Smoke Alarm Podcast Now Available

Firefighters inside burning high rise.

Firefighters assemble in a smoke-filled corridor in a high rise during a training exercise. Image taken from video shot by Cameron Barrett.

MySafe:LA is pleased to commence our smoke alarm podcast with Episode #13 of our fire and life safety series. With more than 20 fatalities on average in any given year in Los Angeles, this is a topic that should be of value to anyone living in LA – or anywhere for that matter. This podcast is part of our Fire Burns, Smoke Kills fire safety awareness effort. It’s all part of being FireSmart:LA.

Our smoke alarm podcast series is designed to share perspective on using these important life saving devices – what are they, who needs one, how many do you need?, and how can we use them without being annoyed?

Our initial podcast (Episode #13), NOW AVAILABLE, is with noted national fire safety expert Meri-K-Appy. MySafe:LA Executive Officer David Barrett speaks with Meri-K about some of the key issues facing people who do not have a working smoke alarm. The dangers are greater than ever before, so this is a podcast worth listening to.

During the coming week, we’ll provide additional podcasts with national experts that cover important fire safety and smoke alarm related topics, including:

  • Smoke alarms and people with mobility issues
  • The technical stuff: Why are there so many types of smoke alarms?
  • The future of smoke alarms – will they call you at work?

We’ll also add in several fun topics that make the issue of using a smoke alarm less stressful, while still creating a safe environment for your home.

To get started, click here and enjoy the first podcast.

Smoke Alarms: Why Do People Continue to Die in House Fires?

[ Updated March 6, 2014 ] During the first nine weeks in Los Angeles, 11 people have died in house fires. In every one of those incidents, not one functional smoke alarm was found. Overall, on average more than 20 people per year have died over the course of the past four years in L.A. And, this year, we’re on track to more than double those numbers. Those are pretty tough statistics, and officials in Los Angeles want the trend to stop. The LAFD is sharing information along with UFLAC, the AIFF, and other agencies to warn people about living in homes without working smoke alarms.

burned out home

A burned out bedroom in a home without a working smoke alarm.

The LAFD is also working with MySafe:LA to distribute smoke alarms to people in need, and to get fast facts (called “15 Minutes of Safety” by the LAFD) into the hands of 5th grade students. In addition, whenever a significant incident occurs in LA, firefighters will canvas the adjacent streets and help get the word out that smoke alarms save lives. Free alarms will be provided to people without them, and who complete a “pledge” to maintain them. MySafe:LA contributed 3,500 smoke alarms to the city via its partnership with First Alert.

Unfortunately, just as cars run red lights and experience collisions, telling people to use a smoke alarm isn’t enough. The efforts put forth by smoke alarm companies and fire agencies such as First Alert, the LAFD, and others, including MySafe:LA are a start, but more needs to be done. It’s a complicated issue, and understanding what others have discovered is a good place to start.

An NFPA study from 2011 demonstrated that the fire fatality rate in homes without smoke alarms is twice as high as those with functional alarms. Other studies put the overall rate at 66 percent. That means that Los Angeles is demonstrating a frightening trend, with more than 90 percent of fatalities occurring in homes without working alarms. At the same time, telephone surveys done by the NFPA in multiple years have indicated that 96 percent of homeowners claim to have at least one working smoke alarm. This has led numerous researchers to doubt the validity of “self reporting” statistics on this topic. A comprehensive study published by in 2012 provided excellent statistics about the validity and reasons behind over-reporting of smoke alarm use.

This doesn’t mean that people are lying, although there are clearly people who think giving a positive answer is “pleasing” and makes them look good. What it does mean without question is that the smoke alarm issue is complex. Poor placement, number of devices required, types of power sources, longevity of power, and the context in which they’re used affects the outcome: people dying in fires where properly placed, properly powered, properly categorized smoke alarms might have saved them.

melted smoke alarm

Just having an alarm isn’t enough. The alarm must be maintained and tested regularly to ensure it works.

