Drug Safety for First Responders (new USFRA group shares safety data about carfentanil, fentanyl, etc)

May 7, 2017

by Janet Liebsch – USFRA Executive VP and Fedhealth VP

In 2016 the U.S. First Responders Association shared a few safety posts and warnings to members and the public about carfentanil and fentanyl, however we recently shared a photo (seen here) with a warning to responders about carfentanil on a USFRA facebook post and it reached over 4 million people in less than a week!

Thousands of replies on the post were all over the map, and unfortunately many commenters went off topic since it was a public post with over 33,000+ shares, so people (a vast majority were not first responders) were arguing and debating overdoses, the war on drugs, rehab and more. There were also some great questions and posts from professionals in the field.

The main point of the post is warning medics, police and firefighters if they find drugs on a patient to be extremely careful when handling them since carfentanil recently landed 2 first responders in the hospital from inhaling dust while closing a ziploc bag a patient had. And the vials compare the potential lethal amounts of heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil.

Responders have been dealing with fentanyl for years, and carfentanil–a tranquilizing agent for elephants and other large mammals–started appearing in OD cases last summer. But carfentanil is really spreading across the country now since it is being cut into street drugs and/or sold as heroin creating a deadly nightmare for public safety, first responder, medical, treatment, and laboratory personnel.

For those not familiar with carfentanil, it is a synthetic opioid that is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, which itself is 50 times more potent than heroin.

The lethal dose range for carfentanil in humans is unknown; however, since it is approximately 100 times more potent than fentanyl, it could be lethal at the 200-microgram to 2-milligram range, depending on route of administration and other factors. Some U.S. and Canadian officials even say just 20 micrograms of carfentanil could be lethal.

With overdose cases increasing exponentially and so many questions and concerns from responders to our 4/30 post, USFRA setup a new group called “Drug Safety for First Responders” where we are sharing information and safety data about fentanyl, carfentanil and other drugs ~ especially as it relates to scene and personal safety.

Many fentanyl-related compounds are lethal and could be absorbed through the skin or inhaled. Law enforcement, Fire/EMS, health professionals and volunteers on-scene and at receiving facilities (e.g. hospitals, jails, etc.) should learn about these dangers and carefully follow safety protocols to avoid accidental exposure.

Some examples of articles posted the first week include:

DEA warnings to first responders about carfentanil and fentanyl (Post includes information from DEA’s official alert from late 2016 about the lethal dangers of these synthetic opioids plus has some on-scene safety tips for responding personnel)

K9s teams be on alert for fentanyl and carfentanil during searches (Article discusses how K-9 teams must be vigilant anytime they arrive on scene of a drug related and/or overdose call (and even when searching suspects) ~ esp. since deadly synthetic opioids are being cut into heroin, cocaine, etc. Drug dogs could be exposed to fentanyl and carfentanil by inhalation or absorbed through their paw pads. Agencies are starting to carry Narcan to treat a suffering K-9 before symptoms get out of control.)

“Gray death” combo drug includes heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and U-47700 … and Columbus first responders prepare for new drug called Gray Death (These 2 posts discuss a new and dangerous drug combination called “gray death” found so far in Alabama, Georgia and Ohio. It’s a combination of several opioids including heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and a synthetic opioid called U-47700, it looks like concrete mix, and varies in consistency from a hard, chunky material to a fine powder.) and

Please use this Drug Safety for First Responders group (and other USFRA networks and forums) to share safety tips, protocols, articles and other discussions and experiences from the field. Members and visitors are welcome to read and share articles, events, classifieds and more on our site, and follow USFRA on Facebook and Twitter.

Bill and I encourage all responders and volunteers to join the U.S. First Responders Association at www.usfra.org and invite your friends and colleagues too.

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Winter Safety Tips for Pets and Livestock

December 23, 2014

winter-tips-pets-livestock4Unfortunately many people think since animals have fur or thick hide they are able to withstand the cold better than humans, but often this is not the case. Cold weather can be as hard on critters as it is on people and may lead to serious illness, injury or death.

Gimme shelter: When the temperatures drop in the winter months, bring your pets and critters indoors since they can be susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. If you don’t have a barn or structure for livestock and other outdoor animals, at least make some type of windbreak to help keep them safe and out of the wind.

