September is National Preparedness Month and while being prepared is a mindset and not really something you can observe once a year, it does bring the concept into sight of the general population in an easy to understand format.
Being prepared doesn't make you a Prepper, a Survivalist, or a Looneytoon. It used to be called Common Sense. Tens of thousands of Boy and Girls Scouts recite it as their motto.
What emergency is most likely to effect you is very much dependent on your lifestyle and location. In our first post for National Preparedness Month let's look at one of the most common personal disasters, a house fire. Even a "small" fire can cause enough smoke damage to ruin almost all of your possessions.
Prevention is key.
- No unattended open flames
- Candles are nice, but only when you are awake watching them
- Screens on fireplaces
- Have your chimney cleaned before the season begins.
The number one life saving thing you can do in relation to home fires is to have working smoke detectors. The cost is minimal. Some communities even provide free installation at certain times of the year. Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors when the time changes (no excuse Arizonans. I know the time doesn't change here. Just do it when everyone else's time changes.) 9 volt batteries are cheap and you can use whatever life is left in the one you took out in something else. Test the smoke detector once a month. As a reminder, do it when you pay your mortgage or rent. Make sure everyone in the house knows what that sound means and what to do. Fire drills aren't just for the office and school.
Know two ways out of each room in your house.
All rules have exceptions. some residential bathrooms don't have two ways out. My girls' room has window was an alternative exit. Now I just need to figure out how they can make use of it (I don't think they are string enough to open it.)
If you hear the smoke detector or someone shouts "Fire!" Move, get out. If it's a false alarm, you can always come back. Too many people have perished after being overcome "looking for the fire."
Taught to Kindergartners everywhere. Stay down, crawl. This is extremely important where there is smoke and hot gases. Far more patients are admitted to the hospital after a fire for "smoke" inhalation than burns. Keep in mind that hot gases produced by a house fire don't need to look black and thick to damage you lungs.
Check that door
Teach your children especially to check doors before opening them. Place the back of your hand (more sensitive than your palm) against the door for a count of 5. If it's hot/warmer than expected don't open it to look. Many have filled the room that was their refuge with hot gases and smoke by opening the door "just to see."
The rally point
Have a meeting place and male sure everyone knows it. This let's you do a headcount and prevents risking your life or the life of firefighters in a attempt rescue someone who's already out. I'm struggling with this one too. Our obvious meeting place is out by the mail box, or perhaps across the street at the neighbor's mailbox. The issue is that my girl's alternate exit takes them to the back yard and their is a locked gate between them and the rally point.
Those that can't help themselves
What should we do for those that can't help themselves. Infants (we have one of those too,) bedridden, even extremely sound sleepers. I've even identified places where my capable 6 yr old would struggle.
Most fire prevention sites are adamant that you don't return to a building on fire for anything. While this is sound advice, who can fault a parent for trying to save a loved one?
I've identified some gaps in my fire preparations (some major ones.) Do the same for your family. I'll be looking at the following
- Picking a rally point
- Teach my children basic fire safety
- Looking at alternatives for them to exit their room.
- Creating a plan to get to the baby.
After these are in place, we'll refine from there.
The emotional toll of possible injury, loss of possessions and at least temporary homelessness can quickly descend into depression and a feeling of hopelessness. If you are ever effected by a fire, accept help. Let your church help you. Seek aide from community groups. Strengthen your Faith now, to prop you up in the future.
Remember, we prepare not so we obsess over these things, but so we don't have to worry about them. Stay safe and Be Prepared