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The Fire Marshal’s 12 Days of Christmas Safety

December 12, 2018
By Matt Love , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Santa has arrived at Macy's in New York City, signaling the official start of the holiday season.

This installment of our ongoing service and education series is dedicated to your local Fire Marshal, Executive Assistant Fire Chief Ron Martin, who oversees all of our Life Safety and Prevention services.

Your local fire marshal has composed a little song called "The Fire Marshal's Twelve Days of Christmas" and we are excited to deliver this excellent community information to you over the holiday season.

On the first day of Christmas, my fire marshal gave to me: a watering canister for my live Christmas tree.

Live Christmas trees are a wonderful addition to any home during this time of year. Nothing compares to the wonderful smell of fresh pine. However, live Christmas trees present a significant fire hazard when they are not properly watered and dry out.

Live Christmas trees should be placed in a tree stand holding at least one gallon of water. A general rule of thumb for watering is that a tree will require one quart of water for every inch of tree stem diameter. Live trees consume the most water during the first week in their new home, so daily watering is essential.

On the second day of Christmas, my fire marshal gave to me: Two Tot Finder stickers, and a watering canister for my live Christmas tree.

Tot Finder Stickers were an innovation of the American Fire Services dating back to the 1970's. Originally, the Tot Finder decal was placed on the outside of a child's bedroom window to quickly alert arriving firefighters to the location of children inside the home. Countless children were saved thanks to this innovative program, however, the program declined as a result of potential security concerns from parents.

As the firefighter protective ensemble changed, and innovations such as the Thermal Imaging Camera (TIC) revolutionized interior search and rescue, the Tot Finder program changed as well. The newly revised Tot Finder Program consists of three stickers, one to be placed on the exterior side of a child's bedroom door, and two additional stickers for the door frame. These new stickers are only visible from the interior of the home, alleviating the security concerns of parents.

As firefighters crawl into a smoke charged, limited visibility environment, their lights can quickly refract back to them from these stickers, alerting them to the location of a child's bedroom.

The Fort Myers Beach Fire Department participates in the Tot Finder Program. Anyone wanting stickers for their home should contact one of the Life Safety Division members.

Also, we recognize there are many "fur-baby" parents out there. As a result, the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department also participates in the Pet Finder Program. These stickers are designed to be placed on the front and rear door of a home to alert Firefighters that there are pets that may need rescuing.

On the third day of Christmas, the fire marshal gave to me: Three sets of pot holders, two Tot Finder stickers, and a watering canister for my live Christmas tree.

There can be no debate that this time of year is as much about food as it is about giving and spending time with loved ones. Unfortunately, the holiday season is also a time for increased cooking fires and cooking-related injuries. Simple steps that can prevent a joyous event from turning into a medical or fire emergency are:

- Supervise children always

- Turn pot handles on the stove inward to avoid accidental spills and to keep little hands from exploring

- Never use water to extinguish a cooking or grease fire

- Use pot holders or oven mitts when handling hot pots, containers, or crock pots

- Over time, oven mitts and pot holders become thin and wear out, meaning they are no longer effective at protecting you from burns. Always ensure you check them before use.

- Always have an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approved kitchen fire extinguisher available to act quickly in case of a fire.

On the fourth day of Christmas, the fire marshal gave to me: Four UL-approved extension cords, three sets of pot holders, two Tot Finder stickers, and a watering canister for my live Christmas tree.

At this time of year, the Exterior Illumination Engineer awakens in all of us. The most commonly utilized tool in the Exterior Illumination Engineer's toolbox is an extension cord. While this tool may seem harmless, the improper use of an extension cord can spell big trouble regarding fire, electric shock, and injuries.

To keep our Exterior Illumination Engineers safe and sound, the following is a list of recommended practices:

- Always use an Underwriter Laboratories (UL) approved extension cord (look for the silver label). A UL-approved extension cord guarantees the cord has been tested to the highest level of fire and electrical safety.

- Always match the extension cord correctly to the job it needs to perform, do not use indoor extension cords outside of the home.

- Extension cords should never be augmented or overloaded from their original design, doing so represents an increased risk for a fatal electrical shock, burns, or a fire.

- Extension cords need to be protected from environmental and physical damage as much as possible, exposure to the elements breaks down the protective coatings, which can lead to arcing or an electrical shock.

- Carefully secure all extension cords that may cross a common path of travel for visitors as these present a trip and fall hazard.

- Extension cords should never be used for permanent household appliances or lighting.

- Extension cords expire. A good rule of thumb to follow is if the cord has become faded, or is easily unplugged, it is time to throw it away and get a new one!

On the fifth day of Christmas the Fire Marshal gave to me, five referrals to Fire Sprinkler Contractors, four UL approved extension cords, three sets of pot holders, two Tot Finder stickers, and a watering canister for my live Christmas tree.

Those who remember the 1960's and 1970's can probably recall the height of America's fire and arson problem. It was not uncommon in major metropolitan areas to turn on the evening news and hear of major commercial multi-alarm fires.

Through the advent and development of modern building and fire codes, large commercial fires have lessened significantly. When large commercial fires do occur, our community members often walk away unharmed. This is a result of modern fire departments quickly isolating fires, thanks to building fire protection systems, specifically automatic fire sprinklers.

With the lack of headline capturing fires, it is easy to think America's fire problem is solved, however, this is far from the truth. The United States leads the developed world in the number of fire deaths in the home, with approximately 3,000 Americans losing their lives or sustaining serious injuries annually when a fire occurs in their home.

