Top Safety Concerns for People With Developmental Disabilities: Fire and Cooking

Read Part 1: How Can People With Disabilities Be Safe While Living Independently?

Recently Prevention 1st convened Safe at Home: Effective Safety Training for People with Intellectual Disabilities Living Independently. Co-sponsored with the NYS Office of People With Developmental Disabilities and Monroe Community College, this community conference drew more than 100 attendees including people with disabilities, caregivers, and staff members and volunteers from community agencies, fire departments, and schools.

We asked attendees to rank the importance of 10 commonly mentioned safety concerns and to feel free to add in others. From the final list of 28 topics, fire safety was ranked the number one concern and kitchen/cooking safety was ranked number two. They’re right to be concerned: the US Fire Administration reports that cooking is the leading cause of home fires, causing 49% of such fires.

This response, combined with the statistics on safety risks for people with developmental disabilities and the concerns we had already collected from potential recipients of our proposed safety training, makes it clear that fire safety, including cooking safety, is our highest training development priority.

Encouraged by the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) Prevention 1st is developing an evaluated curriculum for teaching fire safety and injury prevention skills to people with intellectual disabilities (ID) who live independently.

Many local agencies and families are also eagerly awaiting an effective, evidence-based program to improve the safety of people with intellectual disabilities living independently.

Thanks to grants from the Developmental Disabilities Giving Circle of the Rochester Area Community Foundation and the Jane L. and Laurence C. Glazer Charitable Trust,  focus groups were held and a pilot program of in-home training sessions is underway with 30 individuals with intellectual disabilities who are new to independent living.

We’ll keep you updated on how Prevention 1st and Community Health Strategies are working together to develop that training. If you’re not already on the mailing list for our newsletter Prevention 1st on the 1st, sign up now to be notified when articles appear.

How Can People With Disabilities Be Safe While Living Independently?

SafeAtHome_headerPeople with developmental disabilities are at higher risk for injuries, and as they move into more independent living their risk increases.

 

 

While unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for everyone from age 1 to 44, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are at even higher risk. People with such disabilities are 4 times more likely to die in a fire, 6 times more likely to die from a fall, and 6 times more likely to die from drowning.

The belief that unintentional injuries are unpredictable—“accidents will happen”—and thus we can’t do anything about them can increase risk for anyone. When caregivers or supervisors hold this belief it is a primary risk factor for people with developmental disabilities. While this attitude may reflect the caregivers’ experience, it also seriously undercuts motivation and willingness to even pay attention to the issue of injury prevention.

The movement toward greater self-direction for people with developmental disabilities has moved them out of institutions and into the community. But as their independence increases, so does their risk:

Relative_Risk_by_Residence_Type

The risk of injury for people living in institutional settings is only 58% of the risk for those living in small group homes, while the risk of injury for those in semi-independent living is 34% greater. This is true even though individuals moving into semi-independent living (Defined as “one or more persons with developmental disability live in a separate residence with periodic visits by staff who provide various services”) are typically those with the highest level of function.

The risks of greater independence will only increase in the future. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead decision required states to provide people with disabilities the necessary support and services to live in the most integrated living setting. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) began an “aggressive effort to enforce” Olmstead nationwide. As one example, in 2013 DOJ reached a settlement in a New York case requiring that within five years, the state will assess current adult care home residents, transition them to supported housing if appropriate, and provide supported employment and community mental health services.

Why are people with developmental Disabilities At Higher Risk for Injury?

People With Disabilities Are Concerned About Safety

The experience of Prevention 1st safety trainers is that people with developmental disabilities understand that they are at risk. They are concerned about their own vulnerability, in terms of both general personal safety and home safety, especially fires.

In 6 years of providing training for clients at the ARC of Monroe, CDS Monarch, Hillside, PRALID, Ontario ARC and other agencies supporting people with developmental disabilities, we have found participants are enthusiastically engaged. They share their many concerns, ask a range of questions, express frustration with the lack of real fire prevention training, and are especially worried about escaping in a fire. They want to develop functional skills around safety, and they remember our advice when we return the following year. We have not met with one person involved in the disabilities community who has not said that safety is a major, and largely unaddressed, concern for people with disabilities living independently and those who care for and about them.

Our experience in the field was recently confirmed by a study conducted by the Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities at the University of Rochester and funded by the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council. They conducted 7 focus groups across 5 upstate NY counties and New York City. When asked about their “biggest worry” and what supports were needed, covering basic needs and skill development were among the most commonly mentioned…especially, “learning how to keep safe!”