If you do keep livestock indoors, make sure the barn / building is well ventilated since ammonia can build up. Also add plenty of dry bedding (such as straw) to stalls, coops and cages so animals aren’t standing or lying on the cold ground, and provide a blanket for pets to sleep on. Space heaters and heat lamps should be avoided because of the risk of burns or fire. Heated pet mats should also be used with caution because they are still capable of causing burns.

Water and food: Make sure pets and livestock have plenty of fresh food and water, and constantly check their bowls and troughs to ensure their water isn’t frozen. Increase feed amounts for pets and livestock during cold snaps since they’ll burn more calories trying to keep warm. Also try to keep at least several weeks worth of feed on hand since you don’t want to run out when it may be difficult to have another load delivered.

Watch for signs: Take extra time to observe livestock, looking for early signs of disease and injury. Ready.gov explains severe cold-weather injuries or death primarily occur in the very young or in animals that are already debilitated. Cases of weather-related sudden death in calves often result when cattle are suffering from undetected infection, particularly pneumonia. Sudden, unexplained livestock deaths and illnesses should be investigated quickly so that a cause can be identified and steps can be taken to protect the remaining animals.

winter-tips-petsAnimals suffering from frostbite don’t exhibit pain. It may be up to two weeks before the injury becomes evident as the damaged tissue starts to slough away. At that point, the injury should be treated as an open wound and a veterinarian should be consulted.

Your pets will give you signs too. If it is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia.

Also, the AVMA suggests you check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. During a walk, a sudden lameness may be due to an injury or may be due to ice accumulation between his/her toes. You may be able to reduce the chance of iceball accumulation by clipping the hair between your dog’s toes.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association…

  • Frostbite happens when an animal’s (or person’s) body gets so cold it pulls all the blood from extremities to the body’s core to stay warm. An animal’s ears, paws, and tail can get so cold that ice crystals form in the tissue damaging it. Frostbite can be tricky because it is not immediately obvious. Sometimes the tissue doesn’t show signs of damage for several days. If you suspect your pet may have frostbite, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Hypothermia is body temperature that is below normal. This condition occurs when an animal is unable to keep its body temperature from falling below normal. It occurs when an animal spends too much time in cold temperatures, or when an animal with poor health or circulation is exposed to cold. In mild cases, the animal will shiver and show signs of depression, lethargy, and weakness. As the condition progresses, muscles will stiffen, the heart and breathing rates slow, and the animal will stop responding to stimuli.

winter-tips-pets-cat-ck2Cat check: Outdoor and feral cats have a tendency to curl up against a warm vehicle engine during cold spells so check beneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to scare the critters away.

Hoof check: If you have hooved livestock, hoof care is very important during winter months since wet ground combined with dirty conditions (esp. bacteria and fungi) may cause thrush and foot rot. Robyn Scherer (author of “Managing Livestock in Winter Conditions” article in Countryside magazine) explains regular trimmings should be performed to keep feet in good condition. Also, if you own horses in cold country, pick their feet on a regular basis to prevent ice balls from forming, as this can cause stress on tendons and ligaments.

Antifreeze: It only takes a few tablespoons of highly toxic antifreeze to seriously jeopardize an animal’s life. Ethylene glycol, the most common ingredient in antifreeze, can cause crystals to form in an animal’s kidney, ultimately leading to kidney failure and death. Learn more about this sweet but deadly toxin on USFRA

winter-tips-pets-tinsel-by-petflowHoliday food and decorations: Avoid giving your pets rich, fatty foods like ham, turkey or goose since they can cause stomach problems, plus bones can splinter easily. And keep toxic foods such as onions, grapes, raisins, xylitol (a sugar substitute) and chocolate away from dogs, as well as plants like poinsettia, holly and mistletoe.

Dogs – esp. puppies – like to chew and eat anything … and cats love to play with shiny, dangly things so keep an eye on decorative strings of lights (both indoors and out) as well as ribbons, tinsel, ornaments and candles.

