Smoke Alarms: Your First Line of Defense

Smoke Alarms: Your First Line of Defense

There are many more combustible materials in today’s homes than in years past, which means a spark or small fire can engulf a house in less than five minutes.

Smoke alarms are a critical first line of defense against catastrophic loss. To keep your family and home safe, follow these tips on installing alarms correctly, testing them, and ensuring that they’re properly maintained and cleaned.

 

Step 1: Installation

First, you should know that there are two types of smoke alarms: ionization and photoelectric. The first is more responsive to flaming fires, the second to smoldering fires. For best protection, use both types or a hybrid of the two. When it comes time to install them, remember to:

    • Install alarms inside each bedroom as well as outside sleeping areas and on every level of your home, including the basement.
    • Choose alarms that display the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
    • Install wall-mounted alarms 4 to 12 inches from the ceiling, and ceiling-mounted models at least 4 inches from the closest wall.
    • To avoid false alarms, place the units more than 10 feet from cooking appliances and 3 feet from bathrooms (shower steam can trigger them).
    • Smoke alarms in the basement should be positioned on the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs leading to the next floor.
    • For pitched ceilings, place alarm within 3 feet of the peak but not within the apex.
    • Never paint smoke alarms or adhere stickers or decorations, as this can disable them.
    • Don’t install alarms near doors, ducts, or windows where drafts might decrease their sensitivity.
    • If possible, interconnect your smoke alarms using hard-wiring or wireless technology. This extra safety measure enables all the alarms to sound at once when any single one is triggered. Note that they must be from the same manufacturer.

 

Step 2: Testing

Be sure to keep the manufacturer’s instructions so you can properly test them and use for reference.

    • While using ear protection, test alarms at least once a month using the “test” button. This ensures that your alarms have reliable power.
    • Never test your alarm with real smoke or exhaust.
    • Make sure you know what kind of batteries your smoke alarms have. Some units have non-replaceable 10-year batteries; others have batteries that need to be replaced every 6-12 months. For the latter, always have fresh replacement batteries on hand.
    • Always replace batteries following the manufacturer’s instructions. If it specifies a particular battery, use that exact one or the alarm might not work properly.

 

Step 3: Maintenance & Cleaning

Smoke alarm safety depends on regular maintenance and cleaning. Do the following to ensure yours stay in proper working order.

    • Maintain a monthly testing schedule and log your maintenance activities, along with any notes.
    • If the alarm chirps, that means the battery is low and you should replace it right away.
    • Clean alarms by gently vacuuming the outside of the unit with a soft brush attachment. You can also use a can of clean compressed air (sold at office supply stores).
    • Never use water, solvents or cleaners on your alarm.

 

For more tips on home fire safety, be sure to read our Home Fire Safety Tips from Firefighters and check out this handy infographic.

Finally, make sure your family has a fire escape plan in place and that everyone understands and can follow it in an emergency. Use the National Fire Protection Association’s easy-to-use template here.

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty. We specialize in 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.

 

 

Spotting Signs of PTSD in First Responders

Spotting Signs of PTSD in First Responders

Studies have shown that first responders are at a much greater risk to develop post-traumatic stress disorder than the general public due to their exposure to high levels of physical and emotional stress. Sadly, throughout their career, many first responders will develop anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health issues, that are oftentimes linked to suicide.

Mental health, a once-taboo subject for departments, is now becoming more normalized with the aid of department programs, advocacy campaigns, and initiatives that help educate and bring awareness to PTSD, depression, and other types of mental health issues commonly found in first responders.

September is Suicide Awareness Month. Do your part in helping decrease first responder suicide by learning how to spot the early signs of PTSD in your first responder friends, family members, or colleagues.

Early signs of PTSD to look out for include:

 

Intrusive Memories

  • Memories of the traumatic event
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares or upsetting dreams
  • Emotional reactions triggered by a reminder of the traumatic event

 

Eluding & Avoiding

  • Not speaking of the event
  • Avoiding people, places, or activities

 

Behavioral Changes

  • Irritability
  • Lack of Interest
  • Feeling detached
  • Memory problems

 

Physical Reactions

  • Easily startled or frightened
  • Trouble sleeping and concentrating
  • Exhibiting self-destructive behavior
  • Always being on guard

 

Over time, these symptoms can differ and vary in intensity.

If you or someone you know is struggling with any of these signs of PTSD or other mental health issues, you are not alone. Please reach out to a mental health professional. If you do not feel comfortable speaking to a professional, start by reaching out to a close colleague, family member, or friend.

If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

 

 

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.

Honoring the Fallen Heroes of 9/11

Honoring the Fallen Heroes of 9/11

About an hour after the first plane struck the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, Michael Wright found himself on the 81st floor of the North Tower, trapped in complete darkness and smoke. That’s when he heard the rumble: The South Tower was collapsing.

“I was lucky enough to be next to a first responder,” Wright said. “I can credit him for the fact that I am alive now.”

For John McLaughlin, rescuers found him the next morning, buried in the ruins of building two. “The last bits of rubble were cleared, and they were able to pull me out with nylon straps,” he said.

