Did 12 Die in NYC to Teach Others, or Suffer on Deaf Ears!

Sadly we close out 2017 with 2281 home fire fatalities in the USA alone. A total of 12 innocent folks, including 4 children, tragically perished in a fire in NYC on December 29.

For those in fire prevention and education it is all we talk about all year long, more preventable fire fatalities. And for others we make it our business to work daily on finding solutions to “the fire problem”. What some of us know for certain is here’s an all too familiar topic where we know that most of the people think for only a short while about how this is so sad, too bad.  When we should actually bring the media’s eye to each community and its fire department’s safety concerns; fire hazards, and sprinkler systems, AND constant public education.

It was the deadliest fire in the city in more than a quarter-century!

At least 12 people were killed when a fire fueled by gusty winds tore through a century-old apartment building in the Bronx on a frigid Thursday night, New York City Fire officials said. In addition to the deaths, four people were critically injured and two people sustained non-life-threatening injuries, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference late Thursday. The youngest among the dead was 1 year old, the oldest over 50. “It is unspeakable, and families have been torn apart.”

Fatal NYC fire started by 3-year-old, playing with stove, official says

Regardless if you live in a house, in an apartment building, or work in an office or shop, is it about city areas or country borders or is more based upon worldly views and education vs prevention?

Yes when you drill down, the cause of the fire was found!  But not the prevention in action! The building, constructed of plaster and brick, was not fireproof. It was built in 1916 and had more than 20 units, according to property records. City records appeared to indicate that as of Thursday the building had six open violations, including one for a defective smoke detector on the first floor.

Fire Prevention is broad sword wielded by many agencies and groups but like any prevention are people looking at or taking the message all the way!?

Yes for years; Fire prevention is a function of many fire departments. The goal of fire prevention is to educate the public to take precautions to prevent potentially harmful fires, and be educated about surviving them. It is a proactive method of reducing emergencies and the damage caused by them.  But at what cost (NOTHING RUNS FOR FREE) and that includes resources and time of fire agencies.

Time and time again, although the Thin Red Line tries their level best to teach and show kids and adults about fire education and prevention, like law enforcement they can not be everywhere at all times and talk with everyone!

It is not JUST about the fire truck or fire drills, fire prevention and education covers a vast amount of topics in ALL AGE GROUPS including ensuring employees are aware of their responsibility to report dangers at work. Some preventative measures are;

  • Control sources of ignition
  • Have chimneys inspected and cleaned regularly
  • Treat independent building uses, such as an office over a shop as separate purpose groups and therefore compartmentalize from each other
  • Ensure cooking food is always attended
  • Closing doors in fires events can help but other doors in the building must be considered too

There are 3 types of door closers to note:

  1. Self-Closing Fire Door – According to NFPA 80 3.3.101 “Doors that, when opened and released, return to the closed position”. In simpler terms, every time the door is pushed open it will return to the closed position immediately via the closer arm (see picture). These doors are continuously kept in the closed position except when someone is walking through the door.
  2. Automatic Closing Door – According to NFPA 80 3.3.6 – 3.3.7, An automatic-closing door is a door that is normally held in the open position, but closes when the automatic-closing device is activated. The automatic-closing device is a device that causes the door to close when activated by a fusible link or detector. Though NFPA does allow fusible links they are not the most effective and reliable method to ensure your fire doors close in case of a fire. A fusible link is heat activated, meaning it must be exposed to fire before it can melt and release the fire door to close. This helps prevent the spread of flame, but a fusible link will not help to slow the spread of smoke. A smoke detector can sense smoke in the air, and sends a signal to close the fire door before flames can reach the door.
  3. Power-Operated Fire Door – According to NFPA 80 3.3.92 Power-Operated Fire Doors are doors that normally are opened and closed electrically or pneumatically. Power operated fire doors shall be equipped with a releasing device that shall automatically disconnect the power operator at the time of fire, allowing a self-closing or automatic device to close the door regardless of power failure or manual operation. (NFPA 80 This means, power-operated fire doors must be integrated with the fire alarm system of the building. This will allow the fire alarm to deactivate the open doors, and retract them into the closed position should there be an electrical or power failure.

    Annex A of NFPA 80 recommends that automatic-closing doors are closed when the building is unoccupied.

Fire prevention also covers building codes and items like WORKING MAINTAINED smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and even sprinkler system in place to prevent the spread or early suppression of fires.

The next is thinking way past the common fire items. What about the other items like;

  • Provide no-smoking signs at appropriate locations
  • Ensure smoking area(s) are away from flammable materials
  • Arrange for cigarettes and matches to be disposed of safely and away from other combustible rubbish
  • Ensure all work equipment protects against catching fire or overheating
  • Ensure proper housekeeping, such as preventing ventilation points on machinery becoming clogged with dust or other materials – causing overheating
  • Have electrical equipment serviced regularly by a competent person to prevent sparks and fires
  • Properly clean and maintain heat producing equipment such as burners, heat exchangers, boilers (inspected and tested yearly), ovens, stoves, and fryers. Require storage of flammables away from this equipment.
  • Use a planned maintenance program to properly maintain plant and equipment. Review your program if you already have one.

A planned maintenance program should deal with;

  • frictional heat (caused by loose drive belts, bearings which are not properly lubricated or other moving parts)
  • electrical malfunction
  • flammable materials used in contact with hot surfaces
  • leaking valves or flanges which allow seepage of flammable liquids or gases
  • static sparks (perhaps due to inadequate electrical earthing)

And portable heaters:

  • Do not use portable heaters unnecessarily.
  • They should have emergency tip-over switches, and thermostatic limiting controls.
  • Turn them off if people leave the room or are going to sleep
  • Ensure they are 1M away from anything that can burn
  • Do not use them to dry clothes

There’s even the commonly used items that we have in our business or homes they mostly all run on electricity. Check electrical equipment and remove defective equipment;

  • Ensure electrical cords are in good condition
  • Plug appliances and lights into separate electrical outlets
  • Avoid using extension cords. If you require an outlet in an area where there is none, have one installed by a qualified electrician.
  • Use extension cords safety – not under carpets or across walking areas
  • Use only one device per outlet

Prayers always to the those who are innocent and victims of fire regardless of age, race, religion or demographic. Fire knows no borders nor serves no master, it only consumes those trapped by its fire claws.

About the author: Tracy Last Verified icon 5

I've been an entrepreneur my whole adult life, starting out providing educational materials for prevention programs. Now, I am a Social Entrepreneur, Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer at Fire-ED Interactive Community For Eliminating Preventable Fires. Having worked closely with many fire and life safety educators in my 25 year career I became peculiar passionate of the role they play as teachers of prevention education. This education, while critical, is not being taught in schools or most homes. With fire dept budgets cuts it's always public education first to go. This poses a risk to public safety therefore it is important to step up as a community to improve and continue these programs.

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Tracy Last Verified icon 5 sadly already this year in Canada there are multiple fire fatalities. In Nova Scotia and Ontario. And a barn fire killing over 100 livestock. A very sad start to a new year.
1 year ago