Heat Stress Prevention for First Responders

Heat Stress Prevention for First Responders

Summer heat is tough for anyone, but firefighters, peace officers, EMTs, and paramedics are at increased risk when heat’s extreme.

First responders are outdoors for extended periods of time, often in the sun. They’re also usually wearing heavy gear such as firefighting equipment, bulletproof vests (for officers), or other bulky protective equipment.

When these factors combine with elevated temperatures, heat stress can set in quickly. So it’s important for first responders and their departments to be well-versed in both the symptoms and best measures for prevention.


Heat-Related Illnesses: A Slippery Slope

Heat stress can progress from mild to life-threatening when symptoms aren’t addressed. Here are the main stages:

  1. Heat Cramps or Rashes – Caused by increased sweating, cramps, and rashes are the first sign of stress.
  2. Heat Exhaustion – At this stage, the body is overheating as a result of excessive loss of water and salt.
  3. Heatstroke – The most serious heat-related illness, heat stroke happens when the sweating mechanism breaks down and is no longer able to cool the body. Heatstroke can be fatal and requires immediate medical attention.

Signs of heat stress aren’t always obvious — brush up on the symptoms of the above conditions here.



Preventive measures can be taken by first responders themselves, as well as their crew members, supervisors, and departments. The most successful heat safety protocols are adopted department-wide and include elements such as:

  • Hydration – Staying hydrated is the most important tactic for preventing heat illness. Although first responders know the importance of hydration, it can easily be forgotten in the middle of emergency situations. Water should be made accessible at all times to first responder crews, with the encouragement to hydrate well and often.
  • Knowing the signs – It’s important that both supervisors and team members know the signs of heat stress, both to self-monitor and to look out for their colleagues. Implementing a buddy system where partner pairs observe each other for signs of heat stress is also a good idea.
  • Rest breaks – Rest periods are essential to ensure that workers can hydrate and cool down. They should occur more frequently when temperatures, humidity, or sunshine increases, when air is stagnant, during especially taxing work, and when workers are wearing protective clothing or gear.
  • Cooling station – Especially when emergency calls are extended, a temporary set up where responders can retreat and take a rest is important. For instance, some fire stations supply their crews with trailers with a large fan and a mister; some have air-conditioned “rehab trucks” for firefighters on extended calls.
  • Training – Before the hot weather begins, employers should provide heat stress training to all workers and supervisors so they’re better prepared. When possible, training should cover conditions specific to that work site or area.
  • Heat alert program – When extreme heat is forecast, it’s important for employers and supervisors to implement a heat alert program, and ensure their workforce is safe and on the lookout.
  • Acclimatization – First responders can become acclimatized to working in hot environments, gradually increasing their physical stamina and sweating proficiency. Acclimatization is achieved through evidence-based training programs provided by employers.
  • Fitness — The risk of heat stress increases with obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, lack of physical fitness, and certain medications. All the more reason for first responders to improve their diet and exercise where they can.


Finally, although not a factor in heat illness per se, extensive sun exposure over time increases skin cancer risk. A 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that skin cancer risk in firefighters is greater than in the general population. Wearing (sweat-proof) sunscreen should be a daily habit.



This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.



We Protect AmeriCAN Heroes – Together We CAN

day with firefighte


Together We CAN.

During these trying times, it’s important to know that you are not alone. You have a community of people behind you, encouraging and fighting for you.

Nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals are leading the fight on the frontlines against COVID-19, stepping up heroically in the face of incredibly long hours, heartbreaking care cases, and increased personal risk. Peace officers, firefighters, paramedics, and other emergency personnel are on the frontlines risking their own lives to keep our communities safe and in working order during this public health crisis. While teachers, school administrators, and education support professionals have completely changed their teaching strategies to accommodate students so they can stay safe at home and finish out the rest of the school year virtually.

We have never been more thankful for our everyday heroes than we are right now.

The coronavirus pandemic has turned our daily lives upside down, but when we come together as a community- as neighbors, as family, as friends -we are unstoppable. We CAN get through this and we WILL. Together we CAN.


