Tuesday, June 28, 2011

All Things Summer

Summer elicits images of heat, lemonade, pools, beach, vacations, theme parks, and cookouts. Kids, and teachers look forward, with great anticipation, to these three months, parents, plan their vacations, get togethers, and family reunions around this time. Summer’s great!

In the hustle and bustle of activity that summer brings, it is easy to forget about maintaining safety.  The greatest fire hazards that summer brings involving grilling, fireworks, and too much free time.

Before Webber, Coleman, and CharmGlow, near the beginning of time men have undertaken the incredibly masculine task of grilling. Archaeologists recently discovered a few thousand year old outdoor kitchen and barbeque pit. In the pit, they found the remains of mammoth, reindeer, horse, wolverine, and bear. This kind of makes us look silly standing behind our hamburgers, hot dogs, or even worse, turkey burgers.

Grilling, summer and fun go hand in hand. It doesn’t seem that you can have one without the other.

• Fire departments across the US, respond to nearly 7,700 grill related fires per year.

o 13 deaths (annual average)

o 120 injuries (annual average)

o $70 million property damage (annual average

• The latest statistics, from 2009, show that 17,700 patients were transported to emergency rooms due to grill related injuries

o 9,400 injuries were from thermal burns

o ¼ of these injuries were to children under 5 from contact burns

o 1/3 of these injuries were incurred during the lighting of the grill

o Gasoline or lighter fluid was a factor in nearly ¼ of grill burns

There are a few safety practices, that if followed, can keep you grilling, partying, and out of the ER.

• Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.

• The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.

• Keep children and pets away from the grill area.

• Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.

• Never leave your grill unattended.

• Use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.

• Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.

• When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

• Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using, if it has been stored for a while. Repair any leaks found.

One of the most frequent phone calls, and questions that we get is from apartment/condo associations concerned with the use of grills on their residents patios and balconies.

The Florida Fire Prevention Code states that:

1:10.11.7For other than one- and two-family dwellings, no hibachi, gas-fired grill, charcoal grill, or other similar devices used for cooking, heating, or any other purpose, shall be used or kindled on any balcony or under any overhanging portion or within 10 ft. of any structure. Listed electric ranges, grills, or similar electrical apparatus shall be permitted.

Nearly a thousand years ago, in China, a chef was busy cooking. As he was cooking he accidentally dropped his ingredients, called saltpeter into the cooking fire. When he did this the fire lit up brilliantly, so he began experimenting. He found that when saltpeter mixed with charcoal and sulfur it made brilliant, colorful flames. When these ingredients were stuffed into bamboo tubes and thrown into a fire they not only made beautiful flame colors but also a loud bang. Thus, the firework was invented.

More fires are reported on July 4th than on any other day of the year. The most recent statistics we have, from 2008 show:

• fireworks caused an estimated 22,500 reported fires, including 1,400 structure fires, 500 vehicle fires, and 20,600 outside and other fires.

• These fires resulted in an estimated 1 civilian death, 40 civilian injuries and, $42 million in direct property damage.

• an estimated 7,000 people are treated for fireworks related injuries.

People assume that if a firework is not illegal then it must be safe. However, the tip of a sparkler burns at a temperature of more than 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause third-degree burns; sparklers, fountains, and novelties alone accounted for 32% of the emergency room fireworks injuries in 2008.

Due to the high number of fireworks related injuries, our primary safety message is to only enjoy fireworks that are put on public display by trained professionals. Stay away from consumer fireworks, and after any fireworks displays children should never pick up fireworks or casings that may be left over as they could still be active.

Summer gives kids lots of free time, often unsupervised free time. It seems that all kids are fascinated with flame and fire. The combination of boredom and easily obtainable fire starting devices (matches, lighters, etc.) can potentially be disastrous.

Fires set by children account for more than 250,000 fires per year and are the largest cause of home deaths among children. Children mistakenly believe that they can control the fires that they set. However, once a fire is set it only takes about two minutes for the flame from a single match to set an entire room on fire, and less than five minutes for that fire to overtake an entire house. Children who start fires, do so, due in a large part o lack of fire safety education.

To remedy the juvenile fire setting problem we have a program called the Juvenile Fire Setter Intervention Program. If your child has an interest in fire, or you have caught them playing with lighters/matches, or other fire devices then we highly recommend that you sign them up for this program. This is a voluntary program, until your child is convicted of arson then it is required by the court system. The goal of the juvenile fire setter program is to educate children and teenagers on the responsibilities, effects, and consequences of fire setting.

After taking several kids through the program, we realized that they were learning about fire, but they really were not learning that they needed to make better decisions, how to make wise decisions, or the impact that decision-making has on their life, both now, and into the future. So, what we have done is integrated, into the fire safety education, a curriculum called “Success for Teens” which is all about making right and wise decisions. Now when a child leaves the program they have an enhance understanding of the dangers of fire, as well as, the knowledge that will not only prevent them from making wrong choices in the future, but will empower them to make those wise decisions that will allow them to lead successful lives.

The program is a multiple week event. The students meet one night per week, where they receive instruction, they connect with others, and take part in learning these “success” principles. The students also receive assignments and activities to do throughout the length of the program.

We all know the saying, “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop”, so this may be the perfect summer activity for your child.

Use your grill safely, keep it away from combustibles, never leave it unattended. Skip the consumer fireworks and sparklers this year, only attend public fireworks displays that are presented by trained professionals. If your child or a child you know has an interest in fire and is complaining of boredom, then get them involved in the Juvenile Fire Setter Intervention Program.

Enjoy a safe summer!