An Effective Safety Training Model

Despite the fact that families and caregivers self-report major concerns about fire safety (Prevention 1st, 2015) , previously there has not been a comprehensive, individualized training program to ensure they have the skills to live as safely as possible. No such training had been required, or offered with any consistency, by the myriad organizations that serve people with ID (OPWDD, 2016).

Prevention 1st and its expert partner Community Health Strategies have developed Safe at Home, an evaluated curriculum for teaching fire safety and injury prevention skills to people with disabilities who are or are preparing to move into independent living situations.

Putting Prevention First: Ontario, Canada is Leading the Way

firefighter&childPutting out fires might seem the first line of defense for fire departments working to keep their communities safe. Enforcing fire safety codes usually comes second, and preventive education comes third—and often is cut from tight budgets.

But the province of Ontario, Canada has turned that traditional order of priorities upside down to put public education first, writes Prevention 1st board member Molly Clifford in an article published in Firehouse Magazine. And that approach has resulted in an 81% reduction in fire deaths in the past 35 years, nearly 10% higher than in the United States.

Read the full article: Ontario Practices and Preaches Fire Prevention

 

 

Workplace Fire Drills – That Work

fire-exit-escape-signHow to Plan and Hold Workplace Fire Drills Your Employees Will Want to Do — and That Could Save Lives

Fire drills. You know you should have them, you’ve been meaning to plan them, maybe next week.  Or, maybe, your only fire “drill” was an unannounced exit when the alarm sounded. How did that go? How quickly did everyone exit? Did everyone exit?

Exit planning and drills can save lives at work as well as at home. A practiced exit plan can also have other benefits beyond fire. During a power outage at QCI Direct, the company started by Prevention 1st founding board member Jane Glazer, the windowless 250,000-square-foot warehouse had a total blackout except for emergency exit lights. Because of the company’s fire drill practice, more than 100 people were able to proceed immediately to the exits and evacuate the warehouse without panic or injury.

How did they do it? Both planning and practice went into those good results.  The company put together a safety committee and chose people from different departments to work together, giving them authority and responsibility for planning fire exits and holding drills. They held several scheduled practice drills so that all workers knew their ‘buddy’ and where to go, and an alternate route if that exit was blocked. Team leaders were responsible for counting heads when everyone was clear of the building. Gathering spots outside were a safe distance from the building.

They timed the drills, in which anyone who took longer than the required time was considered a “casualty,” and posted the casualties on a big board with the date of the drill. The supervisor in charge of the team leaders carried a stop watch. She checked all the outside gathering spots and reviewed with the team leaders who arrived late. She knew how many did not hustle in time.

How did they do on their first fire drill?  At least 10% “casualties”! But they improved with practice.  Exit times got down to less than 5 minutes for all departments.

Motivating workers to respond quickly is one of the biggest challenges for any workplace fire drill. At QCI,  warehouse workers made up 75% of the work force so this was a major group to motivate. The warehouse team leader came up with a great incentive: Following a successful (no casualties) fire drill, workers got to listen to their choice of music in the warehouse. Each drill took only about 15 minutes from start to finish, and was done about every 2 weeks for 10 weeks. The staff loved the breaks from work and the challenge of getting out on time and finding alternate routes.

While practice can make perfect, it can also make fire drills seem ‘routine.’ Keeping the drills meaningful was the next challenge. Once no one was a casualty, QCI started doing unscheduled drills. In addition, people were designated to stand at certain exits with big signs: “Exit blocked- find another exit.” This forced workers to think about what they were doing and why they were marching out of the building. That training came into use during the power outage when some areas were too dark and the workers had to use their alternate exits. Everyone still got out within their required time, using the light from the exit signs—and cell phones. Every employee knew what to do and where to go, and no one panicked.

There was also a great sense of pride among the workers that they had accomplished this so well. It showed that not only does practice make for a safe and speedy exit in a real situation, but also that escape practice has many applications beyond fire.

Related articleBeyond Compliance: Fire Drills and Fire Safety Education for people with developmental disabilities and the people who care for them.

Fire drills are just as important at home as in the workplace. For help in planning and practicing, go to www.homefiredrill.org.

Share your fire drill story! What worked? What did you learn? Let us know at info AT prevention1st DOT org .

