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USFA Offers Tips to Prevent CO Poisoning
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) is urging residents to be safe as cold weather blankets the United States, including areas recently impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a serious threat in cold weather. Any fuel-burning appliances in the home, including furnaces and fireplaces, are a potential CO source. Carbon monoxide is called the "invisible killer" because it is an odorless, colorless and poisonous gas.
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are an important line of defense in the home, and they give consumers valuable escape time. About two-thirds of fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or in homes where consumers have removed the alarm’s batteries or where the batteries are dead.
The USFA recommends that in addition to having working smoke and CO alarms, all residents should follow these safety tips to prevent fires and CO poisoning during the recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy:
- Schedule a yearly professional inspection of all fuel-burning home heating systems, including furnaces, boilers, fireplaces, wood stoves, water heaters, chimneys, flues and vents.
- Never operate a portable gasoline-powered generator in an enclosed space, such as a garage, shed, or crawlspace, or in the home.
- Keep portable generators as far away from your home and your neighbors’ homes as possible – away from open doors, windows or vents that could allow deadly carbon monoxide into the home.
- When purchasing a space heater, ask the salesperson whether the heater has been safety-certified. A certified heater has a safety certification mark. These heaters have the most up-to-date safety features. An unvented gas space heater that meets current safety standards will shut off if oxygen levels fall too low.
- Do not use portable propane space heaters indoors or in any confined space, unless they are designed specifically for indoor use. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for proper use.
- Never use gas or electric stoves to heat the home. They are not intended for that purpose and can pose a CO or fire hazard.
USFA Releases Report on Intentionally Set Fires in Residential Buildings
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) has issued a special report examining the characteristics of intentionally set fires in residential buildings. The report, Intentionally Set Fires in Residential Buildings (2008-2010), is based on 2008 to 2010 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).
According to the report:
- An estimated 16,800 intentionally set fires in residential buildings occur annually in the U.S. These fires result in an estimated average of 280 deaths, 775 injuries and $593 million in property loss each year.
- Intentionally set fires accounted for 5 percent of all residential building fires.
- The majority (76 percent) of intentionally set fires in residential buildings occurred in one- or two-family dwellings. An additional 19 percent of fires occurred in multifamily dwellings.
USFA would like to remind everyone that intentional home fires can be prevented. Start by regularly inspecting your home for fire hazards and removing materials that can be used to start a fire. Additional steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of an intentional home fire are:
- Remove trash, debris and other materials that can catch fire from the front and back of your home.
- Remove from your home or securely store flammable material and chemicals.
- Secure abandoned and vacant homes with additional locks. Board up broken windows or other openings with plywood.
- Support Neighborhood Watch programs and report suspicious people and activity to law enforcement officials.
For information regarding other topical reports or any programs and training available at USFA, visit www.usfa.fema.gov.
Put a Freeze on Winter Fires
Through a jointly sponsored initiative – Put a Freeze on Winter Fires – the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) are working collaboratively to tell the public about ways to stay fire-safe this winter. The effort targets home heating and cooking, which represent the two leading causes of U.S. home fires. Both types of fires peak in the winter months.
NFPA and USFA recommend these safety tips to prevent winter home fires
- Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period, turn off the stove.
- Space heaters need space; keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from each heater.
- Check electrical cords often and replace cracked or damaged electrical or extension cords. Do not try to repair them.
- Never use your oven or stovetop to heat your home. They are not designed for this purpose and can be a fire hazard. In addition, carbon monoxide (CO) gas might kill people and pets.
Lutz awarded $90,000 grant to study firefighter safety
Eric Lutz, PhD, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of Arizona (UA) Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, received a $90,000 grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to determine which air purifying respirator is most effective for firefighters. Lutz is well known for his expertise in industrial hygiene, occupational exposure research, chemistry and aerosol detection.
The new study will focus on overhaul activities, the phase during a structure fire where hidden fires, hot embers and combustion sources are identified and completely extinguished. During overhaul, firefighters must determine carbon monoxide concentration, protect the area of origin, establish final smoke damage and fire perimeter, protect neighboring properties from fire debris and locate any hidden fire – a process that can be extremely harmful to unprotected firefighters. Firefighters do not typically wear respiratory protection during overhaul.
“Exposure to smoke during overhaul can lead to decreased effectiveness of lungs as well as long-term consequences to cardio and pulmonary function as firefighters risk breathing in carbon monoxide, carcinogenic smoke and chemical gases,” said Lutz.
The study will also compare the effectiveness of filter canisters versus cartridges at removing harmful gases and particulates during overhaul in a live fire environment, a first for this type of study. From this work, recommendations of the most effective cartridge or canister based on which one most efficiently filters particulates, removes the highest concentration of chemicals and lasts the longest during overhaul, can be made. This work is a collaborative between UA and the Tucson Fire Department.
“We want to understand more fully the risks to firefighters during overhaul, and use the outcomes of the study to recommend the best strategy for overhaul respiratory protection,” said Lutz.
Six emergency personnel have recently died in the line of duty. One career firefighter, two volunteer firefighters and three civilian employees died in six separate incidents. Four deaths were health related, and two deaths were the result of an accidents.
EMERGENCY MEDICAL TECHNICIAN KEITH CHIPEPO, 30, an employee of Grand Medical Transportation Ambulance Service in Irvington, NJ, died on Nov. 19. Chipepo was the attendant in an ambulance that was involved in a multi-vehicle accident. The ambulance was struck by another vehicle and overturned. Chipepo was reportedly ejected from the rear of the ambulance. He was transported to a hospital, where he died. The ambulance driver and the patient were injured in the accident. The driver of the vehicle that struck the ambulance was charged with aggravated manslaughter, aggravated assault, driving with a suspended license and eluding police after fleeing the scene of the accident.
CAPTAIN CHRIS GOOD, 36, of the Good Will Fire Company in West Chester, PA, died on Nov. 22. The previous day, Good operated at the scene of a working house fire in West Goshen. While at home, the next morning, his wife found him unresponsive in cardiac arrest. CPR was initiated and EMS responded, but Good could not be revived. Good was a 10-year veteran of the fire service.
CAPTAIN DAVID M. MOWBRAY, 52, of the North Kingstown, RI, Fire Department died on Nov. 24. On Feb. 5, Mowbray was injured at the scene of an emergency medical call.
PARAMEDIC CHRIS STAGGS, 35, of STAT Paramedic L.C. died on Nov. 24. Staggs suffered a medical emergency while driving an ambulance, which then struck several fences and homes before stopping. He was extricated from the ambulance and transported to Williamson Memorial Hospital, where he died.
EMERGENCY MEDICAL TECHNICIAN ERIC S. MONTY, 45, of Champlain EMS in Champlain, NY, died on Nov. 27. Monty was the driver of an ambulance transporting a patient to a hospital died when he suffered an apparent heart attack and lost control of the vehicle. Monty was pronounced dead at the scene. Two other EMTs and the patient were injured and transported to the hospital.
FIREFIGHTER TIMOTHY P. JANSEN, 45, of the Santa Fe Township Volunteer Fire Department located in Bartelso, IL, died December 2. Jansen was on the first apparatus to arrive at the scene of a working structure and began pulling a hose line. Jansen apparently slipped or fell under the apparatus as it was being moved. The apparatus ran over Jansen. He was transported to St. Joseph's Hospital in Breese, where he was pronounced dead. Jansen was a 15 year veteran of the department.
—Jay K. Bradish