We’d like to extend an extra special thanks to the Firefighters, Police Officers, Teachers, and Nurses who took the time to participate in our Together We CAN video. It is a privilege to hear about your daily experiences throughout the pandemic, firsthand. We appreciate your courage and dedication to helping keep us safe now, more than ever. Thank you.


This video is brought to you by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com. Be sure to check out our Heroes series at https://mycalcas.com/leoheroesvideo/ or visit California Casualty’s YouTube Channel.

The Heroes Video Series was filmed and produced by Wide Awake Films.
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At California Casualty, our mission is to provide trusted, personalized auto and home insurance protection.  exclusively for educators, law enforcement, nurses and firefighters—those who protect, strengthen and enhance the quality of life in American communities.

5 Ways to Help Peace Officers and First Responders

5 Ways to Help Peace Officers and First Responders

Peace officers, firefighters, paramedics, and other emergency personnel are the American heroes on the frontlines of keeping our communities safe and in working order during this public health crisis.

They are working daily to ensure public safety, enforce laws, arrive first to emergencies, and provide reassurance to anxious communities. True to their sworn duty, they are stepping up to do what’s needed. Now is the time for the rest of us to step up and support them.

As cities and communities put plans in place to open their doors, here are 5 ways you can help your first responders.

Keep Your Distance

Across the country, various forms of shelter-in-place and social distancing orders will slowly be lifted. The basic idea of the orders was to limit exposure to others and ultimately, limit the spread of coronavirus infections. As life begins to return to it’s new “normal” it is important to remember to continue to keep your distance when out in public and avoid going out if you feel you are getting sick. By continuing to socially distance yourself in public and taking the necessary precautionary measures (like wearing a mask), you will help continue to slow the spread and you’ll also relieve officers’ time and energy in enforcement.


Don’t Abuse 9-1-1

Only call 9-1-1 if you, someone else, or property is in immediate danger. True emergencies include medical emergencies, violent crime, accidents, downed power lines, etc. Calls that are not actual emergencies overload the 9-1-1 system. That’s already an existing problem, and authorities worry it will escalate if the public health crisis continues, or gets worse, as cities begin to open their doors. If you have concerns about coronavirus symptoms that are not a medical emergency, contact your doctor or advice nurse.


Be Safe

Now is not the time for outdoor enthusiasts to put themselves in harm’s way by going rock climbing or wilderness hiking—even if it’s solo. Emergency evacuations and rescue cost resources and manpower. There’ll be time for adventures later; for now, follow the laws and be safe. Observe the speed limit, drive carefully, and be fire- and safety-conscious around your home. In short, remember that any emergency you create for first responders will strain their limited resources.


Call It In

If you need to report a non-emergency crime, file a police report, or add to an existing report, avoid going to the police station in person. Instead, submit your information online or over the phone. Avoiding walk-ins limit exposure risk to their ranks.


Be a Good Neighbor

Many of us know first responders and police officers personally. Whether they’re in your family, friend circle, or neighborhood, make a point to reach out and check-in. See if there’s anything you can do for them or their families. This could be something like dropping off food at the station, walking their dog, or just simply being someone to talk to. They have been and will continue to be overwhelmed—physically, mentally, and emotionally until this pandemic has resolved completely. Let them know you’re there for them.


Life will return back to normal, but to keep our first responder and healthcare systems from getting overwhelmed, it is important to remain vigilant on doing what we can to stay healthy and continue stopping the spread.



This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Home Fire Safety Tips from Firefighters

Home Fire Safety Tips from Firefighters

Although it feels like more resources are created every day on fire safety, more than a quarter of reported fires are still home fires.

Though some home fires are caused by unavoidable circumstances, like wildfires; most could easily be prevented. The majority of home fires and fire casualties are caused by simple human error, like leaving pots and pans unattended while cooking, smoking inside the house, leaving flammable materials too close to open flames, etc. All of which are 100% preventable.

So, we asked our firefighter community on Facebook, “What steps we can we take to reduce our chances of causing a house fire?”, and here’s what they had to say:

Turn off the Stove

Cooking fires account for half of all home fires. Never leave a pan unattended, and if you have to walk away for a split second turn down your burner.

Watch Your Candles

Candles don’t have to be monitored as closely as pans, however, you should never leave the house or go outside with one burning. Candle placement is also important, they should sit far away from flammable material, like curtains, greenery, or fabric decor.

