Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Fires, Holiday Safety, Uncategorized, Workplace Safety

Holiday Office Safety Tips

Holiday Office SafetyThe holidays are upon us, and with them, opportunities abound to enjoy celebrations with family, neighbors, colleagues, canines and friends. As you plan your 2018 holiday season, please consider these office safety tips, designed to help you safely make the most of this festive time of the year. Continue reading “Holiday Office Safety Tips”

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, High-Rise Buildings, Uncategorized

Happy National Fire Prevention Week

Fire Prevention Week 2018

National Fire Prevention Week: “Look. Listen. Learn.”  

In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson announced the first ever event to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, which occurred in October of 1874. Each October since 1924, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has led the annual charge to implement National Fire Prevention Great Chicago Fire Prevention Week 2018Week™. This year’s observance takes place this week, with the theme, “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere™.” I guess that includes doghouses! Continue reading “Happy National Fire Prevention Week”

Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Holiday Safety, Safety at Home, Uncategorized

What You Absolutely Need to Know About Holiday Safety

 

Holiday Safety
Delicious feasts and brilliant decorations are hallmarks of the holiday season. For the record, my favorite holiday food is gizzards. Unfortunately, however, these festive favorites also can pose potential fire hazards. Thankfully, you can enjoy everything that makes the holidays special during this time of year while simultaneously keeping your loved ones safe. Continue reading “What You Absolutely Need to Know About Holiday Safety”

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Safety at Home, Uncategorized, Workplace Safety

Elevator Recalls and Safety Tips

image002The advancing age of many elevators and decreased preventative maintenance have recently given rise to the number of elevator failures, such as stalled cars. Nevertheless, elevators remain an exceedingly safe mode of transportation, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission reporting an average associated fatality rate of just 0.00000015% per trip, which represents a total of 27 deaths per year resulting from 18 billion rides. This statistic positions elevator rides as safer than vehicles, airplanes or even stairs

Unfortunately, elevator rides can be nerve-wracking and potentially dangerous for dogs. In fact, a dog in Russia was nearly killed because his leash got caught in a moving elevator. Thankfully, someone pulled him to safety.

Elevator manufacturers stake their reputation on safety, investing considerable resources into redundant systems to help protect elevator occupants. Nevertheless, elevators occasionally malfunction and even break down. Safety malfunctions can involve doors, buttons, cables, and additional components. Here are a few recent strides made in elevator safety:

  • Recall given for Porta elevators. The recall was necessary due to faulty electro mechanical door locks.
  • Elevators manufactured by ThyssenKrupp elevator doors were opening between floors, exposing people to the elevator shaft. When I retire from the fire station, I’m thinking about adding three more stories to our dog house. But stairs will probably suit us just fine.
  • Firefighter Emergency Operations (FEO) transfers control and accessibility of elevator cabs from the public to firefighters during emergencies. Removing public access to elevators in emergencies reduces the possibility of injury or death resulting from cars that accidentally open up on a floor that has an active fire.
  • Otis elevator operates a 38-story elevator test facility in Bristol, Connecticut to properly test cars, cables, and motors. I’d love to be in the “dog biscuit” test facility where I could taste new treats.

Core safety features of modern elevators:image001

  • Electromagnetic brakes are used to keep the car in place, and will automatically snap shut if the elevator system loses electrical power. Modern elevators also feature braking systems located at the top and bottom of the elevator shaft, which can detect excessive elevator movement and apply brakes, when necessary.
  • Despite the common Hollywood movie scene of an elevator cable snapping and elevator car plummeting, this scenario is unrealistic. Elevator cables are comprised of sturdy steel strands, which have been designed to single-handedly support the entire weight of the car and occupants. Each elevator contains between four and eight cables for each car, which provides multiple levels of redundancy.

Stuck in a Tin Can

woman hands try to stop doors of the closed elevator

As alarming as it can be, getting stuck in an elevator is rarely a life-threatening situation. Elevators occasionally get stuck. But even when this occurs, core safety systems remain intact.