There are really two issues that are central to the “smoke alarm” issue. The first is getting working alarms into the home and ensuring they’re functional and properly placed. The second is understanding the issues that were in play for those people who did die in fires despite a working alarm. We know the most common reasons for the latter: people, either due to age or disability were not able to hear the alarm when it was triggered by fire.

There are other factors to consider as well. The time it takes for a fire to go from first ignition to “flashover,” when the whole room bursts into flame, has fallen dramatically. This means the window of opportunity to get outside to safety is much smaller than it used to be. In 1980, when smoke alarms really began to find acceptance due to their affordability, a family might have as long as 15 minutes to escape before conditions inside the home became deadly. In those days, the content within the home included wood, metal, glass, and paper. Today, the content in our homes is often plastic and synthetics. These items burn hotter and faster, and contribute to a deadly atmosphere of smoky poisons. Today, researchers estimate the time to escape a home fire safely is approximately three minutes. So, why doesn’t everyone maintain working smoke alarms?

Example of Flashover

Flashover occurs when the majority of the exposed surfaces in a space are heated to their autoignition temperature and emit flammable gases. Flashover normally occurs at 500 °C (930 °F) or 1,100 °F for ordinary combustibles.

Frankly, many people believe smoke alarms are a pain in the neck. A study done by our friends at Kelton Global revealed that 61 percent of people surveyed have allowed their smoke alarms to remain in place without a working battery. The paradox comes into play when people admit a working alarm is an important element to home safety. A gap analysis conducted by AARP regarding general home safety found 98 percent of all participants (ages 18-49 as well as 50 plus) reported, “a working smoke alarm on every floor is important or very important.”

Multiple studies are revealing that nearly everyone believes a working smoke alarms are important, but not everyone has them. Why not?

It may be that many people don’t understand the issues involved with placement or maintaining them. Worse, there are so many variables in alarms today, and the laws differ from state to state, so focusing in on the key issues is necessary if we’re to close the gap on the residences that remain unprotected – and that means a defined percentage with an alarm in place. It’s just in the wrong spot, doesn’t work, is the wrong kind, or is too old.

Vision 20/20, a collaborative project that brings national fire safety organizations including MySafe:LA together with fire marshals and fire agencies, published an important report on smoke alarms and the resulting complexity of their use in January 2014. The report is a useful tool relative to the issue of smoke alarms and their effectiveness because it combines the outcome of multiple reports and creates a baseline from which fire responder agencies and even the manufacturers of smoke alarms can begin to better identify the most at-risk audiences.

No report, not even from the esteemed Vision 20/20 people, USFA, FEMA, or NFPA can solve the problem. But they can collaboratively share research data that will help us work more effectively on reducing fire fatalities.

MySafe:LA provides free smoke alarms to people in need in Los Angeles. In 2013, our organization provided several thousand free alarms to families in south central and the San Fernando Valley. Already in January of this year, in collaboration with First Alert, we’ve arranged for 3,500 alarms to be provided to the Los Angeles Fire Department for distribution to the public. The MySafe:LA team will deliver thousands more directly to families and older adults.

In our case, we don’t just give them away. We deliver a very successful program for students called the Jr Fire Inspector program. Our instructors go into schools and teach 4th and 5th grade students to inspect their homes for working alarms and other fire dangers. We spend multiple visits (more than 3 hours total) with these eager students in at-risk neighborhoods, provide them with the materials they need, and our school partners treat the process as homework.

5th grade students and their Jr. Fire Inspector ID cards

Students show off their Jr. Fire Inspector ID Cards as part of the MySafe:LA Smoke Alarm initiative.

After the students have completed their inspections and on request, we provide a free alarm and working batteries. The engagement with the students helps establish a basis upon which installation of the alarms and maintenance of them is encouraged. MySafe:LA is currently in the midst of additional research to determine the status of those alarms a year after they were delivered and will publish results later this year. We’re now delivering a similar program with older adults and we’ll provide not only alarms, but installation support as well. We view this as essential, as older adults (over 55 years of age) are more than twice as likely to die as a result of fire than any other age group.

MySafe:LA recognizes the importance of ensuring alarms are working, are in the right locations, and are the right type. To that end, our new “installation cadre” will work with specific audiences, including church groups, schools, and community associations to ensure these alarms are making a difference – keeping people alive (by notifying them to escape) when they experience a fire in their home.