Eliminate Extension Cords

Extension cords are a serious fire hazard, over time they can deteriorate and potentially create a dangerous shock. Remember, extension cords are for temporary use only.

Keep Dryer Vents Clean

As your clothes are being dried, lint builds up in the vent. This lint is highly flammable and will cause a fire if it is not cleaned off properly. It is recommended to clean your dryer vent after every load.

Keep Debris & Brush Away from Your Home

Dead branches and leaves piled around your house can easily ignite and cause your home to go up in flames with it. At the end of fall, make sure all leaf piles are raked up or kept at least 10 ft away from your home.

Keep an Eye on the Space Heater

Space heaters cause thousands of home fires every year because of the heat they produce, they are an extreme fire hazard. If you use a space heater, never leave them unattended and keep them 3 ft away from flammable material.

Close the Door at Night

The best way to keep a fire contained is to shut the door. That is why firefighters recommend that you shut the door at night when you go to sleep.

Properly Dispose of Cigarettes

Smoking materials that are not put out properly cause almost of quarter of house fire deaths. If you smoke, smoke outside and use a glass or ceramic ashtray. It is also important to make sure embers are cool before disposing of them.

Test Smoke Alarms Regularly

Have a properly working smoke alarm can reduce your risk of dying in a fire by half! You should install a detector on every floor of your home and test them monthly.

Have an Emergency Kit 

If the worst should happen, make sure you and your family are prepared by building an emergency kit. It will save all of your important documents in case of a house fire.


The majority of firefighters agreed that the most important thing you can do to prevent a house fire, is to just simply be aware. If a house fire does break out, call 9-1-1 immediately.


Related Articles:

What You Need to Know About Smoke Dectectors & House Fires

Guest Blog: Tips for Homeowners and Renters from a Fire Prevention Officer

The 6 Most At-Risk Areas of Your Home


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.



Holiday Light Safety

Holiday Light Safety

Author, Sheryl Turner, is a grant writer for Nenana Volunteer Fire/EMS Department in Alaska and a member of the National Volunteer Fire Council.

Hi, Everyone…This past weekend we spent quality time with our Goddaughter and her family in Carlsbad, California. My husband and I live in Alaska, and our Goddaughter and her family live in Arizona. Best place to meet? Carlsbad works every time. Like many, we were celebrating the Holidays, enjoying being together and telling stories from years gone by. One of the subjects that came up was how decorating for the Holidays has changed over the years. This year, especially, we noticed that some stores started as early as October, just before or after Halloween, setting up Christmas displays and selling artificial trees! It surprised some of us that families seem to have also started decorating their Christmas trees a lot sooner than they have in past years.

As we drove around San Diego, La Jolla, and Carlsbad, California, we could not believe how many lights we saw. I told the kids that when my husband and I left Indiana last Thursday night, December 5th, I had never seen so many houses decorated, inside and out, this early in the season. The one thing that really surprised us, was how many people are using a traditional real pine tree, while others have elected to use an artificial tree.

As we discussed differences in the use of traditional or an artificial tree, our conversation shifted to sharing our thoughts on lights and decorations. Seeing that my husband and I have a law enforcement background and are now volunteers with the Nenana Volunteer Fire/EMS Department in Nenana, Alaska, and our Goddaughter’s family is with the Yuma, Arizona Fire Department, and the Department of Law Enforcement and Security at United States Army Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona, it did not take long for our conversation to shift and stay on the home fires caused by Christmas trees, and discuss tips and reminders that may help keep this year a safe and fire-free Holiday Season.

Our Goddaughter and I did some research online to see how many home fires are actually caused by faulty wiring, bad light bulbs, etc. (NFPA.org has really good information and Background Information). We checked various sights and compared the information. Overall, they all agree:

  •  Between the years of 2013-2017, U.S. Fire Departments responded to an average of 160 home fires per year that started with the Christmas trees. These fires caused an average of three deaths, fifteen injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage annually.
  •  On the average of every 52 reported, home fires began with a Christmas tree, resulted in a death. Compared to an average of one death per 135 total reported home fires.
  •  Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 44% of home Christmas tree fires.
  •  In 25% of the Christmas tree fires, a fire started because, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment was too close to the tree.
  •  Approximately 1/5 (21%) of Christmas tree fires were intentional.
  • Roughly ¾ of Christmas tree fires occurred in December or January.
  • Two of every five (39%) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room.