Elevator safety tips:

  • Do not attempt to rush into an elevator while the doors are closing. Simply wait for the next car. Also, keep leashed pets very close to you, for their safety as well as the safety of everyone in the car.
  • Try not to panic about oxygen. While the car is an admittedly confined space, you should have plenty of available air to breath. Elevator cars are not airtight.
  • Never, ever try to exit a stalled elevator car through the roof hatch or by prying the doors apart. This is the most important tip, as several deaths have tragically occurred when people try to escape stalled cars. In many cases, the elevator will stop between floors, leaving occupants with the mistaken impression that they would be able to crawl out to safety. However, if the elevator moves as someone is trying to escape, they could be trapped and tragically, crushed. So stay put and be patient.out of order elevator to success, please take the stairs
  • If the elevator car stalls, use the elevator phone and/or your cellphone to alert authorities. Remain calm.

Additional Tips from our friends at Allied Universal

While elevators have proven to be a very safe way of transporting both people and merchandise, occasionally malfunctions do occur. Common problems can include elevators that do not correctly align with the floor, doors that do not open or close properly, stopping between floors or stopping altogether and entrapping occupants.

Universal Services of America offers the following tips to help ensure your safety and knowledge regarding proper elevator use.

When you approach the elevator

  • Stand aside for exiting passengers.
  • Wait for the next car if the elevator is already full.
  • Do not attempt to stop a closing door.
  • Use the stairs, not an elevator, if there is a fire in the building.

When you enter and exit the elevator

  • Watch your step, as the elevator floor may not be level with the landing.
  • Stand clear of the doors, and keep your clothing and any carry-on items away from the opening.

When riding on the elevator

  • Stand back from the doors and hold the handrail, if available.
  • Pay attention to the floor indications, so you may exit when you arrive at your floor.
  • Discern between the “open door” button and the “close door” button to avoid confusing them, if needed.

If you find yourself in an elevator that has become stuck

  • Push the “door open” button. If that does not work, ring the elevator alarm.
  • Use the emergency phone, alarm or help button, if available, to summon emergency personnel. Or use your cell phone to call 9-1-1.
  • Do not attempt to force the doors open.
  • Never try to leave the elevator car on your own, as doing so could result in serious injury.
  • Remain calm. Elevators contain sufficient oxygen levels to last until help arrives.

For more info on elevator safety or to learn about escalator safety, visit the National Elevator Industry website at www.neii.org.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, whether or not you use elevators. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, High-Rise Buildings, Uncategorized

Fire Risk in High-Rise Buildings

RJW Firedog High Rise FireProper fire emergency planning and prevention for residential high-rise buildings require special tactics. To that end, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has assembled a “High-Rise Building Safety Advisory Committee” to spot the unique needs and issues relative to safety in high-rise buildings. Since the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services has recently launched several residential training modules, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some of the NFPA strategies, with the goal of helping our subscribers and friends to #BeSafe.

Prepare Your Building and Residents

Many fires are preventable if proper protocols are put into place and building occupants acquaint themselves with recommended safety procedures. Here are several tips for high-rise building property owners and managers help prevent the occurrence and reduce the impact of fires (which, in my opinion, is always a good idea!):tafel mk brand loeschen II

  • Create a formal plan. A written fire emergency plan is essential for optimal safety of residents as well as property. Map evacuation routes, meeting zone locations, sprinkler plans, and fire extinguisher locations. My pack is keen on locating fire extinguisher locations.
  • Keep halls and stairways free of impediments. A minute delay can be the difference between occupants’ safe escape and catastrophe. Keeping walkways clear will provide first responders with easy access.
  • Test backup and safety systems including emergency lighting and building communication systems. A safety system my canine friends and I love to use is the Twilight Bark.
  • Produce a floorplan of the entire building with floor-by-floor layouts, including the location of floor drains, water valves, utility shut-offs, and standpipe locations. Make the evacuation information easily accessible to building occupants.
  • Conduct drills. Residential occupants of a high-rise might be tempted to brush off fire drills as “false alarms.” Inform occupants that they should never assume alarms are part of a drill. Instruct them about the need to evacuate or quickly take directives in the event of any and all alarms.

corridor of modern office building

Install and Maintain Sprinkler Systems

Sprinkler systems installed in high-rise buildings reduce both the loss of life and property damage. In addition, they are essential for high rise buildings, since fire truck ladders only reach six or seven floors. And since sprinkler systems are designed to go off only in the immediate area of the fire, you need not worry about unnecessary water damage. That sounds like a good idea. No need to flood floors that aren’t involved in the blaze!