We’re also working to establish a better understanding of what smoke alarms can do and the benefits of keeping them working. We’re managing a study that will help others use the data we gather to create more awareness and hopefully results.

The first step is a new educational podcast series that will launch this coming week. We’ll teach people about the dangers associated with the lack of an alarm, the technology of alarms, the issues faced by people who are young or old, disability issues, and much more. We’re also producing new video and web content to help people take action to help themselves as part of our new “Fire Burns – Smoke Kills” smoke alarm campaign. The questions related to why people are dying in fires and the impact smoke alarms have must be answered. And the answer starts with you – if you live in a building of any type, you are doing yourself and your family a favor by ensuring you have working smoke alarms.

A Reminder from the San Fernando Earthquake.

Brown Bomber Ambulance under a bridge following the Sylmar earthquake of 1971.

A Reminder from the San Fernando Earthquake… Don’t Forget me! Too often, when it comes to earthquakes, we tend to forget. Tomorrow is the 43rd anniversary of the 1971 San Fernando Earthquake. More commonly referred to as the Sylmar Earthquake, it was a major event in Southern California. Without any recorded preshocks, the thrust earthquake measured 6.6 on the Richter scale, and was considered a XI or “extreme” on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale. A total of 58 people died directly as a result of the quake, but in 1971, deaths from related causes, such as heart attacks, were not included. As such, it is estimated that the total death toll exceeded 70 persons.

The geological makeup of the San Fernando Valley and the adjacent Santa Susana Mountains, Santa Monica Mountains, and the Verdugo Mountains created interesting boundaries relative to ground movement and damage. With the most significant damage to buildings in the northern part of the San Fernando Valley, including Sylmar, most attention from the media was focused there. The famous collapse of the Olive View and Veteran’s Hospitals are what people immediately think of when this quake is mentioned.

What isn’t easily remembered is the impact the quake had below the surface of the valley. Underground water, sewer, and gas systems were shattered, nearly literally. There were too many breaks to count, and it took months to restore services to the level that existed on February 8, 1971. Because this was a thrust fault, the ground was literally uplifted, creating a ripple effect that spread across the floor of the valley. Sideways and roadways were cracked, and in fact were impacted with greater breath of damage than the quake’s shift in the underlying soil. And it was the earth itself and set the stage for the most significant damage: to area hospitals.

The collapsed hospital after the Sylmar quake of 1971.

The Olive View Hospital complex was owned by LA County in 1971. 880 beds for patients represented a major hospital campus, yet most of the buildings had been developed prior to the post 1933 Long Beach earthquake construction updates. The buildings more significantly damaged were made of wood or masonry construction. The five story reinforced concrete Medical Treatment and care Building was one of the newest, yet it sustained significant damage. Three deaths occurred in this building.

Most of the deaths were within the Veterans hospital complex. Four buildings totally collapsed, and others partially broke apart. Most of the buildings constructed after 1933 withstood the shaking and did not collapse.

The Van Norman Dam sustained significant damage, including a landslide that dislocated a section of the dam’s embankment. Thankfully, the dam did not collapse overall, but had it, 80,000 people would have been directly in its path.

Substantial disruption to about ten miles of the freeways in the northern San Fernando Valley took place with most of the damage occurring at the Foothill Freeway / Golden State Freeway interchange and along a five mile stretch of Interstate 210. On Interstate 5, the most significant damage was between the Newhall Pass interchange on the north end and the I-5 / I-405 interchange in the south, where subsidence at the bridge approaches and cracking and buckling of the roadway made it unusable.

Collapsed freeway overpass after Sylmar in 1971.

Although there were changes made to engineering requirements and lawmakers worked to improve legislation, not only for construction but research, time proved to be an enemy of preparedness. Because the legal and political process can at times be sluggish, fear and interest in earthquake readiness had subsided by the time certain measures were brought to the floor for process. One measure that did get enacted was the The Hospital Seismic Safety Act that called for the application of medical facility safety standards to all new hospital construction.