Although we are well into the 2019 Holiday Season, we still need to remember fires do not start themselves. Remembering a few simple tips about protecting your home and family, and possibly your local firefighters, is a great place to start:

  1.  Place Your Christmas Tree in a Safe Place: Make sure when you put up your tree, it is at least three feet away from any heat sources, like radiators, fireplaces, and heating vents.
  2.  Check Light Strands Before Putting Them on the Tree – Before you begin decorating, make sure the wires on your lights are not frayed. Check each strand and replace lights for cracked, chipped, or unlit bulbs. Make sure the lights are working correctly.
  3.  Lights Out – Always turn the Christmas lights off before you go to bed.
  4.  Plug No More Than Three Strings of Lights into One Plug –  Plugging in more than three sets of Christmas lights into a single extension cord can be dangerous. Doing so may cause problems with overheating. However, it depends on both the strand’s wattage and the maximum watt capacity of the plug. If you are unsure of how to check the wattage, you can use a power strip with a built-in circuity breaker instead of your wall outlet.
  5.  LED Lights – If lights you are using are getting too hot, substitute and use LED Lights. They are not as hot as the traditional lights.
  6.  Hydrate Your Tree – It is important to keep your Christmas tree hydrated. Remember, other than overheated Christmas lights, fires are also caused by dry Christmas trees. A dry tree will be more flammable compared to the one that’s been properly watered. If you prefer a real Christmas tree, make sure you check the water every day to prevent the tree from drying out. However, if you’re not too attached to a real Christmas tree, it’s actually safer to purchase an artificial Christmas tree made from fire-resistant materials.
  7.  Take Your Tree Down – Don’t keep your Christmas tree up for very long. Once the needles begin to fall, the tree becomes at more risk of a fire starting.
  8.  Outdoor and Indoor Lights – Use outdoor lights outside and indoor lights inside. Christmas lights are labeled by their use, so you’ll notice a disclaimer that reads “for indoor use only” or “for indoor and outdoor use.” Make sure you read this carefully as indoor-only Christmas lights cannot be used for the outdoors. Indoor-only lights aren’t insulated like outdoor lights and won’t work with moisture from the outdoors. In fact, if indoor lights are exposed to water, snow or any other outdoor element, they could possibly become hazardous.
  9.  Use of Ladders – Since falls are the highest emergency room-related injury during the holidays, it’s important to know how to safely use a ladder when hanging Christmas lights off the roof of your home or in any other space that would require a ladder. Have a spotter with you at all times to hold the ladder for stability. When hanging Christmas lights, never extend your body further than parallel with the ladder to prevent tipping. Consider a wooden or fiberglass ladder when you’re working with Christmas lights to prevent an electric shock.
  10.  Use Christmas Light Clips, instead of nails or screws, when hanging outdoor Christmas lights on your roof. Don’t use nails or screws to secure the lights as they can puncture the wires, causing the lights to malfunction, or worse, shock the person installing them. Instead, opt for light clips found at any hardware store to secure the lights onto the house. The light clips are safer for the Christmas lights and will cause less damage to your roof, compared to nails or screws.
  11.  Need to Use an Extension Cord ? – If you need to use an extension cord or have a long strand of lights between your Christmas tree and outlet, make sure you secure all loose light strands with electrical tape to avoid tripping and falling. If you have loose light strands outdoors, secure them with ground staples found at any hardware store. Simply place the staple around the light and push as far as you can into the grass or other soft surfaces to secure the cord.
  12.  If you don’t have access to an outdoor outlet, you may find it challenging to light up your home this holiday season. Remember that you can’t run Christmas lights or extension cords through windows or doors. When closed on the light strand, windows and doors can cause wires to break or become frayed from constant pressure, making them a safety hazard for shocks or electric fires.
  13.  Use A GFCI Outlet for Outdoor Lights – There’s a specific outlet used for outdoor Christmas lights called a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. It prevents electric shock from electrical – systems that could be exposed to wet conditions, like rain or snow, acting as a circuit breaker. This is especially helpful if your outlet is outdoors. Make sure you protect yourself and your home from electric shorts by purchasing a GFCI outlet. You might need to hire a licensed electrician to install this outlet or you can install it yourself.
  14.  Don’t Forget to Turn Off the Lights – Christmas tree lights should not be left on for prolonged periods of time or overnight. Even LED lights can overheat, and with a combination of a dry Christmas tree, could cause a fire. Make it a habit to turn off your Christmas lights every time you leave the house or go to bed at night. To make it easier, purchase a light timer for your Christmas tree lights and set it to a time to turn off every night and back on the next day. You can also buy a wireless control to shut off your lights through an app on your phone. Not only could this save your home from a fire, but it could also save you money in electricity bills.
  15.  Be Sure to Store Lights Properly Until Next Season – When the holiday season is over, make sure you don’t slack on putting away your decorations. Check the local laws of your city for how long you can keep up your holiday decorations. Some cities will ticket homes who have their holiday decorations up past a certain date. Store all outdoor and indoor Christmas lights in a well-sealed container to prevent water damage and rodent access. Knowing how to properly install and maintain your Christmas lights could save you money in electricity bills, prevent you or a loved one from getting an electric shock and eliminate the chance of a home fire. Follow these tips this holiday season to keep you and your home safe.