According to NFPA data between 1996 and 2001, the costs incurred in buildings with functioning sprinkler systems was less than $400,000, while buildings without such systems saw losses averaging $2.2 million. Sounds like a significant difference!

Maintenance tips and best practices for sprinkler systems:

  • Check water supply and pressure levels. High-rises require greater water pressure to push water against gravity.
  • Ensure water valves are open and fire pumps are in good working order.
  • Properly brace water sprinkler pipes for buildings that are in high-risk earthquake zones.
  • Inspect pipes for corrosion or leaks and check sprinkler heads blocked by dust.
  • Test the main drain lines to see how far the water pressure drops with open valves when water is flowing. If the test shows, for example, a bigger drop in pressure difference every six months, then there is likely a valve problem somewhere in the system that should be addressed.exit icon

Evacuation Guidelines for High-Rise Occupants

In a typical single-story residence, with sufficient warning from smoke detectors, occupants will likely escape unhurt. In a high-rise, however, people have to navigate stairwells and hallways to exit the building. What’s more, evacuation routes could be blocked due to fire and smoke. Evacuating people from a high rise is difficult, and requires the formation of a sound evacuation plan and following best practices for residents including:

  • Memorize the plan. Residents must know what they will do in a fire emergency. Memorization is important for humans because they don’t share my acute sense of smell. So rely on your memory instead of your nose!
  • Practice the plan. Encourage residents to conduct their own mock drills (in addition to your formal drills) in order to make the evacuation route familiar.
  • Do not use elevators. Create contingency plans for residents who might have trouble walking or difficulty navigating stairs.
  • Stay low to stay safe. Smoke rises, so residents should proceed under the smoke whenever possible.
  • Remain in the residence. If occupants cannot enter hallways because of impassable smoke or fire, they should stay in their residences and mark their location on exterior windows. Also, place towels at the bottom of the door to block smoke.

Remember that safety is a daily priority. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time, whether or not you live or work in a high-rise facility. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

 

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, High-Rise Buildings, Residential Training, Safety at Home

Announcing Our First Residential Training Module

Kitchen Residential 2Every 19 seconds, a fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the United States, which makes fire an ever-present danger at home, at work, and even while you are traveling. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services has long provided commercial building occupants, owners and managers with affordable, entertaining training for disaster preparedness. So it was natural that we would want to expand that training from commercial to residential facilities. To that end, we are pleased to announce release of our very first residential training module, which focuses on fire safety. The training is perfect for people of all ages, in any residential building, apartment, condo, or student housing. It is also available in English and Spanish. I wonder if the tips apply to doghouses.

It’s not if, but when an emergency will happen. Knowing what to do in the first few minutes of an emergency can make the difference between life or death. Where fires are concerned, even small fires are extremely dangerous, wherever they begin. So, for fires that begin in commercial or residential buildings, the key to saving your own life and the lives of others will be your ability to remain calm and respond appropriately.Elevator Residential

The new module trains subscribers to recognize the important role they play in any fire event, such as what to do when they: smell smoke, need to safely evacuate (if possible), are unable to evacuate and need to shelter in place.  It also demonstrates ways to prevent a fire from starting in the first place as well as what to do if a fire alarm sounds. I’ve learned a lot about how to react calmly to fires by the guys in the firehouse. They really know how to keep a cool head while they fight fires.

The new online training module is:

Residential HallFast — It’s easy to complete in about 10 minutes. That’s a lot less time than it takes to even watch a single episode of Scooby Doo.

Convenient — Training is available 24/7, with unlimited usage and accessibility by iPhone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

Rewarding — Instant personalized certificate of completion is emailed to participants for each topic. Also, management is able to access and print a report to show the status of each occupant’s training. I’ve completed some of these training modules and, I’m telling you — the certificates are suitable for framing.

Informative — It’s loaded with emergency preparedness information, resources and links.

Here are just a few of the lifesaving tips you will learn when you take the training:

  • When to report fire to emergency services.
  • Which information to tell 911 operators.
  • Why you should avoid using elevators during a fire. Here is a hint…they could open onto the floor of the fire. Best to avoid this.
  • When to familiarize yourself with evacuation procedures.
  • The only reason to fight a fire yourself.
  • The method for safely using a fire extinguisher.
  • What to do if someone catches fire.
  • Ways to minimize the risk of smoke inhalation.
  • When to evacuate the building or shelter in place.
  • How to know it is safe to reenter the building.
  • Much more!

