NFPA Today

A line of food trucks

Keeping Food Truck Safety at the Forefront during COVID Times

With an uptick in COVID cases in many areas of the country, communities are once again revisiting social distancing and business protocols. California, the most populous state in the nation, elevated 41 of the state’s 58 counties to purple status two weeks ago – the most restrictive level of lockdown. The recent round of pandemic constraints in California mandates the shutdown of indoor food operations. Onsite dining limitations—whether at the hand of the government or due to good old mother nature making outside dining next to impossible in many parts of the country—may prompt a surge in food truck business in the coming months. In anticipation of potential dining shifts, NFPA has updated its popular Food Truck Safety fact sheet for food truck operators, the authorities responsible for inspecting them—and to some extent, for those who tend to flock to food trucks. The piece helps to ensure that motorized vehicles that cook, prepare, and serve food are operated in a way that adheres to the information found within NFPA 1 Fire Code and Chapter 17 of NFPA 96 Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations. In addition to offering convenient fuel, power and heating checklists, the following operational tips are also referenced: Do not leave cooking equipment unattended while it is still hot. Operate cooking equipment only when all windows, service hatches, and ventilation sources are fully opened. Close gas supply piping valves and gas container valves when equipment is not in use. Keep cooking equipment, including the cooking ventilation system, clean by regularly removing grease. Whether it’s during a global pandemic or during normal times, food trucks are appealing as business ventures and dining destinations, but it’s important to note that fire incidents in food trucks prompted the original development of the NFPA Food Truck Safety checklist five years ago. The dangers addressed then still exist today, so be mindful of the safety information referenced on the fact sheet—and visit NFPA’s food truck safety page for related resources.
House with holiday lights

Three Considerations for Electrical Professionals to Help Educate Consumers about Outdoor Decorative Holiday Lighting Safety

Normally, I would not be so excited to acknowledge the fact that the year is coming to a close. But this year is not a normal year. I think I speak for all of us when I say I am glad to be closing out all these months of craziness. With that being said, the end of the year can only mean one thing, it’s the holiday season. I can’t think of a better way to take my mind off what’s happening than to spend time celebrating the things we can be thankful for. There’s nothing like friends and family to put all of this into perspective and remind myself about how blessed I really am, even if the gatherings are taking place via video conferencing platforms. However, there are a few things to keep in mind during this season of celebration to ensure that it runs smoothly. One of the often-overlooked areas that present possible fire, life safety, and electrical hazards is decorative holiday lighting. It never fails that every year we hear about fires or injuries caused by misused or misapplied lighting. And it stands to reason that this is because consumers and users of temporary decorative lighting products are under informed of the dangers these products present. The good news is that the world has professionals like all of us to spread the word about properly using strands of temporary lighting. The NEC is a good place to start regarding what is required for these systems. One of the major points is the time frame in which we use this equipment. The NEC restricts these decorative holiday lighting displays to 90 days. And for good reason. Often this lighting is installed outdoors, on bushes, and on trees and is exposed to the elements and many factors that can lead to damage or deterioration of the insulation on the conductors. This presents many shock and fire scenarios that can simply be avoided if the lighting displays are limited in how long they are up. So it is very important that this rule gets followed. However, safety related codes and standards like the NEC only work when they are followed and often, they are only followed if they are enforced. So, how are we to feel safe knowing that each year millions of people put these light displays up and have no idea what the requirements are or even that there are requirements? Does the average homeowner know that these lighting strands need to be listed and labeled? Do they know the time constraints? How about the special conditions they must follow if they put lights in vegetation? The fact is, they don’t know about them and there is nobody to enforce these rules most of the time. And to be clear, I am not advocating that local jurisdictions add these types of installations to their list of inspectable installations, but I am advocating for us as electrical professionals to help educate the public on why these rules are so important. Just like the mechanic that helps walk you through how your car works, we as electrical professionals need to educate our customers on how the rules apply and why it is important for them to follow the rules. Often the public knows little more than how to turn the switch on, the light comes on, and that’s it. By helping them understand how to safeguard their installations from the dangers that electricity presents, we ultimately help make the world a safer place. It’s a big world, let’s protect it together! Find tips, information, and free downloadable resources to share with homeowners by visiting NFPA’s winter holiday safety webpage. 