Heaters: Check your furnace to make sure it’s working efficiently, and install (and test) carbon monoxide detectors to keep your pets and family safe. Carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible, but it can cause problems ranging from headaches and fatigue to trouble breathing to even death. Also use space heaters with caution since they can burn your pets or the units can be knocked over, potentially starting a fire.

Move it: Exercise is good for pets, livestock and humans during the long winter months, but just make sure you don’t overdo it in the chilly temps and watch for signs of frostbite or hypothermia (see above). Also make sure you wipe down pet’s paws after playing or walking outside to remove any ice chunks or salt that may have gotten wedged in their pads or between their toes.

Be prepared: Cold weather also brings the risks of severe storms, blizzards, tornadoes and power outages. Create disaster supplies kits for your home and vehicles and don’t forget to pack supplies and water for your critters too. Download the Family Emergency Plan section and several topics from our IT’S A DISASTER! book to help you and others get prepared.

Sources:
American Animal Hospital Association
American Veterinary Medical Association
Countryside magazine
Grit.com
Ready.gov
U.S. First Responders Association  

Above appeared in our Dec 2013 enews

Additional Resources:

Holiday Fire Safety Tips  (about Christmas trees, lights, candles, etc.)  

Preparing for winter storms (tips to winterize home, prevent ice dams and more)

Winter Driving Tips  … and download our Winter Storm preparedness and safety tips (PDF)

12 Days of Winter Safety (a comprehensive + cost effective list by FLASH.org)

‘Tis the season for Pet safety (infographic in PDF by Pets Unlimited)

 


Landslide and debris flow safety tips

March 26, 2014
landslide-fema-la_conchita-ca

1995 landslide in La Conchita, CA Photo: FEMA

According to US Geological Survey, landslides in the United States cause approximately $1-$2 billion in damage and kill more than 25 people on average each year. Worldwide, landslides cause thousands of casualties and billions in monetary losses every year.

Researchers at UK’s Durham University recently reported that landslides kill ten times more people across the world than was previously thought. Their Durham Fatal Landslide Database (DFLD) showed that 32,300 people died in landslides between 2004 and 2010. Previous estimates ranged from 3,000 to 7,000 fatalities.

One of the worst landslides and subsequent loess [sediment] flows on record happened in 1920 when the 8.5 magnitude Haiyuan Earthquake shook China for 10 minutes killing over 100,000 people.

Although landslides and debris or mud flows are primarily associated with mountainous regions, they also occur in low elevations too. According to Science Daily some key landslide hotspots include China, the Philippines, Central and South America, and India, but slides can happen anywhere in North America too.

Landslides are basically masses of rock, earth or debris that move down a slope often triggered by many natural events such as earthquakes, floods or volcanic eruptions. The term “landslide” encompasses five modes of slope movement: falls, topples, slides, spreads, and flows and can be further subdivided by the type of geologic material (bedrock, debris, or earth).

Mudflows or debris flows (a type of landslide) are rivers of rock, earth, and other debris soaked with water mostly caused by melting snow or heavy rains creating a slurry. A slurry can travel several miles from its source and grows in size as it picks up trees, cars, and other things along the way. They can even move houses off their foundations or bury a place within minutes due to their incredibly strong currents.

Whidbey Island WA 2013 mudslide before after

Before and after photo of 2013 mudslide on Whidbey Island / Photo: Washington Department of Natural Resources

In addition to Mother Nature’s fury causing land movements, human activities like deforestation, cultivation, stresses on groundwaters, and construction on unstable land also play large roles.

There are some warning signs to indicate if you have a potential problem.

BEFORE A LANDSLIDE OR MUDFLOW:

Learn risks – Ask your local emergency management officeif your property is a “landslide-prone” area. Or call your County or State Geologist or Engineer or visit the USGS Landslide Hazards Program

Recent fires? – Be aware that areas hit by wildfires have an increased risk of landslides and mudflows once the rainy season starts.

Get insurance…? – Talk to your agent and find out more about the National Flood Insurance Program since mudflows are covered by NFIP’s flood policy.

Be prepared to evacuate – Listen to local authorities and leave if you are told to evacuate.

