Information Technology and Consumer
Progress with making children's rooms safer from fire: consumer electronics and computer equipment sold for use in the home NASFM releases DVD entitled "preliminary fire screening tests of consumer electronics and information technology equipment." (clips can be viewed at the bottom of this page.)
The NASFM Consumer Product Fire Safety Task Force is pleased to report that some computer and consumer electronics manufacturers apparently are now voluntarily using the new draft "candle ignition" technical specification for at least some of their products, even though this new draft has yet to be formally adopted by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and its international counterparts. The use of this technical specification by manufacturers will help to ensure that the outer housings of thousands of computer, consumer electronics and telecommunications products sold for use in the home and other occupancies are less likely to ignite by a small open flame such as a candle.
This is fire prevention at its best. Thanks to the strong leadership and integrity of corporations like IBM/Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard (H-P), Philips and UL - and the hard work of Science Advisory Committee members Hank Roux and Margaret Simonson - we have not been forced to wait for death and injury statistics to pile up before we "prevent" fires. The fact is that candle fires, juvenile fire-setting and electrical ignitions all are capable of igniting the typically plastic housings of these many products.
Earlier this year, we subjected eight new flat-panel television sets and monitors to a small open candle flame at the New Hampshire Department of Public Safety. All of our tests were conducted in the same environment with exposure to the same conditions but, as you will see, candle flames tend to jump around and came in contact at different angles, depending on how the individual TVs and monitors were built. Links to the video clips of these comparative tests can be found at the bottom of this page.
As you will see in the clips, some of these products did not ignite after as much as four minutes' exposure to the candle flame. These products typically charred or bubbled, which demonstrates that they were exposed to heat from the candles. Other products ignited - some in under 15 seconds - and erupted quickly into large fires. (Some interior designers are recommending large flat-screen TVs be placed over fireplaces - not a great idea based on what we saw.)
We conducted these tests just to see what would happen. They were meant to be screening tests to determine which products would be used in similar tests conducted under controlled laboratory conditions. Therefore, we cannot say that the products that did not ignite are safe, but the products that did ignite clearly would be a problem up against a candle or a child with a lighter. The manufacturers are responsible for conducting fire tests under controlled laboratory conditions.
We now plan to move forward with several activities:
Why parents should care about the flammability of the outer housings of TVs, stereos, video games, computers, printers and other electronic equipment.
As you will see in the videos, candles can ignite a TV or monitor. According to the US Fire Administration (USFA), "The explosive growth of the candle industry parallels the annual increase of candle fires - an average of 9,400 fires, $120.5 million in losses, 90 deaths, and 950 injuries … 45% of candle fires originate in the bedroom, 41% of candle fires are from either unattended candles or candles placed too close to combustibles." The National Fire Protection Association reports that "Children under five faced the highest risk of death from candle fires."
Even the best supervised child may make a mistake with fire. Juvenile firesetters are classified in different ways, ranging from those children (often under age 8) who set fires out of curiosity or accidentally, to those children (often older than age 8) who are motivated by psychosocial conflict or criminal intent. Children under 19 account for more than half of all arson arrests, although the vast majority of fires ignited by children do not result in arrests. Fires set by children playing in residences are more deadly, on average, than other types of residential fires, according to the USFA. One-third of the fires that kill kids are set by children playing with fire.
Some of these products have defects that can cause a fire. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission lists no fewer than 16 recalls since 2003 of information technology and consumer electronics products for reasons of fire safety.
What each of us can do to prevent fires in children's rooms. Common sense tells us that preventing fires in children's rooms is a priority, a big job but achievable if we all work together.
What parents can do
Common sense tells us that, especially with young children, parents must do their best to supervise kids. But the most attentive parent cannot be with their children every minute, and single parents often find it difficult to spend adequate time with their children. Even when they are not physically present, parents can do a lot to make their children's rooms safer from fire. Parents can:
Also, know when to seek help if you suspect a child is setting fires. Curiosity about fire is normal in a child. Firesetting behavior is not. A good first step is to contact local or state fire officials for guidance.
What manufacturers and retailers can do
Common sense and ethical practice dictate that manufacturers take responsibility for the safety of their products and inform consumers if a potential fire risk exists.
Fortunately, many manufacturers care deeply about the safety of their products. But in a day when cheaply made imports are flooding the American market and the pressure is on to cut costs at every level, some products clearly are safer than others. Consumers need to be educated about a specific fire hazard to be able to protect against it.
Common sense and ethical practice also dictate that retailers take the time to learn the differences among the products they sell, and help their customers make informed choices about which products provide adequate levels of safety.
What your local fire official or state fire marshal can do
If you have a question, a concern or an idea about preventing fires in children's rooms, contact the fire educators at your local fire department or your state's office of the State Fire Marshal. If you need help tracking down someone to help, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you cannot afford a smoke alarm, ask for help from your local fire department or State Fire Marshal. Fire officials may not be able to satisfy every request immediately, but they will try their best in every case.
Let local fire officials or your State Fire Marshal's office know immediately if you are worried about a child's interest in fire. They can direct you to programs and professionals who can help address your concerns.
For more information, please contact us at email@example.com
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