Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Health & Welfare

This Holiday Season; Prevent Tree and Candle Fires

card with Christmas treeOver the weekend, an Oklahoma family suffered a house fire which originated in their living room and was reportedly caused by a live Christmas tree. Thankfully, no one was hurt and the bulk of the damage was caused by smoke. However, not everyone is so lucky. The NFPA reports that, across the country, fire departments respond to an average of 230 home fires which start with Christmas trees.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve blogged about a myriad of holiday safety issues. This week, we would like to turn our attention to two of the most flammable holiday decorations—Christmas trees and candles. This post makes me glad I don’t have room for either in my doghouse.

NFPA Facts about Home Holiday Fires

  • Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually.
  • One of every three home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.
  • Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are likely to be serious.
  • On average, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires results in a death compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home structure fires.
  • A heat source too close to the tree causes roughly one in every six of Christmas tree fires. Don’t set up a space heater near your tree!
  • Typically, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires. That’s why I would never decorate our doghouse the way Snoopy did on “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown.”
  • Well-watered trees are not a problem. A dry and neglected tree can be.

Tree Fire Safety

  • Purchase only fresh trees. If needles are brittle or shed easily, choose a different tree. (Maybe it’s me; but live trees seem to be more decorative than brown, dead ones.)
  • When setting up the tree at home, place it at least three feet away from any heat source.
  • Steer clear of the fireplace, radiators, heating vents and lighting. These can dry out a tree and increase flammability.
  • Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times. If you have a dog, this might be a difficult task to stay on top of. Nothing like cold, fresh tree water.
  • Don’t leave the tree up for an extended period. Fire safety professionals recommend you do not leave it up for longer than two weeks.
  • When you dismantle the tree, discard it immediately. Do not leave it in a garage, on a porch or at the side of the house. A dried-out tree is highly flammable and can cause major damage even when it is just sitting outside, not to mention it’s an eyesore. Check with your local community for a recycling program.

 Candle Fire Safety

  • Candles cause home fires — and home fire deaths.
  • A candle is an open flame, which means that it can easily ignite anything that can burn.
  • More than half (56%) of home candle fires occur when something that can catch fire is too close to the candle. So don’t put hay near the Menorah.
  • December is the peak time of year for home candle fires. In December, 11% of home candle fires began with decorations compared to 4% the rest of the year.
  • Extinguish candles when you leave the room or go to bed. If you aren’t there to enjoy them, what’s the point anyway?
  • Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep.
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.
  • Think about using flameless candles in your home.
  • If you decide to burn candles, make sure that you:
  •  Use candle holders that are sturdy, and won’t tip over easily.
  • Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface.
  • Light candles carefully.
  • Keep hair, fur and any loose clothing away from the flame.
  • Don’t burn a candle all the way down — put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container.\Don’t use a candle if oxygen is used in the home.
  • Have flashlights and battery-powered lighting ready to use during a power outage.

Religious Candle Safety

  • Whether you are using one candle, or more than one on a candelabra, kinara, or menorah, make sure you take a few moments to learn about using candles safely.
  • Candles should be placed in a sturdy candle holder.
  • Handheld candles should never be passed from one person to another.
  • When lighting candles at a candle lighting service, have the person with the unlit candle dip their candle into the flame of the lit candle.
  • Lit candles should not be placed in windows where a blind or curtain could catch fire.
  • Candles placed on, or near tables, altars, or shrines, must be watched by an adult.
  • If a candle must burn continuously, be sure it is enclosed in a glass container and placed in a sink, on a metal tray, or in a deep basin filled with water.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Safety, Health & Welfare, Package Delivery, Safety at Home, Uncategorized, Version 2.0, Workplace Safety

Tips & Hints for Safety at Home and at Work

wooden ink stamp labeled with "Safety First"
Take steps to ensure the safety of those in your care

Staying safe from hazards at the workplace and at home can only be accomplished with thorough training about potential threats and associated courses of action.

In the workplace, the prevention of various safety hazards translates directly and indirectly to reduced costs. Workplace accidents and related worker’s compensation claims result in billions of dollars in lost productivity. Accidents result in the loss of valuable time spent pouring over insurance claims and jumping through hoops in order to meet OSHA reporting requirements.