Residential Couple on CouchAfter watching a 10-minute animated video, subscribers are able to print building-specific information and take a short quiz, which features key points covered in the online training. The thing I love about the training modules is that I was able to retake the quiz when I missed questions, until I earned a perfect score! Once each question has been answered correctly, certification is immediately issued and emailed to the participant. And more importantly, students who have completed the training will be prepared when the unexpected becomes a reality.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, not just where residential fire life safety is concerned. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Uncategorized

Why Your Building Needs Fire Sprinklers

illustration of firefighterLast weekend, a band at a Phoenix, AZ nightclub used a flammable liquid at the front of the stage, which started a fire. Because the fire sprinkler closest to the fire activated and extinguished the flames, no one was injured in the event. Thirteen years ago, a similar fire (caused by band pyrotechnics) in West Warwick, R.I. took the lives of 100 people and injured 230 others. The sole difference between the two events? The Rebel Lounge in Arizona has a fire sprinkler system; the Station nightclub in Rhode Island did not. Is it just me, or is it pretty obvious that fire sprinklers are a good idea?

Dalmation Fire DogThe National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) commends not only those involved in extinguishing the Arizona fire, but also the local officials who had the foresight to adopt fire sprinkler requirements. Fire safety professionals, victims and firedogs agree that sprinkler systems save lives.

John Barylick, author of “Killer Show, The Station Nightclub Fire, America’s Deadliest Rock Concert,” said, “Unfortunately, humans can be very slow learners when it comes to playing with fire in places of public assembly – witness this week’s near-tragedy at the Rebel Lounge. Fortunately, local officials there had enacted common-sense sprinkler requirements, and disaster was averted.”

Some Rebel Lounge customers complained that sprinklers stopped the show. I understand why they were angry that the band stopped playing. But how were they supposed to play with a fire raging? In response, one Rhode Island survivor, Rob Feeney, who lost his fiancée and received second and third-degree burns, offered his own insights:

“As a survivor of the Station Nightclub fire, I want to tell everyone who is upset because the fire sprinkler activation stopped the show, (to) be thankful for that. Fire is fast, and while you think you can escape, I’m here to tell you it’s too fast. We must unite in support of fire sprinklers.”

Ceiling Fire Sprinkler isolated on whiteSprinklers were invented by an American named Henry S. Parmalee, in 1874, to protect his piano factory. Until the 1940s and 1950s, sprinkler systems were installed almost exclusively for the protection of buildings, especially warehouses and factories. Insurance savings, which could offset the cost of the system in a few years’ time, were major incentives.

Automatic fire sprinklers are individually heat-activated, and tied into a network of piping with water under pressure. When the heat of a fire raises the sprinkler temperature to its operating point (usually 165ºF), a solder link will melt or a liquid-filled glass bulb will shatter to open that single sprinkler, releasing water directly over the source of the heat. Isn’t science cool?

According to a recent study by the NFPA, when sprinklers operated, they were effective 96 percent of the time, resulting in a combined performance of operating effectively in 87 percent of all reported fires. Sprinklers are effective because they do not rely upon human factors such as familiarity with escape routes or emergency assistance to operate automatically in the area of fire origin. I have seen that, in many cases, it seems wise to eliminate the risk associated with human error. Sprinklers go to work immediately, preventing a fire from growing undetected to a dangerous size, while simultaneously sounding an alarm. In most cases, this prevents the danger of intense heat associated with fast-growing infernos, which are capable of trapping and killing dozens of building occupants.

If you are still on the fence about incorporating a fire sprinkler system into your facility, consider these five fire sprinkler facts, adapted from the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA):