Why Are Children Fascinated With Fire?

by Robert E. Cole, PhD, Robert E. Crandall and Carolyn E. Kourofsky

Download a printable pdf of this article here.

children-fire

It’s the question we hear most often when parents, teachers and caregivers want to understand children’s fireplay: Why are children so fascinated with fire?

The fact is, not only children but adults find fire fascinating. Fire is colorful and dynamic. Its movement is gentle and soothing. It’s not surprising that fire captures our interest. From a child’s point of view, fire seems the perfect toy: colorful, animated, and responsive.

Fire is a familiar part of our culture. Through everyday use, it seems comforting, warm, and helpful. We have candles on our birthday cakes and on our dinner tables during holiday meals. Candles are a part of many religious ceremonies. Children see fire in fireplaces in winter, and campfires and barbecues in the summer.

Fire seems fragile. Most fires children see are small—candles, matches, lighters. They are easily extinguished with a puff of breath. Any child who watches an adult struggle to light the barbecue with old charcoal or start a campfire with damp wood can easily conclude that fire is hard to get started and easy to put out.

Typically, fireplay is not a sign of an emotional problem. Young children just don’t understand the consequences, and older children overestimate their ability to control fire. In research conducted in Rochester, New York, we found that 9 out of 10 children who started a fire that was reported to the fire department never started another. Once they see the consequences of their actions, the vast majority of children don’t do it again.

But children’s fireplay should be taken seriously. Even when started without any intention to do harm, fires set by children can cause serious damage and injury.

How you can reduce the likelihood of children playing with fire:

  • Keep matches and lighters out of sight and reach, even child-resistant lighters

Although child-resistant lighters are helpful, they only provide a temporary margin of safety. Given enough time, many children find ways to light them. Lighters of any sort should never be left out, and ideally should be kept in a locked drawer or cabinet.

  • Be aware of your own modeling of fire use

What you do can be more important than what you tell a child. Casual use of fire such as leaving a stove, campfire, grill or candles unattended, not only creates an immediate hazard but tells children that fire needn’t be treated seriously. Ignoring the smoke alarm, or going in search of the source of smoke instead of urging everyone to get out when the alarm sounds, sends a message that smoke and its cause isn’t serious.

  • Supervise children at home as well as outside.

Many adults assume children are safe when they are in their own bedrooms. In fact this is where most of the fires set by young children are started, often in closets.

Parents need to both monitor their children, and restrict access to ignition materials.

  • Stick to clear rules about fire.

Parents and caregivers must firmly state to children that matches and lighters are tools for adults only. Children should tell an adult if they find these materials left lying around.

It’s important that this rule be clear and consistent. Many children will assume that if they’re allowed to do something with adult supervision, it’s really all right for them to do the same thing when alone. Many cooking fires start this way.

Think about at what age you would consider someone responsible enough to babysit your children. Most people want a sitter who is older than elementary school age, because they want someone who can respond if something unexpected happens. Elementary school children are not good at anticipating what might go wrong and how to respond if something does, such as if grease from cooking catches on fire. The Babysitting Training Courses sanctioned by the American Red Cross and the National Safety Council are designed for 11-to-15-year-olds, setting a national standard concerning the age of responsibility. Learn more about when a child is ready to use the stove or oven here.

  • Install and maintain smoke alarms, and plan and practice your escape.

Information about why and how to plan and practice a home fire drill, as well as about smoke alarms, is available at www.homefiredrill.org.

About the Authors

Robert Cole, Ph.D.  is a research psychologist and Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center School of Nursing, and one of the nation’s leading experts in fire safety education. Lt. Robert E. Crandall (Ret.) is a 30-year veteran of the Rochester Fire Department, where he helped develop the Adopt a School Program and was named Firefighter of the Year 2000. Carolyn E. Kourofsky is a freelance writer specializing in health and safety.

Learn more about how to:
Protect Your Family From Fire / Protege a su Familia de un Incendio
Protect Your Family From Scalds and Burns  / Protege a su Familia de Escaldaduras (Calentamiento) y Quemaduras

© Prevention 1st. www.prevention1st.org

May be reprinted with copyright and contact information intact.