In today's modern home, the contents have drastically changed from one of natural products to an environment of plastics. When the modern home catches fire, an occupant's time to escape unharmed has been drastically reduced.

Residential fire sprinklers represent a significant investment in the safety of an individual's family. At the time of new construction, residential sprinklers can cost as little as 1% of the total construction price. Here are some important facts about fire sprinklers in the home.

- Florida Statute requires a homeowner's insurance policy to provide a discount if you have an automatic fire sparkler system.

- When a fire occurs, the entire fire sprinkler system does not open up and flood a home, as we may see in the movies. The only sprinklers to open are those closest to the fire, and those needed to contain it.

- Residential fire sprinklers add critical time for occupants to escape.

- Residential fire sprinklers are similar to having a personal firefighter on duty 24/7 in your home!

On the sixth day of Christmas, the fire marshal gave to me: six night lights for my older loved ones, five referrals to Fire Sprinkler Contractors, four UL approved extension cords, three sets of pot holders, two Tot Finder stickers, and a watering canister for my live Christmas tree.

As we age and reach the fifth decade and beyond of our lives, certain changes to our physiologic and body mechanics occur, which predispose older adults to increased fall risks. In addition to taking prescription medicines that can affect our balance, our eyesight begins to change, and it becomes harder to see well in low light.

Every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in America for a fall. Falls also impact older adults' lifestyles by drastically reducing independence, increasing admission to long-term managed care facilities, and causing stress for children and family.

These simple yet highly effective fall reduction tips can drastically reduce the risk for a significant event:

- Place nightlights throughout common paths of travel.

- Annual eye exams to ensure prescription lenses are kept current, keeping eyesight sharp and clear.

- Properly fitted shoes.

- At night, placing a telephone, or cell phone at a lower level on the nightstand to easily reach and call 911

- The addition of a wearable remote call button so that 911 can be called if a phone is out of reach

- In commonly traveled paths, remove wiring, cords, or loose fitting throw rugs that present a tripping hazard.

- Addition of non-slip surfaces in bathtubs and wet areas, along with handrails in the shower and toilet.

On the seventh day of Christmas the fire marshal gave to me: seven smoke alarms, six night lights for my older loved ones, five referrals to Fire Sprinkler Contractors, four UL approved extension cords, three sets of pot holders, two Tot Finder stickers, and a watering canister for my live Christmas tree.

There is no question that properly installed and functioning smoke alarms save lives!

As we slumber safe in our beds waiting for jolly old Saint Nicholas to arrive on Christmas Eve, the nerve responsible for our sense of smell, the olfactory, is asleep as well. In other words, if a fire occurs in the home while the occupants are deep asleep, they will not be awakened by the smell of smoke. The majority of individuals who perish in residential fires do not perish as a result of injuries from the fire, but the poisonous smoke. A smoke alarm is like a silent guardian in the home, only sounding at the hint of smoke, or chirping when it's time to change the battery.

In order to have the most beneficial relationship with your smoke alarm, all are encouraged to do the following:

- Check your batteries twice a year and replace when necessary (every time the clocks change, it's time to check your smoke alarm batteries).

- Smoke alarms should be in every bedroom, outside every group of bedrooms, and there should be at least one on every floor and at the top of every staircase.

- Families that have hearing-impaired loved ones should make sure a smoke alarm with lights is available.

If you need a smoke alarm, contact the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department Life Safety Division and our crews would be happy to help make your home a safer one!

On the eighth day of Christmas, the fire marshal gave to me: eight holiday shopping safety tips from our friends at the Lee County Sheriff's Office, seven smoke alarms, six night lights for my older loved ones, five referrals to Fire Sprinkler Contractors, four UL approved extension cords, three sets of pot holders, two Tot Finder stickers, and a watering canister for my live Christmas tree.

While the holidays are a season of giving, family, and friends, for some it is seen as a season of opportunity. Thanks to our friends at the Lee County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Carmine Marceno, we are happy to bring you the following holiday safety tips. Please visit and like the Lee County Sheriff's Office Facebook page to get the latest information from our brothers and sisters in law enforcement.

- Only use Automated Teller Machines (ATM) that are well-lit and visible,. Avoid ATMs that are dimly lit or obstructed from public view.

- Try to plan ATM transactions during the day.

- It is never safe to leave your vehicle unlocked, running, or unattended, no matter how little time you are spending inside a store or at a pickup. Never leave a child or pet in a vehicle unattended for any period of time.

- Only carry cash and credit cards in an amount necessary for a single shopping trip

- All zippers and snaps on purses should be closed, and a wallet should never protrude out of a purse. If the purse is equipped with a shoulder strap, wear the strap across the body instead of a single shoulder.

- Those carrying wallets and money clips are encouraged to move these items from their back to their front pant pockets.

- When shopping at night, always park in a well-lit area

- Take all valuables out of the car with you, and secure packages in the trunk of your vehicle or put them out of sight. Ensure all doors and windows are secured when you leave your vehicle.

Your Fort Myers Beach Fire Department Team is dedicated to Shaping Our Community Through Excellence. If you are interested in these services or any others offered by the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department, please call us at 239-590-4200, email us at, or visit us on the web at You can also subscribe to the Fire Chief's "Scoop" to stay up to date on weekly activity!

Thank you for your support and make it a safe day!

Matt Love

FMBFD Fire Chief



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