chief Robert Avsec’s unique perspective in this field and his engaging writing style help bring the crucial fire safety message home to all Americans.
The HAVE’s of Fire Safety 101
- Have working smoke detectors in your home andCHECK them monthly
- Have a Home Escape Plan for your home andPRACTICE it
- Have working fire extinguishers in your home and CHECK them monthly
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It’s Hot, It’s Dry, and It’s Summer
For many parts of the United States conditions are already “primed” for a bad wildfire season. Depending upon where you live the term wildfire can have many connotations, especially for residents of the southern California hills and residents of other western U.S. states that regularly see devastating fires every year. For many other parts of our country, our history of wildfires with serious consequences have thankfully been far and few between. But that’s all changing.
Thomas Freidman, in his latest book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, states that we shouldn’t use the term global warming to describe what’s happening to our atmosphere–the only one we have, I might add!–from the continuing rise of carbon dioxide levels. Rather, he says
we should call it global wierding: more and more places seeing record high temperatures while others see record low; areas on the planet being inundated by record rainfalls while other areas are in the grips of choking droughts; weather patterns worldwide that are
more regularly deviating from accepted meteorological norms, e.g., 100-year floods.
So why am I writing about this stuff in a fire safety blog? Because of a human behavior factor that’s increasingly exposing people and their property to the devastation that can be unleashed by an uncontrolled wildfire: the wildland urban interface (WUI). This is the term that we use in the fire service to describe the existance of people and their dwellings and other property in areas that still have the characteristics of rural areas, e.g., high vegatation levels, large stands of trees, and underdeveloped roads and other infrastructure. To put it simple, people among the pines.While living in and amongst nature certainly has its many pros, that environment can quickly become a death trap when threatened by a wildfire. A working smoke detector can warn you and your family that a fire is present in your home and provide you with the early warning to safely evacuate your house. There is no such early warning device for wildland fires in many communities, particularly those that are only now beginning to experience the threat.
So what can you do to protect you and your family? There are several good websites that provide a wealth of information and tips for preparing you, your family, and your home against the dangers of a wildfire. I urge you to check them out and get your whole family involved. Secondly, pay attention to the weather forecasts for your locality every day. Stay cognizant of recent rainfall and how dry conditions are in the areas surrounding your home, but more importantly the area in a one to two mile radius of your home. One of the
dangers of wildfires are that they can originate in a place far away from your home, but can literally be in your backyard in a “New York minute.”
The Residential Sprinkler Fight is Not Over
The smoke detector in your home will give you early warning–provided that you have both types of detectors installed in your home–but all you’ll get is a small “window” of time to safety evacuate your home. Many people think that they’ll have plenty of time to escape a hostile fire in their home, but nothing could be further from the truth. You’ll only have 2-3 minutes at most to escape from your home before the smoke and heat and toxic gases overcome you.
Residential fire sprinklers will save lives. Period. Only residential sprinkler systems start to actively control the fire and prevent its rapid and deadly progression to “flashover”, the instantaneous ignition of all the combustible materials in the area of the fire. Together with properly installed and working smoke detectors, residential fire sprinklers provide the closest thing to “ironclad” protection to your family and your home from the ravages of fire.
Sounds like something no home should be without, right? Yet, despite all the major building codes and fire prevention code organizations putting residential fire sprinkler requirements into their codes, builders and developers–and the politicians that they support–continue to fight the implementation of those code requirements.
Like antebellum Southern politicians whose protection of the institution of slavery was an issue of “states rights”, those builders and developers and politicians want residential fire sprinkler installation to be a “local issue”. They want to keep it “local” so that they can keep it from happening. In places where their efforts are successful, people will continue to die needlessly.
Get involved in your community. Arm yourself with the facts about residential sprinkler systems and join forces with your local fire department to ensure that the code requirements are implemented in you community. Lives depend upon our actions.
Great Tool for Teaching Fire Safety to Children
The Burn Prevention Foundation has just rolled out a fantastic new program to help teach youngsters the key principles of getting out of a house that’s on fire. This educational role playing game uses an interactive computer-based format to give children ages 6-16 scenarios that help them to develop good decision-making skills when presented with a hostile fire.