Where would we go? – Decide in advance where you would go in case you can’t return home for weeks or months .. or ever. If your home is damaged or destroyed or you’re forced to leave your home due to on-going threats (like mudslides or flooding), you’ll need to find temporary or permanent living quarters. This could mean staying in a public shelter or hotel, living with friends or relatives, or renting a home or apartment in the middle of all the chaos, so discuss several options now. Then, write down those options and share them with relatives and friends.

Reduce risks – Plant ground cover on slopes and build retaining walls.

Inspect – Look around home and property for landslide warning signs:

  • cracks or bumps appear on hill slopes, ground or roads
  • water or saturated ground in areas not normally wet
  • evidence of slow, downhill movement of rock and soil
  • tilted trees, poles, decks, patios, fences or walls
  • underground utility lines break
  • doors and windows stick or cracks appear on walls, etc.

Call an expert…? – Consult a professional for advice. Or visit the National Landslide Information Center

 

DURING A LANDSLIDE OR MUDFLOW:

Strange sounds – Listen for trees cracking, rocks banging together or water flowing rapidly (esp if near a stream or river) – debris flow may be close by.

Move it! – Whether you are in a vehicle, outside, or in your home – GET TO SAFER GROUND! Avoid low-lying areas, washes and river valleys and look upstream before crossing a bridge in case a debris flow is coming.

Listen – Tune in to local radio or TV reports to keep you posted on latest updates especially since other disasters like earthquakes, storms, flooding or volcanic eruptions may be associated with debris flows.

Be small – If there is no way to escape, curl into a tight ball and protect your head the best you can.

 

AFTER A LANDSLIDE OR MUDFLOW:

Listen – Local radio and TV reports will keep you posted on latest updates or check with your local police or fire departments.

Don’t go there – Stay away from the area until authorities say all is clear since there could be more slides or flows.

Things to watch for:

  • flooding – usually occur after landslides or debris flows
  • damaged areas – roadways and bridges may be buried, washed-out or weakened — and water, gas & sewer lines may be broken
  • downed power lines – report them to power company

Inspect – Look for damage around home and property and watch for new landslide warning signs:

  • check foundation, chimney, garage and other structures
  • report any broken utility lines or damaged roads to local authorities
  • watch for tilted trees, poles, decks, patios, fences or walls
  • notice doors or windows stick, cracks appear, etc.

Replant – Try to fix or replant damaged ground to reduce erosion, possible flash flooding or future landslides.

Call an expert…? – Consult a professional landscaping expert for opinions and advice on landslide problems. Also call an expert out if you discover structural damage to home, chimney or other buildings.

Insurance – If your home suffers any damage, contact your insurance agent and keep all receipts for clean-up and repairs.

Some additional things to check and do…

  • Check for gas leaks (smells like rotten eggs, hear a hissing or blowing sound or see discolored plants or grass)
  • Check electrical system (watch for sparks, broken wires or the smell of hot insulation)
  • Check appliances after turning off electricity at main fuse and, if wet, unplug and let them dry out. Call a professional to check them before using.
  • Check water and sewage system and, if pipes are damaged, turn off main water valve.
  • Consider having your house tested for mold.
  • Secure valuable items or move them to another location, if possible

Emotional recovery tips –   Disasters and emergencies may cause you to leave your home and your daily routine and deal with many different emotions, but realize that a lot of this is normal human behavior. Read more

Remember… the more you prepare before disaster strikes, the better off you and your loved ones will be financially, emotionally and physically.

 

Sources: It’s A Disaster! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? book and our “Slip Sliding Away” article in PREPARE magazine’s Sep 2013 issue

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those impacted by the recent #530slide in Washington state. Stay current on news and learn how to help the victims at www.snohomishcountywa.gov/2354/530-Slide  j & B


Nuke News and Updates group on US First Responders Association

March 11, 2014

We recently set up a discussion group called “Nuke News and Updates” on the U.S. First Responders Association forum in case you would like to review discussions going forward.

USFRA members will be sharing news and updates about the on-going disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant along with resources and stories about nuclear sites and incidents on North American soil and across the world.

Please understand this network is NOT a political or anti/pro nuke group but rather a place to share safety information, news and resources about nuclear power plants, research reactors and incidents to help responders and the public at large.