Fire Break

Forest

Revisiting the home ignition zone: the extended 30-100 feet

When we talk about the Home Ignition Zone and actions for improving the chances of surviving a wildfire, we recommend starting at the home and working out from there. In previous blogs we've discussed the immediate (0-5 feet) and intermediate (5-30 feet) areas around the home, as wildfire risk reduction activities are completed in those areas, residents should start to focus on the extended zone, 30-100 feet from the base of the home. This area allows for a little more flexibility when it comes to management as the goal isn't to eliminate fire, rather to interrupt fire's path and keep flames smaller and on the ground. Landscaping practices such as thinning and removing smaller trees and shrubs, breaking up continuous fuel and creating islands, and creating a more open, park-like setting can have a positive influence on fire behavior and how it spreads. When looking at your home or a group of homes, here are some items to consider: Are there heavy accumulations of ground litter/debris? Is there dead plant and tree material that should be removed? Are storage sheds and/or other outbuildings in this zone clear of vegetation? Do mature trees have small conifers and brush growing between them or is the space maintained? Do trees 30–60 feet from the home have at least 12 feet between canopy tops? Is there at least 6 feet between canopy tops of trees located 60–100 feet from the home? If a home or community is on a hill, the extended zone may be drawn-out to 200 feet.  This is because fire tends to burn faster uphill, pre-heating the vegetation above it.  Creating a bigger buffer and managing vegetation on the downhill side of a home is critical. As with the intermediate area, property lines  in the extended zone may overlap.  As you work on projects, consider reaching out to your neighbors to collaborate and leverage resources.  Remember, living in a wildfire prone area is a commitment, requiring work to be done throughout the year.  When you look around your home, it might seem a bit overwhelming but rather than endeavoring to do it all at once, try breaking your home and yard in to projects, prioritize them based biggest threat or easiest win, and work on one at a time. Sign up for NFPA Network to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire-related topics. As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA's response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.
HIZ Class26 TX 2015

FEMA's Fire Prevention & Safety Grant to support creation of a digital wildfire risk reduction program

To meet the needs of homeowners and business owners at risk from wildfire, and the fire departments that serve them, NFPA will develop a digital wildfire safety hub containing online learning modules, 3D simulations, educational videos, and other essential resources, all thanks to a generous FEMA grant. The Fire Prevention & Safety Grant was awarded to NFPA for a two-year project to transform its classroom-based wildfire risk reduction training into a comprehensive digital learning experience that reaches millions of Americans living and working in the wildland/urban interface (WUI). While the past few years of devastating wildfires in California have captured national attention, it's not only California communities that are vulnerable. The recently released Wildfire Risk to Communities data shows that 24 states, nearly half outside the Western U.S., have a significant risk to homes.With nearly 44 million properties identified as vulnerable to the impacts of wildfires nationwide, the potential for future structure damage and loss is enormous. NFPA chose a digital experiential approach to ensure the widest possible dissemination and implementation of critical wildfire mitigation measures to these high-risk areas. The project will be conducted in partnership with the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), an independent, nonprofit, scientific research and communications organization, and overseen by a technical advisory panel of experts. NFPA will develop three curricula: one each for homeowners, business owners/property managers, and fire service and public safety personnel. Each will provide the appropriate knowledge for each audience regarding WUI fire mitigation practices, using interactive web-based training and engaging simulations in a 3D virtual environment. The experiential training modules and additional tools will be readily available, along with NFPA's rich wildfire safety content, on the planned website hub. NFPA believes the courses and tools we will build with the support of this grant will help spur much needed risk-reduction measures at the property and neighborhood levels, buoying the voluntary efforts of residents and firefighters who engage in fire adaptation including NFPA's Firewise USA Recognition Program and its annual Wildfire Community Preparedness Day campaign. Image: An in-person classroom training, Assessing Structure Ignition Potential from Wildfire. The new training and resources will use the information and knowledge this class is based on to expand NFPA's wildfire safety education to millions of Americans through digital delivery.

