Contact Media Relations 614-293-3737

December 13, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Young adults with autism are featured in a new educational video that promotes fire and burn safety in the home to that particular at-risk population.

The “Safe Signals” project includes a video, workbook and vinyl clings with important home safety information for the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living areas and utility spaces. The vinyl clings that can easily attach to windows, mirrors and appliances reinforce these safety messages, providing the quick “signals” to be a constant reminder of safety.

“The focus of the project is to develop fire and burn safety at home for older teens and young adults with autism. To our knowledge no other resource quite like this exists for this population,” said Lisa Murray-Johnson, program director for patient education at the Ohio State University Medical Center.

“Whether they live alone, with a roommate, in a group home or with care providers, we want to prevent accidental injury before it happens. Burn center experts are excellent at treating burns, but education to prevent burns is equally important,” said Murray-Johnson.

The Ohio State University Health System Nursing Patient Education partnered with The Ohio State University’s Nisonger Center, the Ohio State University Medical Center’s Burn Center and Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism research and advocacy organization, to create the educational materials aimed specifically for people with autism who are ages 18 to 26.

 But the safety messages are important reminders for everyone, said Murray-Johnson, who is also executive producer and project developer.

Coinciding with the launch of Safe Signals, Autism Speaks has introduced new sections on sexual abuse and community safety in its Autism Safety Project, a free online tool kit offering individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), families, caretakers and first-responders information and strategies to promote personal safety in emergency and non-emergency situations.

“Whether at home or in the community, people with autism can be vulnerable or unable to communicate when they are unsafe,” said Lisa Goring, Autism Speaks vice president of Family Services. “It’s critical that we do everything possible to educate parents and individuals with autism with key safety information on how to reduce risk, as well as improve our ability to detect when a dangerous situation has affected a loved one with autism.”

According to the National Burn Repository 2001-2010 Report, 68 percent of all burn cases reported in this national database occurred in the home. Of those, 44 percent reported were the result of fire flame, 33 percent were from scalding and 9 percent were from touching a hot object.

“Most scald burn injuries happen at home in connection with the preparation or serving of hot food or beverages, or from exposure to hot tap water in bathtubs or showers,” said Rebecca Coffey, a nurse practitioner with OSU’s Burn Center who also served as a project developer for Safe Signals. “This is why the regulatory standard for the water temperature in the home is 120 degrees Fahrenheit, to help prevent burns.”

However, temperatures of hot liquids, such as coffee, tea or hot chocolate that have been in a microwave can reach140 degrees Fahrenheit or more. At such a high temperature, it takes only five seconds or less for a serious burn to occur. Splashes of hot liquids when cooking can cause instant burns that can require immediate medical attention, Coffey said.

Other burn injuries can occur when someone touches a hot space heater, hot pans when cooking on the stove or when using an oven, Coffey added. The Safe Signals kit explains proper safety precautions in the kitchen, such as wearing oven gloves to protect hands, using pots and pans with heat-safe lids and handles, opening lids away from your face, turning pot handles away from other burners on the stove and using pot holders when moving hot foods or drinks.

For general home safety, experts recommend having an emergency escape plan and knowing at least two exits to leave the home. In addition, keep appliances in good working order, avoid clutter and wipe up spills to avoid slips and falls.

Others team members include Pat Cloppert, project developer Nisonger Center; Diane Moyer, project developer Patient Education; Carrie Beyer, video director; Jaime Sierra, Columbus Division of Fire, firefighter and public education specialist; Jeff Siegel, Aspirations Director for Young Adults, Nisonger Center.

In addition, six young adults who have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, participated in the video: Justin Rooney as the English narrator; Zoe Castro as the Spanish narrator; Seamus McCord as “Ben;” Thomas Robison as “Alex;” Alissa Mangan as “Karen” and Tommi Lee Johnson as “Jenna.”

The Safe Signals video is available on the Autism Speaks website. A $25,000 grant from Autism Speaks covered the production costs of the Safe Signals video, workbook and vinyl clings.

# # #

Contact: Eileen Scahill, Medical Center Public Affairs and Media Relations, 614-293-3737, or