Perhaps the most important advance was the the Alquist-Priolo Geologic Hazard Zones Act. Signed into law in December of 1972, the legislation had the goal of reducing damage and losses due to surface fault ruptures. The act restricts construction of buildings designed for human occupancy across a fault that is known to be active. The state geologist is responsible for mapping well-defined faults that have evidence of surface faulting within the last 11,000 years and creating regulatory zones with relation to the potentially active faults.

Today, that exact issue is at the center of the Hollywood Millenium project. Where are the faults in Holllywood – are they properly surveyed? Are the proposed towers within 100 feet of an active or known fault? The investigation continues, but the worry is wider than just a single construction project.

Despite everything Southern California has experienced in the past 150 years, and despite the best efforts of lawmakers, CalTech, and the USGS, there are literally hundreds upon hundreds of buildings in Southern California that are considered unsafe – meaning they will likely collapse if an earthquake anything like San Fernando or Northridge occur. And a repeat of those quakes is a certainty. It may be a week, or it may be 30 years, but the ground will move, and with it, thousands of lives are at stake.

Fire Burns. Smoke Kills

Did you know that while fire burns, smoke kills?

Firefighters examine burned out room.

Firefighters examine a burned out bedroom in Los Angeles. From video shot by Cameron Barrett

UPDATED FEB 22, 2014.

That’s right. Fire Burns. Smoke Kills.

Often, we tend to think about fire as the primary threat to life in home fires. The fact is, more people die from smoke and gas inhalation and exposure than from fire itself. In Los Angeles, nine people have died in structure fires in just the past seven weeks (updated as of 2/21/2014). That’s unacceptable for our organization, for the Los Angeles Fire Department, and it should be unacceptable to anyone living in this great city.

Listen to our podcast series on smoke alarms! Episodes 13, 14, 15, 16 will teach you all about the importance of smoke alarms. Listen now.

What happens in a structure fire? Things have changed over time, as the content of our homes has changed. We used to have homes filled with metal, wood, and paper. Today, we have homes filled with plastics, synthetics, and paper. The reaction to fire can be extremely deadly – with fire doubling in size every minute or even faster.

Imagine you’re asleep in your home. It’s two in the morning.

A fire starts in your garage. Within just a few minutes, your home will fill with smoke. Will you wake up? Let’s imagine that you do NOT have a smoke alarm in your home… You may not wake up for some time.

Smoke will cover the ceiling, and as more of it fills your home, it will start to bank down… filling each room. The majority of that smoke will be higher in the room… at first.

You sense something… you wake up and smell the smoke – you jump out of bed – STAND UP and you take in one frightened breath as you head for the exit


That’s right. Fire burns. Smoke kills.

One toxic breath might be all it takes to kill you.

TIP: A working smoke alarm could save your life.

climbing stairs in burning building.

An LAFD fire captain climbs the stairs of an apartment building with smoke… taken from video shot by David Barrett.

There are many components in smoke that can be lethal, including:

PARTICLES: These are either unburned, partially burned, or completely burned substances. These substances can be so small they penetrate the respiratory system’s protective filters and hide in the lungs. While some of these substances are merely irritating to your eyes and stomach, others are extremely toxic.

VAPORS: You’ve seen black smoke. Vapors can look like a fog, but technically are very small droplets of liquid that may include poisons that will injure or kill a person if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

TOXIC GASES: Everyone has heard of carbon monoxide, commonly called CO. Not everyone realizes that it can be deadly, even in small quantities – if it replaces the oxygen in the human (or animal) bloodstream. There are other toxic gases as well. “Hydrogen cyanide results from the burning of plastics, such as PVC pipe, and interferes with cellular respiration. Phosgene is formed when household products, such as vinyl materials, are burned. At low levels, phosgene can cause itchy eyes and a sore throat; at higher levels it can cause pulmonary edema and death.” (source: NFPA)

So, what’s being done about it?

The Los Angeles Fire Department responds to upwards of 10 structure fires every day. Typically, they will arrive within minutes. Every firefighter in Los Angeles is trained to save lives first – and to suppress fire and other life threats with expert care and force. But, firefighters can’t save you if you don’t take the easy and simple steps to save your own life – to protect your own family.

