By Amy Bollen, Safe Kids Southwest Florida
Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began Oct. 8 but continued into and did most of its damage Oct. 9, 1871. Since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which Oct. 9 falls.
This year, the theme is “Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month.” We encourage all to check the smoke alarms at home and make sure they are working and that their batteries have been changed in the past year. Plus, smoke alarms expire after 10 years. If your smoke alarm is older than 10 years, replace it right away.
Planning and practicing a home fire escape plan is essential in helping families know what to do in case of a real fire.
» Make sure your home has working smoke alarms and everyone knows the sounds it makes.
» With your family, make an escape map of your home. Plan two ways out of every room, typically a door or a window, and pick an outside meeting place.
» Ask children to show you that they can open their own windows; some window locks are hard to move and windows can be heavy.
» Test smoke alarms at night when children are sleeping to see if they are awakened by the sound and whether they react correctly in a sleepy state.
» Remind everyone they need to crawl on their hands and knees when there is smoke and to test doors with the back of their hands before opening them.
» Close all doors on the way out of the house and, in a real fire only, call 9-1-1 from outside.
The best way to prevent fires in your home is to make fire safety part of your family’s daily life.
— Amy Bollen is the public education specialist for the South Trail Fire Protection and Rescue Service District and a member of Safe Kids. Safe Kids is a nonprofit coalition of agencies and organizations dedicated to eliminating preventable childhood injuries.
FREE SMOKE ALARMS
Many local fire departments offer free battery-powered smoke alarms, free smoke alarm installations and free batteries. If you are in need of a smoke alarm or need help installing one, call your local fire department and ask if they offer this service. If you live in the South Trail Fire Protection and Rescue Service District, you can stop by any of the fire stations for a free smoke alarm or battery, or if you need help with an installation, call 936-5281 to set an appointment.
FIRE SAFETY TRIVIA
Q: What kind of smoke alarm works best?
A: The photoelectric and ionization combination smoke alarm is best. Photoelectric is generally more responsive to smoldering fires and ionization is generally more responsive to flaming fire. Having both technologies
Q: When should you replace a smoke alarm?
A: All smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and those that are hard-wired alarms, should be replaced when they are 10 years old.
Q: What rooms should you not install smoke alarms in?
A: Kitchens and bathrooms
Q: What does it mean when your smoke alarm “chirps”?
A: The “chirping” noise is a warning that the battery is low, replace (not disable) the battery right away.
Q: How often should you test your smoke alarms to be sure that they are working?
A:Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button and make sure everyone in your home knows their sound.
Q: When should you change the batteries in all of your smoke alarms?
A:Batteries should be changed at least once a year, before the “chirping” happens.
Fire Prevention Week
In a fire, seconds count. Seconds can mean the difference between residents of our community escaping safely from a fire or having their lives end in tragedy.
That’s why this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme: “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!” is so important. It reinforces why everyone needs to have an escape plan. Here’s this year’s key campaign messages:
- Draw a map of your home (PDF) with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.
- Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.
- Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
- Make sure the number of your home is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.
- Close doors behind you as you leave – this may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire.
- Once you get outside, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building.
By Nancy M. Campbell, Safe Kids Southwest Florida (Photos: iStockphoto.com/Wavebreakmedia)
Kids of all ages are hitting the streets on their skateboards, scooters, tricycles, bicycles and anything on wheels. Wait a minute! Before you get started, let’s go over the rules for safety fun first.
The bicycle is the most popular, easily available, second form of mobile transportation out there today. Bike riding is fun, healthy and a great way to get around. Your bike, however, is not a toy — it is a vehicle. So before you even get on your bike — inspect it!
- How are your tires? Fully inflated? In good condition?
- How does the chain look? Does it need a little oil?
- How are your brakes? If you have hand controls, do they glide easily? Do the brakes connect to the tire properly?
- Is your bike the correct height for you? Can your feet reach the ground without tipping to stabilize the bike? Are there several inches between you and the cross bar on the bike?
- Your seat should be flat and level. To make sure it is the right height, your knees should be slightly bent when you pedal.