  1. Smoke does not set off fire sprinklers. Sprinklers are activated by heat. In fact, the heat necessary to set off the average sprinkler is anywhere from 150° F to 165°, achievable only by fire. So that’s good. It means the sprinklers won’t go off on a hot day.
  2. The only sprinkler heads that will activate in the event of a fire are the ones located closest to a fire. In 81 percent of structure fires, only one or two sprinkler heads are activated.
  3. Upset couple with a dog sitting in a canoe in their flooded living room, under a leaking ceiling, EPS 8 vector illustration, no transparenciesFire sprinklers produce far less water damage than fire hoses. The average sprinkler discharges just 10-26 gallons of water per minute, while a fire hose produces 150-250 gallons. In most cases, structures without fire sprinklers are heavily or completely destroyed by the mix of fire and water damage caused by fire hoses.
  4. Nationally, fire sprinklers cost $1.61 per square foot of coverage. Overall, the cost of installing fire sprinklers is comparable to installing carpeting or cabinets. Most insurance companies provide discounts to businesses and homeowners that have fire sprinklers, which compounded over time can pay back the costs. Isn’t it hard to put a price on safety?
  5. Fire sprinklers are not unsightly. Modern advances in fire sprinkler technology have enabled architects, contractors and designers to install fire sprinklers into residential properties and businesses in ways that are aesthetically pleasing and concealing. In fact, most people do not even notice fire sprinklers.

Over the past two decades, building codes have increasingly called for sprinklers throughout buildings for life safety, especially buildings in which rapid evacuation of occupants is difficult or the hazard posed by contents is high. That is a good thing! And, according to the NFSA, “Aside from firefighting and explosion fatalities, there has never been a multiple loss of life in a fully-sprinklered building due to fire or smoke.”

Fire sprinklers buy time. Time buys life. Remember that safety is a daily priority, not just where fire safety is concerned. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

 

Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Burns, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety, Fires, Health & Welfare, Holiday Safety, Uncategorized

Holiday Kitchen Safety

niño cocineroCooking a big meal for the holidays is a joyous event, as you can pour your love and expertise into every bite. But to keep loved ones safe, make sure you are careful in the kitchen. Our first tip? Slow down. Despite the frenetic pace modeled on cooking competition shows, it’s always best to pace yourself while cooking. I like to pace myself during the holiday season. I go from kibble, to nap, to crumb searching, back to nap. Professional chefs work quickly, but they also watch out for one another and take steps to follow basic safety protocols.

Avoid Foodborne Illnesses

Fotolia_82270779_XSAs disheartening as it is, in terms of bacteria, home kitchens are typically more bacteria-ridden than public restrooms. And some people call dogs filthy? The good news is that if steps are taken to follow sanitary practices, you can guard against hosting a houseful of sick holiday guests.

  • Wash utensils thoroughly. The dishwasher is the best method for washing, as it utilizes too-hot-to-handle water and vigorous rinsing. I recommend leaving the dishwasher open for a bit so I can do an “inspection.” I just want a quick lick! If you must hand wash items that have come into contact with raw meat or eggs, use gloves, so you can handle hot water without burning yourself, apply lots of soap, and thoroughly everything, to dispense with soap residue.
  • Prevent cross contamination by using separate cutting boards for meat and veggies and fruit. Several manufacturers offer color-coded cutting boards for just this reason.
  • User paper towels to remove juice from meat and raw eggs. Avoid using cloth towels, which can harbor bacteria. I won’t even eat uncooked meat for safety reasons. But “medium rare?” I’m all over it!
  • Marinate and defrost foods in the refrigerator instead of on top of the kitchen counter or in the sink.

Illustration of cooking pan with firePrevent Kitchen Fires

  • Much of the risk of kitchen fires can be avoided if cooks focus on the task at hand. Do not leave items on the stove and then leave to fold laundry or watch TV (or zone out on your phone – silly humans.) Instead, remain in the kitchen so you can quickly control flare-ups. Remove clutter. If you are cooking an elaborate meal, you want to clean up as you go to keep your work space clutter free. Towels or wooden utensils frequently meet burners, so keep a “clear zone” around the range top and oven.
  • Thoroughly lean cooking surfaces to prevent high-fat food residue buildup, which can be flammable.
  • Be careful if you are frying foods. Remember that water and hot oil are incompatible. So don’t put frozen foods into hot oil. You CAN, however, put frozen corn dogs directly into the dog’s bowl. (Just a suggestion.)
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen to put out fires before they get out of control. Make sure you are using the right type of extinguisher for the fire you are battling.