MySafe:LA partners with the LAFD to teach children and older adults about fire safety. We’re a non-profit organization that takes no money from the fire department or the city. We rely strictly on grants and donations. Given that, we’re very effective, and during the past few years, we’ve reached more than 210,000 students in Los Angeles. We’re creating Jr. Fire Inspectors (students who complete a training program and ensure there is a working smoke alarm in their home). We’re giving out thousands of smoke alarms. And we’re doing more than that…

Firefighters inside burning high rise.

Firefighters assemble in a smoke-filled corridor in a high rise during a training exercise. Image taken from video shot by Cameron Barrett.

During the coming weeks and months, we’ll be sharing stories, how-to’s, and collaborating to ensure Los Angeles has its best chance to become safer from needless deaths in fires.

Ultimately, it’s up to you.

Make a plan. [ learn how ]

Install and maintain working smoke alarms [ learn how ]

Practice GET LOW AND GO. [ learn how ]

Practice your plan [ do it ]

We invite you to learn more about MySafe:LA and to get involved with making your home safer from fire…


FEMA Wants a Few Good Kids

It’s True: FEMA wants a few good kids. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has published a request that we think makes a lot of sense – and one we’re thinking of emulating. Here is the FEMA notice:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is seeking applicants for its Youth Preparedness Council.

The Youth Preparedness Council is a unique opportunity for youth leaders to serve on a highly distinguished national council and participate in the Youth Preparedness Council Summit. Additionally, the youth leaders have the opportunity to complete a self-selected youth preparedness project and to share their opinions, experiences, ideas, solutions and questions regarding youth disaster preparedness with the leadership of FEMA and national youth preparedness organizations. Once selected, members serve on the Council for one year, with the option to extend for an additional year, if formally requested by FEMA.

Council activities and projects center around five key areas of engagement: Programs, Partnerships, Events, Public Speaking/Outreach and Publishing. Members represent the youth perspective on emergency preparedness and share information with their communities. They also meet with FEMA on a regular basis to provide ongoing input on strategies, initiatives and projects throughout the duration of their term.

Any individual between the ages of 12 and 17 who is engaged in individual and community preparedness or who has experienced a disaster that has motivated him or her to make a positive difference in his or her community, may apply to serve on the Youth Preparedness Council. Individuals who applied last year are highly encouraged to apply again. Adults working with youth and/or community preparedness are encouraged to share the application with youth who might be interested in applying.

Youth interested in applying to the Council must submit a completed application form and two letters of recommendation. Specific information about completing and submitting the application and attachments can be found in the application instructions. All applications and supporting materials must be received no later than February 24, 2014, 11:59 p.m. EST in order to be eligible. New Youth Preparedness Council members will be announced in May 2014.

For more information about the Youth Preparedness Council and to access the application materials, please visit

Kids and Quakes – You Have No Idea

Red Cross talks to kids about earthquakes

If you’re in the 4th thru 6th grades, you weren’t even a glint in your parent’s eyes when the Northridge earthquake occurred. In fact, your parents might not yet have reached the 4th grade themselves when the valley was rattled and buildings shook – and in some cases collapsed.

So, if you’re an elementary or middle school student, you’ve never experienced a significant earthquake. Never. That means you have NO IDEA what a big earthquake feels like or how destructive it can be. Whatever you thought it would feel like… well, it’s a gazillion times bigger than that.

Should you be scared?

Not now.

If you work with your family to prepare for the next big earthquake, then when it happens (and it will happen!), you’ll be less frightened because you’ll know what to do.

So, what should you do?

Getting ready for an earthquake can be fun. Really! Think of the different things you do to get ready as projects. Projects are fun, right?

So, the first step is to get your parent’s attention. Tell them, “Hey, parents! We’ve got to prepare for an earthquake!” It doesn’t matter if you have a mom, a dad, an uncle, or any combination of adults who care for you — you need to get the attention of the family you live with.

Project one: Make a Plan.