- Can you be seen when riding your bike? Check your lights and reflectors to make sure you’re visible at all times.
Once you bicycle has passed inspection, it’s time to put your helmet on. Rule No. 1: If you ride a bike, you need to wear a helmet. Why? Wearing a properly fitted helmet certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission can prevent 85 percent of cyclists’ head injuries, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. There are an unbelievable number of approved helmets on the market — just check the box for the CPSC seal of approval. Today, most bike helmets are made of expanded polystyrene foam — like what your coolers are made of — covered with a strong but thin plastic. On impact, the foam part gets smashed instead of your head. Please remember, if you are in an accident and your helmet sustains a hit, you must replace it. A helmet can only provide adequate care for one impact.
The lower priced helmets are generally one-size-fits-all. You simply adjust the straps and place foam pads inside to snug up the helmet. More expensive helmets come in various sizes. If you want one of these, simply take a tape measure and measure your head to see what size you would take.
It doesn’t matter which kind, style or color helmet you select, fitting them properly is critical. Remember — low, level and snug. Look in a mirror and make sure your helmet is sitting level on your head. The front should cover most of your forehead. Put one finger along your eyebrow and one finger right on top of that, and your helmet should be touching your fingers. Your chin strap should be snug beneath your chin. You should barely be able to slip a finger in between the strap and your chin. The side straps — V point — should be right below your ears. Adjusting these straps will help you tighten the helmet if it shifts forward or backward.
Now that you’re ready to ride, let’s talk road rules. Remember, your bicycle is a vehicle, and you are the driver. So if you are riding in the street, you must obey the same rules a car does. When riding, go with the flow. This means that you travel in the same direction as any other vehicle. A bicycle must obey all street signs, stop signs, traffic signals and markings. Stay alert at all times. Watch for pot holes or cracks in the road that can cause you to lose control. Ride far enough away from parked cars. You never know when someone will step out or open a car door in your path. Watch for pedestrians, especially at crosswalks — they have the right of way. Wear white or light colors so that you stand out as you ride. At night, always wear reflective gear or vest and have lights on your bike for added safety.
Children 10 and younger should never ride in the street without an adult present. They are just not mature enough to make the necessary decisions to ride safely.
Riding on the sidewalk has its cautions, too. Always watch driveways to make sure they are clear, or if a car is idling in the drive, proceed with caution. Always make room for walkers — even getting off your bike to walk past them to make sure no one has an issue. Always stop at street corners to check traffic each way before proceeding.
If you have further questions, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website at nhtsa.gov.
I’m ready to ride, are you? Now, enjoy summer!
Nancy M. Campbell, of Go Logos Inc., writes on behalf of Safe Kids Southwest Florida, a nonprofit coalition of agencies and organizations dedicated to eliminating preventable childhood injuries. Visit safekidsswfl.org.
By Lloyd Adams, Safe Kids Southwest Florida (Photo: iStockphoto.com/NatesPics)
Well it is that time of year again. The warm weather has arrived, the bathing suits are out and it is time to have some fun. What are two of the most popular past times? Grilling out and fireworks, food and fun. Who could ask for more? The key to enjoying the season is safety. Let’s start by talking about grills.
According to the US Fire Administration, about 5,700 grill fires take place every year on residential properties, causing an estimated $37 million dollars in damage. One of the most asked questions is, Which type of grill is safer, charcoal or propane? While both are very safe when maintained properly, propane grills have a higher risk of fire, due to leaks and breaks in the propane lines. When using any grill, make sure it is at least 10 feet from a structure. Always have a fire extinguisher close by, and more importantly, know how to use it. When starting a propane grill, turn on the gas supply, apply a light soap and water solution to the hose and couplings; if you see bubbles, there is a leak.
Now on to charcoal grills. Never use a flammable or combustible liquid other than approved charcoal starter fluid to ignite the fire. Do not add starter fluid after coals have been ignited. Remember ash may remain hot for several days and can produce a fire long after the grill has been used. Keep your grill clean by removing any grease build up that could be added fuel for a fire. Follow these simple tips for grilling and it will be a safe and, more importantly, delicious summer.