Some examples of discussions in the Nuke News and Updates group include…

Fukushima: Resources to help decipher fact from fiction 

There has been a lot of information — and misinformation — swirling around the Internet lately about Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant so we wanted to share some resources that may calm some fears.

And yes, of course the situation is still extremely tenuous since a large trembler in the earthquake-prone country could devastate the plants and cause more meltdowns or impact the 1,000+ storage tanks and containers filled with highly contaminated water.

But for now, to help reduce the erroneous reports out there, please consider reading and sharing these links with others. Continue reading

Could a Fukushima-Like Accident Happen In The US?

Could a nuclear accident like the 2011 meltdown that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan happen in the U.S.? David Lochbaum, a former nuclear engineer, director of the Nuclear Safety Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists and one of the authors of the new book-length account “Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster,” thinks it’s more than possible. Read more 

Nuclear power plants in North America (maps + links)

The World Nuclear Association reports as of March 2013 there are 435 commercial nuclear power reactors in 31 countries with 480 more reactors under construction or planned. The U.S. has 100 commercial power plants and Canada has 19 power stations meaning millions of people live within 10 miles (16 km) of an operating reactor. And WNA reports there are 240 research reactors (54 in the U.S.) mainly on university campuses. Continue reading 

You don’t have to become a member to read most postings on the USFRA forum, however please consider joining if you’d like to participate in any of the groups and/or submit content for others.

U.S. First Responders Association is a network, of firefighters, EMS, rescue, police officers, military and civilian support teams. The purpose of the USFRA is to advance the profession of fire, emergency, police and military services through proactive community leadership, education, advocacy, policy, procedure, and guidelines that would best help our emergency services provide aid to the citizens of the U.S. and worldwide. Join USFRA today at www.usfra.org


How to prepare for and respond to an explosive device or bombing incident

February 6, 2014

Madrid Spain bombing Terrorists have frequently used explosive devices as one of their most common weapons for many, many decades. There are many “how-to” manuals available online and in books so unfortunately it’s very easy for bad people to make bombs and IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) in various shapes and sizes for use at events where many people are gathering like the Olympics, mass protests, elections, etc.

Explosive devices are very portable, using vehicles and humans as a means of transport, and they can be easily detonated from remote locations or by suicide bombers.

Oftentimes terrorists pack bombs with ball bearings, screws, nails, nuts or other metal pieces to try to inflict as much carnage and chaos as possible.

Besides being vigilant  and having good situational awareness, there are some things people can do to prepare for and respond to an explosive device or incident.

BEFORE ANY TYPE OF EXPLOSION OR INCIDENT:

Be aware & watch – Sounds simple and it is. Stay current on news, alerts and threats – but don’t obsess over them – then start making a habit of being aware of your surroundings. You don’t have to be paranoid or obvious – just make a mental note of the EXITS when you go to places and watch for things that look strange or out of place especially if you walk or drive the same route day after day.

Make a kit – Make disaster supplies kits for your home, office, locker and car. Pack things like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries, medicines (if needed), a change of clothes, comfortable shoes, some toiletries, tools, etc.

Have a plan – Check emergency plans for schools, day care and nursing home to find out where everyone goes if evacuated.

Report strange things – Again, be aware of your surroundings — watch for strange or suspicious packages, abandoned briefcases or backpacks and report suspicious activities to local authorities.

Stay current on threats – The Department of Homeland Securitywww.dhs.gov and Public Safety Canada www.publicsafety.gc.ca post alerts and news about national security online. And of course read or watch local news to find out what’s going on in your area.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to authorities — if told to leave – DO it!

Learn first aid – Take a basic first aid and CPR class … or join a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team)

DURING AN EXPLOSION:

Don’t panic… – Stay calm and don’t stop to retrieve personal items or make phone calls – get to a safe place.

Things to watch out for:
•  falling objects – if things are falling off bookshelves or from the ceiling get under a sturdy table or desk
•  flying debris – many blast injuries are caused by flying glass, metal, ball bearings and other materials
•  fires – stay below the smoke (crawl or walk like a duck)
– only use the stairs (don’t use elevators)
– check doors with back of hand before opening  (If HOT, do NOT open .. find another exit!)
•  weak structures – be careful since floors, stairs, roofs or walls might be weakened by the blast

If indoors – Stay put if building is not damaged but leave if warned of any radiation or chemical inside. Cover nose and mouth and find shelter in a building not damaged by blast and prepare to “shelter-in-place”, if necessary.

