By Mike Eide
Standard Safety Mesh Screens (SSMS) is a hot topic in the fireplace industry today. With the recent lawsuits against fireplace manufacturers due to children burning themselves on hot glass, there has been a whirlwind of controversy. What is the best way to handle this issue? Options have been suggested and quite frankly they don’t make a lot of sense. A warning light when the fireplace glass is hot or maybe a warning label of some sort are among the suggestions being thrown about. These are sure going to detour a toddler from touching a hot glass.
We here at Mr. Fireplace have sold fireplaces with SSMS for years now. We have done it for so long that it is just implanted in our heads. It is something that we associate with gas fireplaces and not seeing one there would just seem weird. We have dealt with the misconceptions of having these screens standard on our fireplaces as well. Some competitors will claim that it is there because our fireplaces are at risk to explode. Well that is not true. The real reason that our gas fireplaces come with a SSMS is actually quite an interesting story.
The president of Heat & Glo had his family over for dinner years ago. At this time his grandchild touched a burning fireplace that did not have a SSMS. The child severely burnt themselves on the glass. It just so happens that the child’s father was also one of the head engineers at Heat & Glo. At that moment, it was decided that every gas fireplace produced from that point on would come with a SSMS included. Heat & Glo (now owned by parent company Hearth and Home Technologies) were not concerned if these screens made their fireplaces cost more; they felt like they couldn’t put a price on safety. Hearth & Home will not confirm or deny this story, but this is what we have heard is the origin of the SSMS on their fireplaces.
Around the time of the lawsuits earlier this year we at Mr. Fireplace decided we needed to do more about this issue. Just offering the SSMS would not be enough. We setup a meeting with Doug Baron Burn Clinic Coordinator & Team Leader at the Alberta Children’s Hospital (ACH). What we learnt at that meeting was staggering. We learnt that anywhere from 10% – 22% of the serious burns treated at the ACH over the last 5 years were fireplace related. Doug gave us some great information but what would we do with it.
It was then that we decided that we needed to create awareness about this issue. We needed to try and erase the black mark that the fireplace manufacturer lawsuits left on our industry while creating awareness of ways to help prevent these burns from happening. That’s when our Mr. Fireplace Helping Hands Campaign was born. We created a website that would be used to help create awareness to parents, grandparents and any other person who at any time may have a young child in the same room as a gas fireplace. This website domain address is www.mfhelpinghands.com
The website wouldn’t just direct traffic to itself though. We partnered with Jack FM and Sportsnet 960 radio with some public service announcements, partnered with some bigger home builders and ramped up some social media advertising to help get the word out. We also support the campaign in our store with a donation being made to the ACH on behalf of the customer for every fireplace or screen sold.
We invite you to take a look at the website www.mfhelpinghands.com and read the facts and info. Try and imagine that one of your loved ones was seriously hurt as a result of there being no SSMS on the fireplace. I am sure that after checking out all this info you will not feel the same way about gas fireplaces without SSMS again.