Some considerations for optimal office safety that you may not be aware of include:

  • Avoid over-crowding your employees – give them at a minimum 50 square feet of their own space. This will help them avoid collisions and has the added benefit of keeping germs at bay. This is why I never allow the guys at the station to leave me in a kennel. Have you seen the accommodations!?
  • Encourage clean workspaces. Papers or files on the floor are hazards. Tangles of wires can cause serious falls and pose electrical fire hazards.
  • Employees who need to use ladders or step stools should be trained as to proper procedures for operating equipment. For instance, dogs that need to use ladders probably shouldn’t.

Accidents in the workplace are often related to improper storage:

  • Don’t store boxes on top of filing cabinets or other unsecured high places. Especially not boxes of mint flavor “breath-freshening” biscuits. Those should be kept at ground level.
  • Flammable or combustible materials should be stored separately from ignition sources.
  • Clear hallways are vital for evacuations. Ensure that your building’s tenants follow proper egress codes.

Not all workplace hazards are visible. Stress is an important issue that contributes to accidents and injury. While employers often view the effects of stress in terms of lost productivity, it is important to note that a stressful work environment can also hinder sound decision-making in cases of emergency. Best way to deal with stress? Head to the local pound and rescue a pooch!

At home, many of the same rules apply for ensuring maximum safety. Resources such as the Home Safety Council provide helpful tips.

Fire safety in the home:

  • Kitchen safety includes using oven mitts and never leaving hot surfaces unattended.
  • Gas grills should only be used outdoors and kept away from shrubs and areas of dried leaves. I have heard that some humans use grills indoors during the winter. Not a good idea.
  • Space heaters should only be used on flat surfaces far away from any ignition source. If available, consider installing central heat, which is considerably safer and more fuel efficient. I tried a space heater in the doghouse once. Then I remembered I have a fur coat.

Help prevent accidents involving small children:

  • Baby gates installed at the top and bottom of stairs and basement access points can prevent falls. Teach little ones to go downstairs backwards until they are able to walk and can hold onto the railing. If you are trying to keep out Bowzer, just remember that we dogs can jump!
  • Secure balconies with Plexiglas coverings if there are large gaps between posts.
  • Window screens won’t prevent a 40-pound toddler from falling. Quick-release window guards, on the other hand, can prevent such accidents and can be easily removed in case of fire.

Poisoning prevention:

  • According to the CDC, poisoning caused more than 700,000 ER visits in 2009.
  • Secure all items in the home, not just those under the kitchen sink. Usage of tamper resistant caps can prevent inquisitive children from playing with chemicals.
  • All prescriptions and other medicines should be secured in medicine cabinets. Simple rule. Cold medicine – medicine cabinet. Teriyaki jerky – food cabinet.

Overall safety in the workplace and home is a vast topic. Developing a broad knowledge base in multiple areas will minimize risks and make accident prevention a state of mind.

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.

Posted in BE SAFE, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Uncategorized

Getting Involved With Fire Prevention Week

How will you prepare for fire during Fire Prevention Week?

Fire is a frequent topic of safety discussions because it is a primal force that strikes fear in the heart of man and beast. It is also a relatively common occurrence compared to other disasters, and can cause severe damage to people, fire dogs and structures.

Raising awareness about fire safety is a priority of fire departments and Dalmatians, alike. October 3-9 is the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) official Fire Prevention Week. The NFPA has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week for nearly 90 years, and has made great strides in the area of fire safety for the public.

It took a great tragedy to encourage the development of a week dedicated to fire safety. In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire roared through Chicago, leaving more than 100,000 people homeless, 17,000 structures destroyed and countless doghouses unattended. While most people believe a cow started the fire, many historians note other possible culprits. Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the fire, and marked the start of the important role fire department personnel play in education and prevention, in addition to the physical acts of fighting fires.

Fire Prevention Week reinforces the basics of fire safety to the public. The theme of this years’ Fire Prevention Week is Smoke Alarms: A Sound You Can Live With! The NFPA is making a big push for smoke alarms to be installed, properly upgraded and maintained in residential and commercial buildings. I’m not sure how they came up with that theme. As a dog, I can tell you that the sound of a smoke alarm is enough to send me through the firehouse roof!