Survivor Wendy Lanski recalled how after the planes struck, “Police and firefighters and EMS workers were everywhere … [they] were coming up to us, grabbing us in groups, saying, ‘Go out this door, run across the street, cover your head, and don’t look up.’” As she and her colleagues rushed to escape the building, first responders were charging in, intent on saving lives.

Tragically, many of them never made it out. In all, 412 first responders – 343 firefighters, 24 law enforcement officers and 8 emergency medical personnel – were lost when the towers fell. With them, 2,565 people in and around the buildings.

 

Unprecedented

September 11, 2001, marks the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history, when four commercial planes were hijacked by members of al Qaeda and flown into buildings in New York City and Washington, D.C. The fourth was thwarted when passengers resisted, causing it to crash into a field in Pennsylvania instead of its intended target.

The attack left Americans reeling in shock, horror, and grief. In an instant, devastation rippled out across families, communities, and the nation.

In sharing that heartbreak and devastation, though, Americans came together. Within hours, an incomprehensible tragedy had galvanized a renewed spirit of national unity.

Much of that was sparked by the stories of courage and heroism that had emerged within minutes of the attack. Strangers risking their lives to run back into the towers to save others. Office workers staying behind for friends who were trapped or had disabilities.

And, of course, the hundreds of first responders – the warriors who rushed in to save lives, despite the overwhelming danger. Over the next days and weeks, countless stories like those of Wright, McLaughlin, and Lanski emerged, painting a profound story of the best of humanity.

 

Remembering the Fallen

Besides being the single deadliest attack in human history, 9/11 was also the single deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers in U.S. history.

As we take time on 9/11 to reflect on the national tragedy that occurred 19 years ago, we will remember the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice that day. They were fire, EMS, and law enforcement personnel, but more importantly, they were husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, and beloved colleagues.

 

How You Can Honor Them

Here are some ways you can honor our 9/11 heroes:

  1. Visit a memorial. There are memorials and monuments at or near the sites of the attacks, as well as across the country. The 9/11 Memorial & Museum also offers an online experience to learn more and pay tribute.
  2. Help 9/11 responders. Due to the chemicals and toxins released at the attack sites, many 9/11 first responders have since developed or died from illnesses such as cancer, respiratory diseases, and other chronic conditions. Support organizations that are directly helping responders who’ve fallen ill.
  3. Support your local first responders. By supporting your local heroes, you are giving thanks to all those who answer the call to serve and protect. Say yes to that next pledge or fundraising drive hosted by your community’s firefighter or police department.

If you are a first responder, you can:

  1. Join a 9/11 memorial stair climb. Every year, thousands meet up to climb the equivalent of 110 stories, the height of the World Trade Center towers. Normally held in office buildings, convention centers, and stadiums, this year the stair climb events are mostly virtual. Find one near you.
  2. Engage with your community. Although your job is serving others, doing so in your off hours – for causes close to your heart or in different areas of interest – will bring you closer to your community and first-responder network. Find a cause that could use your expertise or energy, or educate others about the EMS profession and inspire the next generation of first responders.
  3. Practice self-care. Learn to be aware of and manage your stress levels. Employ healthy coping mechanisms, take care of your mind and body, and be sure to reach out if you need to talk with someone or get support. Be there for your first responder family, many of whom are at increased risk of suicide.

Although we can’t erase the tragic events that took place 19 years ago, we can honor its fallen heroes by being kind and generous toward our neighbors and finding ways to serve in our communities.

 

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.

First Responder Fitness During COVID-19

First Responder Fitness During COVID-19

It’s not easy being a first responder- EMS, Fire, Dispatch, LEO, etc. – it’s a rewarding career, but it can really take its toll on your body, physically and mentally.

Now, in the midst of a pandemic (and wildfire season), it is even more important than ever for first responders to take care of themselves and stay healthy.

Exercise is required for most first responders, and there are numerous health benefits. Here are 5 reasons why you should exercise frequently, especially during COVID-19.

 

health

Improves Health – It’s important for a first responder to stay in shape, and exercise is one of the best ways to lose fat and gain muscle. Regular exercise also helps manage and prevent many other underlying health conditions that make you more susceptible to the virus like: high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, strokes, and even cancer.

 

 

 

stressed

Reduces Stress – Mental health is just as (or arguably more) important as physical health, especially for first responders under a lot of pressure. When you exercise your brain releases endorphins that help you relax and decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

 

 

 

Happiness

Improves Mood – Not only does exercise reduce stress, but it also boosts your mood, helping you stay on top of your game, even on a stressful day. A study found that only 20 minutes of exercise resulted in improvements in mood, both immediately and for up to 12 hours afterward.

 

 

 

mask

Boosts Immunity – Physical activity produces compounds in your body that have the power to improve your immunity, decrease inflammation, and reduce viral respiratory infections, like ones found in COVID-19 suffers. This is very important for first responders who may be exposed to the virus on duty.

 

 

 

cognitive function

Enhances Cognitive Function – Regular exercise has been proven to reduce fatigue, improve alertness, and concentration, which are all vital attributes first responders need when responding to calls, especially those related to COVID-19.

 

If you are working out in a gym, even if it’s your own department’s gym, always remember to sanitize before and after equipment use and to maintain social distance when possible.

Stay healthy and be safe out there!

 

 

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.

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.

 

Prevention

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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