Safety Source

Thanksgiving with family

The Day before Thanksgiving is the Second-Leading Day for Home Cooking Fires

At NFPA, we put a lot of effort to promoting the importance of cooking safety on Thanksgiving Day, which makes sense, considering it’s the peak day of the year for home cooking fires. According to our latest Home Cooking Fires report, 3.5 times as many cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving as an average day. But the day before Thanksgiving deserves attention too, as it serves as the second-leading day for home cooking fires. As fire departments and other safety advocates work to ensure cooking safety in their communities, it’s important to remind everyone that it’s not only Thanksgiving Day that the likelihood of cooking fires spikes. It’s the time many of us spend preparing in advance of the big feast that the risk increases as well. Following are tips and recommendations from NFPA for cooking safely on Thanksgiving and in advance of the holiday as well: Never leave the kitchen while cooking on the stovetop. Some types of cooking, especially those that involve frying or sautéing with oil, need continuous attention. When cooking a turkey or other items in the oven, stay in your home and check on it regularly. Set a timer on your stove or phone to keep track of cooking times, particularly for foods that require longer cook times. Keep things that can catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers, and towels away from direct contact with the cooking area. Avoid long sleeves and hanging fabrics that could come in contact with a heat source. Always cook with a lid beside your pan. If you have a fire, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Do not remove the cover because the fire could start again. Let the pan cool for a long time. Never throw water or use a fire extinguisher on a grease fire. For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. Only open the door once you’re confident the fire is completely out, standing to the side as you do. If you have any doubts or concerns, contact the fire department for assistance. Keep children at least three feet away from the stove and areas where hot food or drink is being prepared or served. Steam or spills from these items can cause severe burns. Use our Thanksgiving safety tips sheet and other Thanksgiving fire safety resources to help ensure that everyone enjoys a festive, fire-safe holiday.  
A fire and cup of hot chocolate

Engaging your Community to Prepare for Winter Fire Safety

On Monday, November 16, the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) hosted a live Facebook event featuring ways for Fire & Life Safety (FLS) Educators to reach their communities with life saving winter fire safety information and resources.  Promoting winter safety isn’t anything new, however the impacts of COVID-19 have created new challenges in connecting with our communities.   Moderated by Michael McLeieer of the Michigan State Firemen’s Association, the event focused on key fire & home safety risks during the winter months and innovative ways to connect communities with education and resources.  From cooking to heating to electrical to candles and decorations, I along with co-panelists Teresa Neal, Fire Program Specialist of the US Fire Administration, and Blaise Harris, Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Rocky Mount Fire Department in North Carolina, answered a variety of questions related to how FLS educators can package and promote fire safety.  “One thing is for sure,” says Harris, “this virtual environment isn’t going anywhere. Even when we are able to be in a room together again, we will still be using technology.”  Getting comfortable and partnering with those who have the skills using the various platforms is key to staying relevant and staying connected.  “Reach out to your day care and pre-schools,” suggests Neal, adding, “this is a great way to send home materials like home safety checklists, home escape planning sheets and other materials.”  While many schools and organizations may be closed to the public, take advantage of what is still operating to partner and use as a vehicle to deliver your educational messages. “Collaborate and learn from each other,” says McLeieer, promoting participation in the Fire Life Safety Educators and Coordinators Facebook Group, an open forum to share, ask, and learn.  Taking advantage of local and national webinars and virtual conferences for professional development will continue to a need and the norm for FLS educators to keep up with a changing world. Other ideas generated from the conversation included: Partnering with your local library to host virtual education sessions and support outreach, Partnering with local take out and deliver services to incorporate educational materials for home safety, Use of all social media platform – YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to both create repetition of messaging and reach a variety of demographics in your community, Use good, credible resources like those from NFPA and USFA to assure up to date, relevant and accurate information, Use the NFPA Educational Messaging Desk Reference A recording of the event is available for those who missed it.  Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and follow NFPA on Twitter, Facebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division at NFPA.