If outdoors – Cover mouth and nose with a cloth or handkerchief and take shelter in a safe building as quickly as possible!

If in a vehicle – Keep windows up, close vents, use “recirculating” air in case of airborne threats, and keep listening to radio for updates. If possible, drive away from site.

AFTER AN EXPLOSION:

If you are trapped in an area:
•  light – use a flashlight – never use matches or lighters in case there are gas leaks
•  be still – try to stay still so you won’t kick up dust
•  breathing – cover your mouth with a piece of clothing
•  make noise – tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can hear you (shouting may cause you to inhale a lot of dust)

Rescuing others – Untrained persons should not try to rescue people who are inside a collapsed building… wait for emergency personnel to arrive – then, if they need you, they will ask.

Avoid crowds – Be aware large crowds may be targeted for another attack.

Limited services – Cellular service and towers may get overwhelmed after an incident so realize you may have limited access. And officials may cut off mobile service around an attack site to prevent further remote detonations of explosive devices.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to authorities — if told to leave due to another threat, attack or explosion – do it!

Stay away – Avoid the scene(s) as much as possible. There will be a heavy law enforcement involvement at local, state and federal levels following a terrorist attack due to the event’s criminal nature. Also realize that health and mental health and Fire/EMS resources in the affected communities may be strained or overwhelmed.

Stay current on news – Listen to updates but again, don’t obsess over an event. Extensive media coverage can be overwhelming so try to go about your daily routines and always be aware of your surroundings.

Above extracted from our IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? book 

Also review some tips on what to do if you receive a bomb threat or suspicious package.

Stay safe, j & B


Holiday Fire Safety Tips about Christmas trees, lights, candles and more

December 16, 2013

holiday_candlesIn addition to following the below holiday fire safety tips from USFA and NFPA, please make sure all your exits are accessible and not blocked by decorations or trees, verify you have working smoke alarms, and learn what to do in case a fire starts in your home.

Christmas Trees

If your household includes a natural tree in its festivities, make sure you keep the tree watered.

Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually. Typically, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires. Well-watered trees are not a problem. A dry and neglected tree can be.

Dry Tree vs. High Moisture Tree Fire – The following NFPA demonstration shows how flammable a dry Christmas tree can be as opposed to a tree watered regularly.

Selecting a Tree for the Holidays – Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long and, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.

Caring for Your Tree – Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

Holiday Lights
holiday-safety-too-many-plugsMaintain Your Holiday Lights – Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.

Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets – Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch.

Do not leave holiday lights on unattended!

Holiday Decorations

Use Only Nonflammable Decorations – All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents. If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.

Never Put Wrapping Paper in the Fireplace 
– Wrapping paper in the fireplace can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers that may result in a chimney fire.

Candle Care

Never Leave a Burning Candle Unattended
 – Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles.

If You Do Use Lit Candles – Make sure candles are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn. Avoid using candles in bedrooms and sleeping areas.

Never Put Lit Candles on a Tree – Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame – candles, lighters or matches.

Download some more safety tips from our IT’S A DISASTER! book and please share this data with others.

We hope all of you have a safe and very Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

And to our military, first responders and volunteers who work day in and day out to help keep us safe –- esp those of you separated from loved ones -– thank you for your continued service and sacrifices. Stay safe, B & j


Lightning Safety tips

June 24, 2013

lightning photo by NOAAAt any given moment, there are almost 2,000 thunderstorms occurring over the Earth. It is estimated that 100 lightning flashes occur each second somewhere on the planet, adding up to nearly 8 million lightning flashes per day.

Lightning occurs most frequently during thunderstorms, but has also been observed during volcanic eruptions, extremely intense forest fires, and surface nuclear detonations according to NOAA.