You need to create a plan on how to get out of your home. You also need to know where to go if you evacuate.

Learn about making a plan here: escape plans.

For this project, you get to draw your house, the area around your house and so on. It’s going to be fun!

Project two: Build a quake GO kit.

Now that you have a plan, you need to create an earthquake readiness kit. This is the basic kit you’ll turn to right after an earthquake. Here is the list of items you should consider for your quake kit:

One pair of old shoes – you’ll want these so you don’t accidentally step on broken glass or other fallen items after an earthquake.

A whistle – You can buy one of these for a dollar. A whistle can help rescuers find you if you’re trapped.

A flashlight – you can buy one of these for a dollar as well! If a fire or earthquake occurs at night, you need to be able to see. By the way, try to find one with LED lighting – it will last much longer and use less power than a traditional “bulb” flashlight.

A lightweight jacket – it might be cold, and you might be away from your house for more than a few hours.

A battery powered radio – this is how you’ll get the latest information you and your family need. This type of radio can be found for just a few dollars, and don’t forget to have some extra batteries as well.

Bonus Items:

There are a few additional items that would make your kit super beneficial, and you get extra MySafe:LA readiness points if you can add these items:

An extra set of keys for the house and your family’s vehicles – keys tend to get lost when we’re in a hurry, right?

A small first aid kit – in case someone gets a cut or needs some minor medical attention. Who knows? You might need to help a neighbor who forgot to put shoes on after an earthquake and cut their foot! Be prepared, right?

Some extra cash – money is very important, and we all know that just putting money aside is not easy, but if your family can put $50 in each GO bag, you’ll be able to get basic supplies if there is an emergency. Put the money in an envelope and seal it. Don’t use it for holiday gift purchases or that X-Box game you want.

A blanket. Just in case.

Your parents should also put some materials together that are important for the family – including an extra credit card or ATM card, a list of medications that anyone in the family might need, child care materials, and of course anything your pets might need to keep them calm if the family evacuates for any reason.

These are all important things to have in your GO kit. Now, it’s time to ensure you get that kit put together!!!

Shortly, we’ll share another story about creating a post-earthquake survival kit for you and your family. And, if you have questions, post them here and we’ll make sure to answer them for you! Be safe out there!

L.A. is buzzing with memories of the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

This week, Los Angeles is buzzing with memories of the 1994 Northridge earthquake. At 4:31 on the 17th of January in 1994, a significant earthquake ripped through the San Fernando Valley, northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Although centered in Reseda, the “Northridge” quake as it is known, killed 57 people, sent 1,600 to area hospitals, and injured more than 8,700.

Northridge burns on Jan 17, 1994

From a scientific perspective, this was an interesting quake, and quite different from the one most eyes are trained on: the San Andreas. When the San Andreas next rips, it will shift the ground side to side – a slip fault. The Northridge fault pushed up – a blind thrust fault called the Pico fault.

The Northridge quake wasn’t a particularly large quake on the magnitude scale – a 6.7 magnitude, but it was one of the most destructive local quakes ever recorded in North America. A freeway overpass on the Santa Monica Freeway collapsed more than 20 miles from the epicenter.

What amazes us at MySafe:LA is the wealth of information available from that quake, and the lack of interest by many in Southern California. The next big quake is coming. It may be catastrophically larger than Northridge. The Northridge quake lasted approximately seven seconds, although the ground rocked and rolled for approximately 20 seconds. The San Andreas fault could shake Los Angeles for more than four minutes.

We’re learning more about new and potentially deadly faults all the time. Hollywood has been at the center of a battle over the construction of new buildings close to fault lines. And, with good reason. The USGS is worried that a major quake in Hollywood would kill or injure more than a11,000 people, cause more than $20 billion in damage, and literally destroy the Hollywood area. Fire following a quake like that could bolt not only through Hollywood itself, but the neighboring Hollywood HIlls. It was fire that destroyed most of San Francisco after the Big 1906 quake, and more than 110 fires destroyed blocks of buildings following the Northridge quake.