We all need to stay aware of what is happening around us. Be observant. Watch for Christmas lights that are not working; something against the cord that could start a fire; animals climbing the Christmas tree and being in danger; leaving lights on when no one is home; not turning lights off before going to bed. Remind our families, colleagues, friends, everyone about the chances of Christmas trees starting a home fire that cannot be stopped. It only takes a spark to start a fire…

My family and I wish you all a very happy and safe holiday.

Sheryl TurnerSheryl Ann Turner
Grant Writer
Nenana Volunteer Fire/EMS Department

Fire Prevention Tips for the Holidays

Fire Prevention Tips for the Holidays

As you bustle about getting ready for the holidays, please be careful. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the winter solstice, the season comes with an increased risk. Home fires peak this time of year and the joy of the holiday season can turn tragic if you don’t take these precautions. Here are some Fire Prevention Tips for the Holidays to keep you and your family safe.

In the Kitchen

The majority of home fires start in the kitchen. Whether you are frying a turkey or baking a pie, keep aware and be present. The majority of these fires were caused by leaving something on the stove, in the oven, and placing flammable material too close to a burner. More cooking fires occur during the holiday season than any other days of the year. Please observe these safe kitchen and cooking recommendations:

  • Never leave food on the stove or in the oven unattended
  • Always keep dishtowels, mitts and other flammables away from burners
  • Remove long sleeves or other loose clothing that could come in contact with burners or flames
  • Avoid consuming alcohol when cooking
  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand
  • Have a lid nearby to smother small grease fires


Holiday Trees and Decorations

Fire departments across the country are warning about the increased danger as we bring in trees and light up our homes. The over the past few years, Christmas trees caused an average of 210 home structure fires, with most occurring during the month of December. The incidence of candles caused fires also escalates during the holidays.

Here are some important tips to prevent holiday fires

  • Make sure real trees are fresh and needles don’t fall off when touched
  • Cut two inches from the base of the trunk and immediately put it in a stand with water
  • Add water every day
  • Keep trees at least three feet from any heat source (fireplaces, space heaters, candles, heat vents)
  • Check artificial trees for a “fire-resistant” label
  • Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory (UL)
  • Always turn off tree lights before going to bed or leaving home
  • Never use candles to decorate a tree
  • If you use real candles around the home, keep them 12 inches away from anything that can burn and always blow them out when you leave a room or go to bed
  • Don’t use frayed or damaged electrical cords
  • Never connect more than one extension cord and make sure they are not stretched



California Casualty wants everyone to have a safe and happy holiday.


Related Articles:

5 Proven Tips for Fighting Winter Fires

What You Need to Know About Smoke Detectors & House Fires

Guest Blog: Tips for Homeowners and Renters from a Fire Prevention Officer


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

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