How lightning forms 

NWS’s Lightning Science page explains lightning is a giant spark of electricity in the atmosphere or between the atmosphere and the ground. In the initial stages of development, air acts as an insulator between the positive and negative charges in the cloud and between the cloud and the ground; however, when the differences in charges becomes too great, this insulating capacity of the air breaks down and there is a rapid discharge of electricity that we know as lightning.

lightning photo by NASA

Did you know…

…lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall, pointy, isolated object?! For example, the Empire State Building is hit nearly 100 times a year.

…the U.S. gets an estimated 25 million lightning flashes each year?!

…lightning can travel 60 miles or more, often extending up to 10 miles away from the cloud that formed it?! Generally, however, a bolt travels 10 miles or less.

…most cars are safe from lightning, but it is the metal roof and metal sides that protect you, NOT the rubber tires. Remember, convertibles, motorcycles, bicycles, open-shelled outdoor recreational vehicles and cars with fiberglass shells offer no protection from lightning.

Some tips to prepare your home for lightning include…

Install a Lightning Protection System
A lightning protection system does not prevent lightning from striking but does create a direct path for lightning to follow. Basically, a lightning protection system consists of air terminals (lightning rods) and associated fittings connected by heavy cables to grounding equipment. This provides a path for lightning current to travel safely to the ground.

Install surge protectors on or in home
Surge protection devices (SPDs) can be installed in the electrical panel to protect your entire home from electrical surges. Sometimes it may be necessary to install small individual SPDs in addition to the home unit for computers and television sets due to different ratings and voltage levels. If a home unit is too expensive, consider getting individual SPDs that plug into the wall for the refrigerator, microwave and garage door openers. Appliances that use two services (cable wire and electrical cord) may require combination SPDs for computers, TVs, and VCRs. (Better yet – consider getting an uninterrupted power supply [UPS] with surge protection and battery backup so you can shut down computers safely.)

lightning photo by lightningphotography.com

Some basic lightning safety tips include…

Listen & watch – If you hear thunder, you’re close enough to be struck by lightning – take cover as quickly as possible. Be aware that lightning often strikes miles away from the rainfall or thunderstorm cloud.

Hairy sign – If you feel your hair stand on end and feel tingly (which means lightning is about to strike)… crouch down, get on the balls of your feet and bend forward putting hands on your knees (BE SMALL). And do NOT lie flat on ground since that makes you a bigger target!

Unplug it – Before thunderstorms, unplug appliances if possible – even ones on a surge protector and it’s best to move plugs away from outlets.

IF INDOORS – Don’t shower – sounds weird, but wait since lightning travels easily through metal pipes and water can carry an electrical charge. Also avoid corded objects – corded phones, PCs or a mouse conduct electricity (could shock you). Cordless and cell phones or wireless devices are usually safe.

IF OUTDOORS – Try to get to safe shelter quickly.

  • Move away from tall things (trees, towers, fences or power lines) and metal things (umbrellas, motorcycles or bicycles, wire fences, etc) since they all attract lightning.
  • If surrounded by trees, take shelter under the shorter trees.
  • Get to a low lying area but watch out for flash floods.
  • Be small – make yourself a small target by crouching down and put your hands on your knees (and don’t lie flat on the ground since that makes you a bigger target!)

IF IN A BOAT – Get to land and to shelter quickly! Water is extremely dangerous when there’s lightning. If you are caught in the boat, crouch down in the center away from metal hardware.

IF IN A VEHICLE – Keep windows closed and stay out of a convertible, if possible (mainly since you may the highest target if lightning strikes).

If someone is struck by lightning:

  • Victim does not carry electrical charge – they CAN be touched.
  • Call 9-1-1 or local EMS (emergency) telephone number.
  • Check ABCs ( Airway, Breathing, & Circulation) … if victim is passed out – you may need to do Rescue Breathing or CPR.
  • Victim will have 2 wounds – an entrance and an exit burn. DO NOT try to cool the burn with anything. Cover burn with a dry sterile bandage or clean cloth.
  • Seek medical attention, if necessary.

Above safety tips extracted from our IT’S A DISASTER! book – download more topics and learn about our funding ideas .

Additional Resources:

NOAA Lightning Facts

NOAA Lightning safety page

NOAA Understanding Lightning

Amazing gallery of lightning photos

Tips on How to Photograph Lightning


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