This blog is the second part of a two-part blog series, which includes:
Why prepare for house fires?
Being prepared for fires is common sense. In Oregon, fires pose the most frequent disaster risk, according to FEMA's National Risk Index, and house fires are the third biggest killer as far as home accidents are concerned, according to StaySafe.org. House fires claim over 3,000 American lives each year. Make fire preparedness a high priority. We are thankful that we did.
Six tips for fire preparedness
Tip 1: Practice Situational Awareness for personal safety
Throughout the crisis in our home, we practiced situational awareness. We observed several loud booms from the powerline, flickering lights, the smell burnt plastic, haze and smoke in the basement. Our daughter saw a fireball fly off the wires through the skylight.
We knew something was wrong, but we didn’t fully understand the situation. We investigated potential causes and began acting on our collective understanding of the situation. Actions we took included: unplugging sensitive devices, searching for the source of the acrid smell in the house, testing the electricity at the breaker box, placing our fire extinguishers in easily accessible locations, calling PGE for help, calling 911 when we noticed smoke in the basement, organizing our go bags and pets, and evacuating.
When we found the source of the fire, we called 911 again and worked as a team to subdue the fire until fire fighters arrived. We knew what to do, and we didn’t panic. The fire extinguishers were easily accessible because we’d prepared for it earlier during the crisis. We had already safely evacuated our pets to a neighbors house.
If we hadn’t practiced situational awareness—being present to the danger and on alert, anticipating and taking steps to mitigate hazards—we might have lost our home or our lives.
Tip 2: Plan and practice your escape route
As part of our preparedness activities over the last few years, Bill had created a fire escape map of our house. We discussed the map and assessed our risks during a fire scenario. This led us to check and update our smoke alarms, add in CO detectors, and purchase additional fire extinguishers. We also purchased fire escape ladders for the upstairs bedrooms to create a second escape route for each room.
Fire experts recommend having a fire escape plan, a map of your home showing all doors and windows. It’s important to know at least two ways out of every room, and to discuss the plan with everyone living in the home. The plan should include an outside meeting place, like a tree, light pole or mailbox, which is a safe distance from your home. (Click the image to download safety tips on how to create an escape plan.)
Consider escape route planning as part of your situational awareness practice, everywhere you go—on airplanes, in hotels, at the movie theater, and so on. Always be aware of your escape routes, so there is no confusion as to how to exit when it is time to go. Visualize how you will escape if visibility is low, like in a fire with heavy smoke.
Tip 3: Install and maintain your smoke and CO detectors
Tip 4: Know how to use and maintain your fire extinguishers
What type of fire extinguisher?
Buy and use fire extinguishers that are appropriate for the type of fire that may occur in the room where you store the extinguisher. Fire extinguishers are color-coded and classified as to what types of small fires they can put out. Click here to learn more about fire extinguisher color codes, and click here for a detailed discussion of fire types.
How to use a fire extinguisher?
Check out the "P.A.S.S. the Fire Extinguisher!" brochure to learn about choosing and using a portable fire extinguisher. Also, watch the 3 minute training video, "How to Use a Portable Extinguisher."
Tip 5: Close the doors to contain a fire
According to safety certification company UL, on average people only have three minutes to escape a house fire today, as compared to 17 minutes for similar fires 40 years ago. The use of synthetic materials has been shown to accelerate the spread of fires. See the dramatic difference a door can make in this 5-minute video, developed by the Fire Safety Research Institute and Underwriters Laboratories. Check out other videos and materials at www.closeyourdoor.org.
Tip 6: Set up a Neighborhood Ready! meeting today
Karen Ronning-Hall, Disaster Preparedness Evangelist, living in beautiful Portland, Oregon, with hubby Bill, daughter Geneva, Bean dog, Thumper kitty, and Terry the turtle.