Fire Sprinkler Initiative

Sprinkler demostration

Holiday Heads Up - New Hampshire Holiday Demonstration Highlights Safety Concerns Around Artificial Christmas Trees

With Thanksgiving behind us, gifts and decorations for the December holidays are the next subject on people’s minds. We consistently see increases in home fires during this time of year, so in our Holiday Heads-Up series, we will focus on a different topic of seasonal fire safety each week. Today we turn to Christmas trees, a popular tradition in many households. Artificial Christmas trees appeal for their convenience, but they bring their own fire risk concerns. A demonstration in New Hampshire with the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) highlighted this risk in a side-by-side house fire demonstration, emphasizing the need for caution during the holidays. Flashover—when everything ignites and no one can survive—can happen in as little as two minutes. In the demonstration, two mock living rooms caught fire from a heating element, sending the identical fake tree, decorations, couch, and presents aflame. While Christmas tree fires are uncommon, they can be very serious. A natural tree is three times more likely to cause a fire than an artificial one, but as we can see in the demonstration, that risk is not to be underestimated. In the event of a fire, working smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers will increase occupants’ chances of escape and start controlling the flames before first responders arrive. It is best to install sprinklers during initial home construction, but retrofitting is also possible, with the cost of sprinklers in new homes adding around $1.35 per square foot. Use this safety sheet to inform members of your community about the benefits of home fire sprinklers. Remember these tips when decorating with trees for the holidays: Only use artificial trees certified by a testing organization Maintain a distance of at least three feet between heating elements and Christmas trees Keep electrical decorations and lights in good condition Make sure your tree doesn’t block any exits Never use candles to decorate a tree Review this Winter Holiday Safety tip sheet for more recommendations on how to decorate safely this holiday season. To learn more about home fire sprinklers and how to get them in your community, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative.
MM13

Mythblaster Monday 13: Mythblasting Roundup

We know that new homes are commonly made with lightweight construction and modern, often synthetic furnishings that can lead home fires to create a toxic environment and burn more quickly than in the past. Home fire sprinklers protect occupants and property by controlling the fire before first responders arrive, but misinformation can keep people from taking advantage of them. Over the course of our Mythblaster Monday series, we have combatted several different myths and shared resources highlighting the features, facts, and advantages. A recent report on home structure fires found that the presence of sprinklers lowered the death rate for home fires by 85 percent, compared to home fires without an automatic extinguishing system (AES), and in 90 percent of cases, one sprinkler is enough to control the fire. This benefit to fire & life safety cannot be overstated and increasing home fire sprinkler installations requires a combined effort from first responders, developers, local officials, and other stakeholders. Here's a breakdown of all the myths we have blasted away, in case you missed it: Myth 1: I have smoke alarms, so I don't need home fire sprinklers. Truth: Smoke alarms detect, sprinklers protect. Myth 2: Home Fire Sprinkler installation is too expensive. Truth: Average fire sprinklers cost $1.35 per square foot of sprinklered space in new construction Myth 3: The fire department will be able to put out the fire and save my things. Fact: Fire departments may not be able to get to your home for 9-12 minutes—plenty of time for a fire to grow to be deadly and cause massive damages. Myth 4: Sprinklers don't benefit the environment Fact: Fire hoses, on average, use eight-and-a-half times more water than sprinklers do to contain a fire. Myth 5: Water damage from sprinklers is worse than fire damage Fact: Sprinkler flows are 10-26 gallons of water per minute. Sprinkler damage is a fraction of typical losses from an unsprinklered home fire. Myth 6: Smoke alarms cause fire sprinklers to activate. Fact: Home fire sprinklers are only activated by the high temperature of a fire surrounding the sprinkler. Myth 7: Home fire sprinklers require costly inspections and maintenance. Fact: It's easy--a flow test should be done a couple times a year. Myth 8: Sprinklers will leak. Fact: Sprinkler mishaps are generally less likely and less severe than home plumbing system problems. Myth 9: My insurance rates will go up. Fact: Most insurance companies reward customers who protect their homes with fire sprinklers Myth 10: If a community doesn't require home fire sprinklers, we can't ask builders to put them in. Fact: Even without a code requirement, local jurisdictions can work with developers and builders on many possible incentives for including home fire sprinklers in construction. Myth 11: If one sprinkler goes off, they all go off Fact: Sprinklers activate independently; only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate Myth 12: Sprinklers will freeze in winter. Fact: The national installation standard provides guidance for proper installation in cold regions so that sprinklers don't freeze. This series works as an introduction to the assets available to home fire sprinkler advocates. Be sure to visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative to find further materials regarding installation incentives, educational resources for the public, AHJs, and more.

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