MySafe:LA encourages everyone in Los Angeles to become QuakeSmart:LA. Our educational programs are designed to help residents, businesses, schools, and visitors to be prepared in the event of a major catastrophe. Visit our QuakeSmart:LA section, attend one of our presentations, and become interested in making sure your community is prepared for the Big One.

A MySafe:LA Start to the New Year!

A new year can mean a new beginning. We’re delighted to share a MySafe:LA Start to the New Year!!!

What happens at the beginning of a typical new year? We go back to school, or work, or whatever our daily agenda requires. We rethink our goals and objectives for the coming year. We hopefully look forward to new adventures.

Learning hands only CPR

MySafe:LA instructors teach “hands only” CPR at a community event.

Our team has been working diligently to come up with new and engaging mechanisms to help us better prepare people in Los Angeles to prevent fire, burns, water injuries, and be ready in the event of earthquake or other disasters. This year, working in collaboration with our partners, including the Los Angeles Fire Department, we have a host of new programs and projects to share.

Jr Fire Inspector Program:

Even though we’ve awarded Jr Fire Inspector IDs to more than 1,500 students in Los Angeles, we’ve determined the need for family-driven fire inspection is much greater than even we anticipated. We’re working diligently to continue to this program, and to bring it to several neighborhoods that are seriously in need.

Jr. Fire Inspectors

MySafe:LA Instructors review Jr. Fire Inspector home inspection forms.


Our hallmark program – teaching fire safety to 4th and 5th grade students is now expanding to include older adults as well. We use media, including presentations and video, a DVD full of training materials for teachers, LAFD firefighters and apparatus, and much more to communicate the importance of fire and life safety in the City of Angels.


Did you know the San Andreas (southern end) is hundreds of years overdue for a major quake? When it does rip, the greater Los Angeles area may shake for up to five minutes. More than 1,600 buildings may erupt in fire within minutes. MySafe:LA is teaching people how to be QuakeSmart:LA.

Great Shakeout drill

Firefighters perform during a Great Shakeout drill developed by MySafe:LA.


Every year, people drown in pools in Los Angeles. These deaths are all unnecessary. MySafe:LA is keen to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities related to water. Don’t drown. Don’t let your child drown. It only take a minute for someone to slip away. Permanently.

And Wait! There’s More…

We don’t just share the standard messages about fire and life safety. We work to make it fun, practical, and related to the local community. LAFD apparatus carry “Hands Only” CPR cards and fire department trading cards we produce. We create videos, games, online learning, and other interactive components that make fire and life safety something everyone can get behind. During the coming year, we’re going to do more than ever to promote readiness in Los Angeles – and beyond.

If you’re new to MySafe:LA, we’re a California Public Benefit 501 (c)(3) Corporation – our parent is called the Safe Community Project. MySafe:LA teaches fire and life safety to kids, families and older adults in Los Angeles. We partner with the Los Angeles Fire Department, FEMA, CalOES, CalTech, the Southern California Earthquake Center, Fireman’s Fund Heritage Foundation, First Alert, Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Society,  Children’s Burn Foundation, California Science Center, FireCorps, CERT, Vision 20/20, and other organizations. We have a fun introductory video as well!

[ watch video ]

Because we’re a non-profit, we are very careful with money – we use no LAFD or LA City funds. All of our funding comes from grants and gifts. If you’d like to learn more about sponsoring or supporting MySafe:LA, please visit our giving section in this website.

MySafe:LA – EIN: 27-0967511


Safely Remove That Dried Out Christmas Tree!

Christmas Tree ReclyclingAs the holidays come to a close, fire safety is just as important as at any other time of year. And the risks in many areas, including Los Angeles are greater than ever. That’s why it’s important to safely remove that dried out Christmas Tree. A dead tree left in your home is a significant threat. Don’t let your holidays be ruined by a Christmas Tree Fire.

Our friends and partners at the Los Angeles Fire Department have written a useful and informative blog story on how to best deal with an expired Christmas tree. [ Read Post ]

Don’t get burned as the year comes to a close. Be FireSmart:LA!

And don’t forget, other fire dangers lurk at this time of year. Be careful to properly keep flammable items away from any source of fire or heat – including space heaters. Install and rely on a properly operating CO alarm, and start the year off right with properly fitted smoke alarms.