Additional tips for holidays kitchen safety:

  • Watch the kids. Keep children out of the kitchen during meal preparation (and out of the doghouse!) While you might be able to supervise kids in less hectic times, crowded kitchens and lots of activity can lead to accident. So save culinary lessons for after the holidays. Also, keeping children away from meal preparation will prevent curious little hands from pulling on pot handles.
  • Clean up spills. A slippery floor is a major hazard in the kitchen, since people often carry sharp knives and boiling water. So immediately wipe spills until surfaces are completely dry. I know Fido and Rufus want to lick up the spills, but this is one instance where I say you should not let every dog have his day.
  • Use knives properly. There is a proper way to chop different types of foods, which can prevent the loss of a fingertip and a trip to the ER on Christmas Day. In addition, remember that, as counter intuitive as it sounds, it is safer to use a razor sharp knife than a dull blade.
  • Steam burns. Some foods, such as instant rice and veggies, now come in convenient plastic microwaveable packets. If you decide to use these, make sure to open away from your face.

The holidays are a busy time. Adding several relatives and planning big elaborate meals challenge even the most organized host. So follow these kitchen safety practices to ensure everyone has a happy and safe holiday season. Go into the kitchen now and give your dog gravy.  (Did my “Jedi mind trick” work?)

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Holiday Safety, Safety at Home

Holiday Toy and Gift Safety

fireplace and fir-tree and christmas socksDecember is National Safe Toys and Gifts Month, so designated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), to raise awareness about potentially hazardous toys. Since toy purchases are at an all-time high during the holidays, we thought it a good idea to highlight the campaign with this week’s blog post.

Part of the CPSC initiatives include third-party testing laboratories which check toys for lead and phthalate limits, so they can identify dangerous toys before they reach consumer shelves. I would love to be a Greenies and rawhide tester! I’d weigh 250 pounds, but my tail would be wagging all of the time! The commission also produces safety alerts. For example, one highlights the choking hazards of plastic film coverings that are on many toys.

children playing together at homeTypes of toys to avoid this holiday season:

  • Scooters and similar riding toys. Since the popular Razor Scooter’s launch in 2000, there has been a sharp increase in ER visits due to falls associated with the toys. Avoid giving these types of toys as gifts, since they lead to numerous serious accidents every year—especially when operated without a helmet. If you do buy a scooter, be sure to include a properly-fitted helmet, as well.
  • Toys with small parts. Pay attention to the warning labels on toy boxes, because they provide guidelines relative to choking hazards as well as age-appropriateness. Lego sets and other similar toys are fun, but they don’t work for toddlers, since the kits come with lots of small choking hazards. In addition, my paws always stomp on those sharp Lego pieces! I nearly lacerated my pad the other day! A good rule of thumb is to place or imagine the toy- part-in-question fitting inside a toilet paper roll. If it fits, then it’s too small.
  • Toys that could cause eye injuries. Toy guns that shoot pellets or Nerf darts are fun, but are a leading cause of injury, with studies showing a significant increase in the eye injuries resulting from toy parts over the past few years. For example, the “Airsoft” brand of guns led to a significant number of injuries and should only be used with eye protection.

Keep little ones safe during the holidays:

Girl with bearThe holiday season is a hectic time, which means adult attention spans can be stretched to the limit. It also brings dogs’ attention into laser sharp focus. That turkey on the table? We have our eyes on it!

Keeping track of babies and toddlers can be especially difficult during family gatherings and other festive events. Here are some tips for protecting your youngest family members at large functions:

  • Dispose of wrapping paper and plastic packaging. Toy packaging contains various types of plastic covers, twist ties, and other bits and pieces. All of these are potential chewing and choking hazard for babies and toddlers. Whenever possible, collect and recycle materials as presents are opened.
  • Keep an eye on the fireplace. Hanukkah nights or Christmas morning are both great times for a cozy fire. But flammable materials should be handled responsibly. Keep them far from flames. And, because kids are curious, be sure your fireplace screen is sturdy. This is also a great time to talk to children about the serious dangers posed by fire.
  • Watch your plants. Mistletoe and holly are poisonous if ingested, so keep toxic plants out of the reach of young children.
  • Be careful with alcoholic beverages. If you and guests are enjoying a few cocktails during a holiday party, take steps to keep drinks out of the hands of anyone under the age of 21. Children imitate parents. So make sure they can’t reach unattended beverages. Ask guests to remove empty and even partially-empty cups. I slurped up a margarita one time. How can people drink this stuff? Give me the sophisticated flavors of toilet bowl water instead!
  • Carefully string Christmas tree lights. Toddlers and babies love the glow of lights. So keep strands high on the tree to make sure they are out of reach of tiny fingers. Glass ornaments are another potential hazard which should be replaced, moved to a higher location or boxed until children are old enough to ensure their safety.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted in BE SAFE, Fire Safety, Fires, Health & Welfare

All about Thanksgiving Safety (and eating!)

