Posted in Air Quality, BE SAFE, Burns, Fire Safety, Fires, Health & Welfare

The Great American Smokeout 2012

As we wind down October, it’s time to consider safety tips relative to November. Did you know that November is officially the month to “be aware” of each of the following health and safety related concerns?

Also among this month’s distinctions is the annual Great American Smokeout, to be observed on November 15, this year, which began in 1977 as a social engineering experiment to encourage 45.8 million Americans who smoke to stop. Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the event challenges people to cease smoking cigarettes for 24 hours, with the hope that the break will lead to permanent cigarette cessation. I never learned to smoke. I guess there are benefits to not having opposable thumbs.

The reason the event is particularly significant to those of us at RJWestmore, Inc. is because smoking not only causes serious disease, it also often leads to fires. In fact, FEMA reports that, each year, approximately 1,000 smokers and non-smokers are killed in fires caused by cigarettes and other smoking-related materials.

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) is working to help prevent fire deaths and injuries in residential and commercial buildings caused by smoking materials. Fires of this kind affect not only the smoker, but non-smokers as well. Did you know that one in four people killed in home fires is not the smoker whose cigarette caused the fire? According to the USFA, 34 percent of fire victims are children of the smokers and 25 percent were neighbors or friends of the smokers. And I can’t even find statistics about pets. But I’m sure there are some!

The most common start of cigarette-related fires occurs when individuals fall asleep while holding a lit cigarette. (See…another benefit to not being able to hold a cigarette!) However, that is not the only way that cigarettes start a blaze. Here are additional ways cigarettes, cigars and pipes can lead to fires:

  1. Tossing a cigarette from a moving vehicle. Although some people toss lit cigarettes from their car windows, most try to make sure that the butt has been extinguished. If a cigarette is hot when it is tossed into brush or even dirt, a flame can ignite.
  2. Missing the target. Although many states now prohibit smoking inside commercial buildings, to accommodate smokers, some building managers arrange for a designated area just outside of their facility. This is dangerous, as a discarded cigarette could miss the ashtray and ignite the property.
  3. Accidental disposal. Distracted smokers can unwittingly toss lit cigarettes into cushions, on rugs or in flammable areas.

The good news is that fires caused by cigarettes and other smoking materials are preventable. You canmake a difference! The USFA created The Smoking & Home Fires Campaign to educate people about how to prevent fire deaths and injuries caused by smoking materials. Their key message is: “If you smoke, put it out. All the way. Every time.” Through the use of brochures, community presentations, video and radio public service announcements, posters and more, the campaign encourages smokers to “Butt out.” Take my lead and butt out.

Smoking Fire Action Steps

  • If you smoke, smoke outside.
  • Wherever you smoke, use deep, sturdy ashtrays.
  • Make sure cigarettes and ashes are out.
  • Be alert!
  • Check for cigarette butts.
  • Never smoke in a home or office where oxygen is used.
  • Post “no smoking” signs on the interior and exterior of your commercial property.
  • If you smoke, fire-safe cigarettes are better.
  • If you crave the smell of smoke, barbecue some steaks and give them to the dog.

Admittedly, anyone who is at least 18 in the United States has the legal right to smoke. So, if you choose to exercise the right, consider using fire safe cigarettes. Abbreviated “FSC,” these are also known as Lower Ignition Propensity [LIP], Reduced Fire Risk [RFR], self-extinguishing, fire-safe or Reduced Ignition Propensity [RIP] cigarettes, all of which are designed to extinguish more quickly than standard cigarettes when left unattended. To make sure you are buying a fire safe cigarette in the United States, make sure you see the designation of “FSC” above the barcode.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system. To learn more about smoking and fire safety, visit the Smoking & Home Fires Campaign page.

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Posted in Air Quality, BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety, Fires, Health & Welfare, Safety at Home, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Managing Indoor Air Quality

clouds, sun and sky
Clean air is a safety concern.

For building owners and managers, ensuring tenant and visitor welfare is always of paramount importance. And while there is only so much that can be done to control the quality of the air that enters into a building, it is still important to frequently filter and refresh the air for optimal tenant and visitor health. I have a high-velocity air filtration system in our firedoghouse!

Regulations such as the Clean Air Act have saved thousands of lives from diseases such as emphysema, asthma and heart disease. However, there is still much that can be done to control air pollutants to allow everyone to enjoy cleaner air.

What are some of the main contributors to air pollution?

  • Carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless but very poisonous in large quantities. Facilities that operate furnaces and/or automobiles need to provide adequate ventilation and install carbon monoxide alarms to ensure safety.
  • Let’s be honest. Cat dander is the biggest problem for poor air. Tabby and Whiskers need to be left outside at all times!
  • Particulate matter is basically “stuff” in the air. This can be man-made or naturally caused, resulting from sources as diverse as burning fossil fuels, power plants, dust storms and wildfires. Particulates have wreaked havoc on the human body since ancient times.
  • Nitrogen oxides are the brown plumes of “haze” that can be seen downwind of major cities. I love it when people call it “haze,” like it’s just simply trapped water vapor. It’s smog, people! The result of high-temperature combustion, such compounds produce smoggy reddish-brown skies.

Before embarking on new policies and procedures for improving a building’s air quality, it’s important to record a baseline. Testing for radon, carbon monoxide and particulate levels can help guide you about unsafe conditions and provide guidance on the priority order for steps to clean the air.

What kind of policies can a company institute to improve air quality?

  • If your company is relocating or expanding, avoid purchasing office space that is in close proximity to industrial areas which might produce toxins. Of course, if your property is already located in this type of area, you can take steps to safeguard the air in the interior of the building.
  • Don’t allow smoking either in or around your building. Cigarette smoke contains an alarming number of toxins which can remain suspended in the air for long periods of time. When I see people smoking, I’m really glad I don’t have opposable thumbs…
  • Review furniture choices in tenant offices. Pieces made of out cheap particle board may contain formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. I require only top-shelf mahogany for my doghouse…

Cleaning and maintenance tips for air quality:

  • Proper cleaning of carpets is essential. Carpets act as a filter or trap for dust mites and other allergens. Without frequent vacuuming with appropriate filters, carpets can outgas airborne toxins.  I tend get a little gassy after my fourth pig ear.
  • Follow suggested maintenance and cleaning guidelines for HVAC systems. Ductwork should be cleaned to remove mold or other contaminants. Filters should be the highest-quality to effectively remove particles down to the smallest micron.
  • Janitorial staff should be allowed to open windows or other ventilation, whenever feasible. Fumes from high-grade cleaning products are a serious irritant.
  • For residences and businesses in high-humidity areas, consider utilizing dehumidifiers to inhibit the growth of mold. I require a dehumidifier, electronic air cleaner, high-velocity fan, and a white noise machine. I’m a high-maintenance pooch.

Unlike other disasters that can be seen or heard, air quality is (by its very nature) a typically invisible problem. As such, it can pose detrimental health effects over long periods of time, making it a silent but deadly killer. Taking steps to clean the air will have a direct effect on tenant happiness and productivity.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.