Tip: Did you know you can not purchase a combined smoke and CO alarm? It’s true – and they’re not expensive, either.

Holiday Safety Tips

Everyone wants to talk about holiday safety tips at this time of year. For many people, it can be a repetitive and boring subject. Don’t let that happen. The fact is, too many people are injured or die during this time of year. Most of these injuries and fatalities are senseless, in that they could have been prevented.

It all comes down to a few things we can all benefit from:

Common Sense – Don’t do things that don’t make sense to the average person.

Timing – Don’t rush during the holidays. Take your time and you will be safer overall.

Consideration – Keep your cool. Sure, it’s a hectic time of year, but give the other guy a break.

Check out our video on Xmas tree safety:

Here’s our Xmas tree safety tip list:

  • Place the tree at least three feet away from any heat source such as fireplaces, radiators, candles, etc.
  • Water the tree daily – without a sufficient amount of water, the tree will dry out faster.
  • Make sure the tree doesn’t block any exits like windows, stairs, and doors.
  • One of every three home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems. Be sure to check the wiring of the rope lighting. Replace any string of lights that may have a broken cord or loose bulb connection.
  • Be sure to turn off all the lights on the tree when unsupervised if the family leaves the home for the evening or when going to bed. Do not leave the tree lights on overnight.
(source: National Fire Protection Agency)

Sure, you’ve heard this before, but people are still dying in structure fires because these simple rules were ignored.

Not everyone celebrates Christmas, and not everyone who does has a Christmas tree. So, what about holiday safety tips that may affect anyone living in Los Angeles? Here are a few things to consider:

  • Merry and Bright: Carefully inspect holiday light strings each year and discard any with frayed cords, cracked lamp holders, or loose connections. When replacing bulbs, unplug the light string and be sure to match voltage and wattage to the original bulb.
  • Lights Out: Always turn off holiday lights when you leave the house unattended or when going to bed.
  • Timing Is Everything: Use an outdoor timer certified by CSA International to switch lights on and off. Lights should be turned on after 7 p.m. to avoid the electricity rush hour.
  • Check for the Certification Mark: When purchasing light strings, extension cords, spotlights, electrical decorations, gas appliances, or carbon monoxide alarms, look for the certification mark of an accredited certification organization such as CSA International, UL, or ELT to ensure that the products comply with applicable standards for safety and performance.
  • One and Done: Never connect more than one extension cord together; instead use a single cord that is long enough to reach the outlet without stretching, but not so long that it can get easily tangled.
  • The Great Outdoors: When hanging outdoor lights, keep electrical connectors off the ground and away from metal rain gutters. Use insulated tape or plastic clips instead of metal nails or tacks to hold them in place.
  • Climbing Up: Using a ladder when you put up lights? Going into the attic to find things during the holiday season? Choose the correct ladder for the job and double check for a certification mark to ensure your portable ladder complies with applicable standards.
  • Keep the Gas Behind Glass: Do not use your gas fireplace if the glass panel is removed, cracked, or broken, and only allow a qualified service person to replace fireplace parts.
  • Trash the Wrap: Never toss holiday gift wrapping into the fireplace. Does it look nice? Sure, but scars from burns are never attractive, nor do they feel good. Toss the holiday wrapping in the recycling bin.
  • Sound the Alarm: Test your smoke alarms monthly to make sure they work, and be sure to install smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms on every level of your home — especially near sleeping areas.
  • Filter-Friendly Furnace: To help prevent CO hazards in your home, have a qualified heating contractor perform a yearly maintenance check of your furnace and venting system, and clean or replace your furnace filter frequently during the heating seasons.
  • Clean the Clutter: Do not store combustible materials such as gasoline, propane, paper, chemicals, paint, rags, and cleaning products near your gas furnace. Gasoline or propane cylinders should be stored outside of your home.

We know… that’s a lot to keep in mind, but it’s all common sense, so it should be easy to remember. From everyone at MySafe:LA and the Los Angeles Fire Department, we hope you and your family have a safe and happy holiday break!