The holiday season brings food, fun and family as well as something you may not have considered — health and safety concerns. Stress, rich food and alcohol are examples of the types of things that can lead to an elevated risk of heart attack during the holidays. That’s why we pooches are always moving –to keep our tickers in shape. Since our primary concern is safety, (pork chops are secondary), we wanted to take this opportunity to offer our subscribers and friends some tips for Thanksgiving safety. Let’s get to the food!

Thanksgiving turkey runs. Illustration in vector format

Cooking Safely on Turkey Day

Thanksgiving means elaborate home-cooked meals – turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, cherry pie, and rhubarb, boysenberry, shepherd’s pie, bacon pie, ribs pie…to name a few of my holiday favorites. Cooking a big meal requires patience as well as careful attention to detail. Follow these safety tips to ensure your family and friends’ safety before, during and after Thanksgiving:

  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand. Grease fires can start quickly and can be difficult to contain. A properly-rated and current fire extinguisher is essential.
  • Sharpen knives before cooking. While it sounds counterintuitive, sharp knives are safer than dull ones, the reason for this is that a clean slice is easier to repair than one created by jagged edges. Ouch. Sounds painful either way.
  • Be sure to place your cooked turkey on the very edge of a low countertop, so I can reach it. Well, I guess it would actually be safer to keep food out of your pets’ reach. But that should be decided on a case-by-case basis.
  • Watch hot liquids. From gravy boats to hot beverages, scalding risks abound during the holidays. So keep foot traffic in the kitchen to a minimum, especially by children. And if you decide to fry your turkey, use extreme caution. For more details about how to safely prepare and cook a Thanksgiving meal, check out this post about Thanksgiving safety.
  • Keep little ones out of the kitchen. Kids carry germs (we dogs are much more fastidious) so they should be carefully supervised. Double-dipping isn’t just an annoying habit. It has the potential to quickly spread holiday germs.

Preparing the Bird

Since a turkey dinner is usually the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving meal, take into account these turkey-specific tips:

  • Use the oven! While cooking the bird in a deep fryer outside might sound fun, this process is prone to accidents or even injuries…especially if there are a few cocktails involved. Sober or impaired cooks agree that oil and water do not mix. So using a frozen turkey in a fryer is a recipe for disaster.
  • Regardless of your preparation method, make sure you properly thaw frozen turkeys to ward off germs. Most birds need to be refrigerated for several days, to ensure even cooking. Don’t thaw your turkey on the countertop, as this is a breeding ground for foodborne illnesses. I was stuck outside for four hours one time during Thanksgiving. I didn’t thaw out until early March!
  • Heat the turkey thoroughly. The internal temperature of the gobbler must reach at least 165 degrees. So, to be safe, invest in a food thermometer.
  • Carefully clean surfaces. Poultry-borne bacteria is a leading cause of food poisoning. Be sure you wash everything in hot water including your hands, utensils, plates, cutting boards, and anything else that comes into contact with the turkey.
  • Cook stuffing outside of the bird! Stuffing cooks more uniformly and safely when placed in a casserole dish in the oven.

#BeSafe after the meal

  • Pack leftovers quickly when Thanksgiving dinner is over. After the meal, you might want to stretch on the couch or watch football. But remember that food should not be left on the table for more than two hours. Freeze or refrigerate leftovers so you can enjoy turkey sandwiches for days!
  • When in doubt, toss it out (or give Fido a treat!) If you aren’t able to pack up leftovers in a timely manner, toss them in the trash. Better to lose a few cents than to spend the rest of the holiday weekend in bed.
  • If you are feeling especially lethargic after the meal, organize a family walk around the neighborhood to rev up your metabolism. I do this after every big meal. Oh wait, I just do circles on my bed and then plop down and sleep for nine hours. Be careful about strenuous activity immediately after your meal. Again, I recommend napping.

Remember that safety (and eating well) is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.