But grilling is only part of the summertime risks. We’re also coming up on the season for fireworks.
Before discussing safety, we first must know what type of fireworks are legal to purchase. Here in Florida, fireworks such as sparklers are legal. However almost all of us have visited the side of the road stand and purchased bottle rockets, mortars, etc. If you remember when purchasing them, we had to sign a waiver stating for agricultural use only. Keep in mind, if you have purchased fireworks like this, it is illegal and a crime.
Now that we have purchased the fireworks, let’s discuss how to be safe. First, read the labels and performance descriptions before igniting. You should always have adult supervision. Always wear eye protection when shooting off fireworks. Only use fireworks in a clear area and never — and I mean never — light a “dud” firework.
Even the safest fireworks have danger. Sparklers, for instance, burn at more than 2,000 degrees, hot enough to melt some metals. They can ignite loose clothing and cause severe burns. Bottle rockets, those little projectiles on a stick, cause numerous eye injuries each year. An oldie but a goody, firecrackers, almost everyone’s favorite, are supposed to be ignited on the ground, but we have all seen that one person who has to hold it until the last possible second.
Two words about class M fireworks (M-80’S, M-100’S, M-250’s): Just don’t. These fireworks produce the large explosions that make everyone run for cover. Remember, these fireworks are produced illegally and produce hundreds of severe injuries each year.
Always have a bucket of water nearby and a fire extinguisher handy if you have one. Remember to soak unused fireworks in water before disposing of them. I hope these simple tips will make your summer season a fun and, more importantly, safe season.
Lloyd Adams is a fire prevention specialist with Fort Myers Beach Fire Rescue. He writes on behalf of Safe Kids Southwest Florida.
By Jamie Hoover, Safe Kids Southwest Florida
Water safety starts with acknowledging that drowning can happen to any family. Understanding this is important in keeping our children safe. Keeping our children safe takes preparation and foresight.
“I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.” – Benjamin Disraeli
When our community accepts and acts on these three pieces of information, we’re getting somewhere with our water safety mission: 1. Drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 4, and swimming pools are the most common place for these incidences. 2. No single safety measure is 100 percent reliable. 3. Drowning is 100 percent preventable.
Parents are super heroes in their own right, but unfortunately we can’t travel at the speed of light, nor can we see through walls or have supersonic hearing. As much as we may wish we had these powers or abilities, we don’t. So when we think we will never lose sight of our child, that they could never wander off without us knowing or if we will always be there just in time to help them out of trouble, we are mistaken. The reality is we hold no super powers, no hulk-like strength or go-go-gadget arms. Every well-meaning parent will have their back turned just for a second or their child will learn a brand new skill one day and that is the day that child wanders out to the pool.
Layers of protection enhance our ability to provide the safest environment for our children. Fences, door alarms, pool covers, drain covers, life jackets and door locks, just to name a few. These layers buy us time; when multiple layers of protection are installed and are used correctly, they slowdown that eager child from gaining access to the water. We hope it gives us enough time for us to get to them.
One layer of protection does reign as the best. Nothing beats undistracted, swim-ready adult supervision. Consider this your front line of your layers of protection. An undistracted adult who is ready to get wet is one of the best forms of water safety. We like to call these adults “Water Watchers.”
We advocate for learning the skills, learning how to swim and how to respond. It is best if the whole family takes swimming lessons to become better swimmers. Infants as young as 6 months old can learn the concept of flip-and-float. Learning CPR is imperative in our ability to correctly respond to an emergency. Time is of the essence. The sooner we provide the proper response, the better.
Every parent seeks to create the safest environment for their children, and they don’t have to do it alone. Local resources provide education on how to install layers of protection and how to reach out to professionals to learn how to both respond with CPR skills and how to swim.
Jamie Hoover is the Kohl’s Cares program coordinator and Child Advocacy program coordinator for Lee Health. She writes on behalf of Safe Kids Southwest Florida, a nonprofit coalition of agencies and organizations dedicated to eliminating preventable childhood injuries. Visit safekidsswfl.org.