How to Prevent Scalds at Home

In the Kitchen

  • Plan ahead before cooking. Wear short- or tight-sleeved garments while cooking.
  • Plug ovens and other cooking appliances directly into an outlet. Never use an extension cord for a cooking appliance; it can trip the user, which can cause hot food spills. Keep all appliance cords coiled and away from counter edges.
  • When deep frying, prevent contact of water and steam with hot oil; allow hot oil to cool before removal.
  • To prevent spills, turn pot handles away from the stove’s edge and use the back burner when possible.
  • Only use dry oven mitts or potholders when moving hot food from ovens, microwave ovens, or stovetops.
  • During meals, place hot items in the center of the table; use non-slip placemats instead of tablecloths.
  • Treat a burn right away by putting it in cool water. Cool the burn for 3–5 minutes and immediately seek medical attention.

Use Microwave Ovens Safely

  • Place the microwave oven at a safe height, within easy reach of all users, and lower than the face of the person using the microwave.
  • Heat foods only in containers or dishes that are safe for microwave use. Never microwave uncracked eggs.
  • To prevent steam build-up, remove tight lids on food containers, puncture plastic wraps, or use vented containers.
  • Let cooked food stand for 1-2 minutes before removing from microwave oven.
  • Open heated food containers slowly, away from face or hands, to avoid steam scalds.
  • Foods heat unevenly in microwave ovens; stir and test before eating.

Bathrooms and Sinks

  • Adjust thermostat on water heater to keep hot water <120°F. Install anti-scald tempering valves or thermostatic mixing valves.
  • Before using, check water temperature with a kitchen thermometer or test with your elbow, wrist, or hand with spread fingers.
  • Start to fill bathtub with cold water and slowly mix with hot water. Avoid running water in other rooms during this time (it might increase the temperature of the water filling the bathtub) and turn off the hot water first.

* Provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adapted from recommendations of the American Burn Association and the National Fire Protection Association

The Top 3 Causes of Scary Halloween ER Visits – And How to Prevent Them

 

Halloween frights should be fun, not painful. Avoiding a scary visit to the hospital is simple, but requires some forethought.

Here are the most common reasons kids visit the hospital on Halloween, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and tips for avoiding the trip:

 

Pedestrian collisions with vehicles

    • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children.
    • Use flashlights, and reflective tape on bags and costumes, to be more visible.
    • Avoid darting from house to house. Stay on the sidewalk and cross at corners. If there’ s no sidewalk, walk facing traffic.
    • If possible, choose hats and nontoxic makeup rather than masks, which can block a child’s vision (and yours if you’re the responsible adult!)

Eye injuries from sharp objects

    • Choose soft, flexible props when possible.
    • If a costume calls for swords, cane, or sticks, they should not be sharp, or too long (to avoid falls).

Burns from flammable costumes

 

Make sure costumes, wigs and accessories are made of flame-resistant materials.

  • Try a glow stick instead of a candle in jack o’lanterns.
  • Keep candlelit jack o’lanterns, and any candles, away from curtains and other flammable objects. Never leave them unattended.

7 Simple Steps for Fire Safety

Prevent Fire

  1. Don’t smoke in bed or when sleepy. Smoking materials are the cause of 24% of home fire fatalities.
  2. Turn off portable space heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep. Heating equipment is the source of an additional 24% of home fire fatalities.
  3. Turn off the stove if you have to answer the phone or leave the room. Cooking equipment is the source of 15% of home fire fatalities, and by far the leading cause of home fire injuries.
  4. Put away matches or lighters in a high cabinet or locked drawer, out of sight and reach of children. Children under age 5 are eight times more likely to die in a fire caused by playing with a heat source than are older children and adults.

Be Prepared If a Fire Occurs

  1. Install a smoke alarm. One working smoke alarm on each floor is better, and one working smoke alarm inside every sleeping area is best. The National Fire Protection Association and the International Association of Fire Chiefs recommend installing both ionization and photoelectric alarms, or dual alarms that incorporate both technologies. Ionization smoke alarms respond best to flaming fires, and photoelectric to smoldering fires.
  2. Press the test button on your smoke alarm to make sure it’s still working, even if it’s hard-wired or has long-life batteries;
  3. Plan and practice a home fire drill. Make sure everyone in your home knows what to do when the alarm sounds:
  • Get out right away.
  • Go directly to your meeting place. Choose a meeting place in front of your home or where firefighters can see you.
  • Don’t go back inside for anything.
  • Call 9-1-1. Provide your address with the complete and precise street name (e.g. is it Sunset Street, Sunset Circle, Sunset Boulevard?) and the nearest cross street.

For step-by-step help in planning your escape, visit www.homefiredrill.org.