The NFPA has several initiatives for this years’ Fire Prevention Week which are offered to fire departments and other agencies for fire education initiatives:

Video Tutorials and Audio PSAs:

  • A video about smoke alarm safety includes information about the benefits of interconnecting alarms, testing alarms, checking for expiration dates and regularly replacing batteries.
  • Downloadable MP3 audio files discuss fire alarm safety.
  • Rawhide treats encourage Fido to keep a keen nose for sniffing out fire hazards.

How can building owners participate in Fire Prevention Week?

  • Distribute free safety materials from the NFPA, FEMA and other agencies
  • Review your overall fire safety plan including evacuation routes, location of extinguishers, rules on stairwell and elevator usage, etc.
  • Invite your local fire department to fire safety activities. Firefighters are sometimes willing to arrange and/or participate in special events such as parades. Organize an interactive event where employees and facility management can speak directly to firefighters and their canine companions.

Fire Prevention Week is an opportunity for building owners to engage staff and employees in preventing the threat of fire. To learn more about fire safety, review the many fire-related topics that we have covered in previous posts, including: fire evacuation procedures, flammable materials, extinguishers and sprinkler systems, and fire hazards.

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 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.

Posted in Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Safety, Fires, Version 2.0

Practice Makes Safety

Fire Drills aren't not just for elementary school anymore.

Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Flashing lights! Flashing lights! Are you at a concert? No, it’s a fire drill! While your tenants might view these periodic run-throughs as unavoidable hassles that interrupt the normal business routine, fire drills are vital preparation for emergencies. In fact, fire drills might bring back memories of school where they were a welcome break from classes that gave you an opportunity to laugh with friends. (Although they weren’t mandatory at puppy kindergarten or dog obedience school, I always love an excuse to take a biscuit-break,)  In an office setting, properly executed fire drills can save lives.

Why do you need fire drills in your building?

  • Tenants enter and exit buildings through the same locations every day. In fire drills, people move through seldom used routes such as back stairwells. Workers are creatures of habit who, just like pooches, benefit from frequent drills, which make them more likely to remember proper evacuation routes.
  • Several building codes mandate fire drill participation such as the NFPA’s Life Safety Code, which features a grid detailing the recommended frequency for and the types of businesses that should conduct drills. Building owners can always choose to run more than the code-mandated number of drills to ensure that new tenants understand evacuation procedures.  The guys at the station like to think they have trained me with drills, but it’s really the other way around.
  • Drills provide a great opportunity to discover safety issues that need to be corrected such as locked stairwell doors or the necessity of developing alternate routes for specific tenants.

A fire at an office building in 1989 in Atlanta caused the deaths of five workers. Through investigation, the U.S. Fire Administration determined that federal employees who worked in the building were required to participate in fire drills, while most private sector employees were not. The fatalities and most of the injured were, unfortunately, among the private sector tenants. What’s more, the report indicated a high level of chaos among the private sector employees. Fire drills were identified as a contributing factor for saving lives.

Tips for performing fire drills:

  • Ensure that the sound of alarm systems can reach all sections of the building including storage areas, maintenance rooms, restrooms and elevators. Instruct Floor Wardens and other designated safety volunteers to keep watch for any problems observed during the drill, such as employees who don’t exit the building immediately or who take non-approved exit routes.
  • Remind tenants to exit the building briskly and to leave behind unnecessary personal items, computers or any office paperwork that might hinder evacuation. Make sure they bring Fido, in case a fire breaks out on “Bring Your Dog to Work Day.”
  • Before drills begin, ensure that all exit signs are clearly visible and meet all code requirements.
  • Involve local fire departments to coordinate their mock drills, so you can work together to speed up evacuation times.

With all types of safety exercises, it’s important to receive training from a qualified source. This short video shows you what happens when you mix fire safety training with an unqualified “trainer.” Wow. This guy should not be allowed near anything flammable ever again.

Visit us again next week for the second blog post in our series about fire safety and prevention. We will be discussing flammable materials and how building owners can mitigate fire risks by making sound choices in building materials and furnishings. I wanted to do a post that debated the merits of both wet and dry food, but my editor shot it down.

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.