I’ve spoken many times in past postings about the need to conduct home escape drills with your children, especially the little ones, and this new program fits right in with that message–and it appeals to the interactive computer gaming learning mind-set of today’s youth. Another neat feature of this program is that it allows the child to experience a variety of “fire escape situations” in buildings and locations other than their home. Think about it: how many different places is your child every day? They could be in a store, at the library or a friend’s house when a fire breaks out and they would need to make the correct decisions to safely evacuate.
This type of practical decision-making education is critical for our children because the part of their brain that can make critical decisions does not fully develop until their early 20’s according to research at the National Institutes of Health. It’s important for parents and caregivers alike to continually talk to children about fire safety topics, particularly fire escape skills, because our children do not remember such information after hearing it once or twice–heck, most adults don’t either!–they need simple, consistent messages delivered repeatedly. This program is a great tool for parents and caregivers to do that, and for their children to have some fun while learning to be “fire escape experts” as well.
What Parents aren’t Teaching their Children
Many adults in the United States rated having a fire in their home to be the greatest potential disaster that they and their family could face. The results of a recent survey jointly conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and the International Association of Fire Fighters, demonstrates that many adults are woefully ignorant of the simple things they can do to protect the family and their home. The study of 1000 adults in the United States found that a high percentage of the respondents engaged in risky behavior, e.g., leaving burning candles unattended, did not understand the hazards of space heaters, e.g., portable electric or kerosene heaters, and were not educating and preparing their children to recognize a fire and get out of the house.
Want to hear more? Eighty-four percent don’t talk to their children about the number one threat to the premature end of their children’s life! Seven out of ten respondents to the survey said that their children are not prepared to escape and survive a fire. Yet children are one of largest populations that suffer the adverse affects of fires: 15-20% of fire-related deaths involve children and a child under the age of five has double the potential to become a fire victim as does the rest of the population in the U.S.
If you are truly concerned as a parent about the good and welfare of your children, teach them how not to become a fire victim. Yes, I appreciate that there are a number of hazards facing children that you have to be concerned about, yet statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show that fire-related deaths are the #3 cause of avoidable death amongst children under the age of four, surpassed only the motor vehicle crashes (#1) and drowning (#2).
Consider for a moment, another “angle” on why you should prepare you and your entire family with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to avoid becoming a victim of fire: the loss of your home. In today’s economic climate can you really afford to lose your home—your family’s largest financial investment—in a fire? What kind of life would you have if you lost your home tomorrow?
Check out the links on my menu on the right side of this page for excellent sources of information and educational websites to help you prepare your children for a long and happy life unaffected by the ravages of fire. Do it today so that you and your family have a tomorrow.
Welcome to a “New Kid on the Block”
Actually, one new “kid”, who’s been “around the block” a few times when it comes to fire safety education, and her dog; The new kid is Dayna Hilton, a firefighter and fire safety educator in Clarksville, Arkansas and her dog is, Sparkles, a “best selling author” with over 9,000 copies of his book,Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog, sold to date.
Ms. Hilton is a veritable dynamo of fire safety educator energy. She’s a second generation firefighter who joined the fire service in August 2000. She is also the owner of Firehouse Dog Publishing, LLC™ and the author of the children’s fire safety book and audio book, Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog. Ms. Hilton also hosts several other websites and blogs including, Ask a Firefighter, FireSafetyEducator.com, the Playing it Safe blog on Firehouse.com and Safety Talk Radio.
As if that’s not enough to keep someone busy, Ms. Hilton is also a certified Public Fire and Life Safety Educator II and Firefighter II, serves on the Arkansas Fire Prevention Commission, as a deputy fire marshal for the State of Arkansas and serves on several national fire service committees. She is also an adjunct instructor for the Arkansas Fire Academy and a contract instructor for the National Fire Academy. She is the state educator contact for NFPA for the state of Arkansas, a member of the Home Safety Council’s Expert Network and a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor. Whew! That’s one busy person.
But, heh, fire safety for children is an important subject with many messages that parents and children alike need to know about. Ms. Hilton obviously has a passion for the fire service and fire safety education and we certainly need all the help we can get. The children and parents of the USA are better off because of people like Dayna Hilton and her passion for helping others. Take your kids and grab your mouse and go visit Dayna and Sparkles at “their place” Sparkle’s website or Dayna Hilton’s website. Check out their Facebook pages at Sparkles’ Facebook or Dayna’s Facebook.