After the devastating fires that shook Southern California this past month, all of us should be re-awakened to how terrible a fires aftermath can be to those touched by its fury. Despite this, however, the Public-Private Safety Council estimates that 4% of U.S. homes do not have smoke alarms and that another 20% have non-functioning smoke alarms due to dead or missing batteries. Of those households with non-functioning smoke alarms owners cited that they had disconnected them due to nuisance alarms or continuous alarming. When figured out mathematically this represents roughly 21 million households making the people in those homes vulnerable to fire death.
In those homes with functioning smoke alarms additional fire safety training and inspections are needed to change behavior to support smoke alarm strategy. These measures would include teaching families how to create a home escape plan, how to inspect and maintain smoke alarms and safe options for dealing with nuisance alarms. Children need to be taught ahead that fires can be scary and confusing. They need to know that fires can be loud, burn very fast and that their smoke can make a room or home very dark. The family escape plan should include info such as:
- Get out fast
- Never hide or take time to gather up their toys or other belongings
- Two meeting places: one near your home and one outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return to your home.
In cases, like forest fire, you should have a pre-prepared family supply list.
This list should include the items that every family should have close by such as emergency supplies such as water, food, infant formula, medications, dog food and important family documents.
These basic supplies should include:
- One gallon of water per person per day
- A three-day supply of non-perishable food
- A battery-powered radio
- An NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- A battery-powered flashlight
- Extra batteries
- First Aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Infant formula
- Infant diapers
- Moist towelettes
- Toilet paper
- Garbage bags w/plastic ties
- Dusk mask or cotton t-shirt to filter air
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to keep smoke out of immediate area
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Can opener for food
- Clothing– One complete change of clothing and shoes and person. Remember your environmental conditions and plan accordingly.
- Bedding – sleeping bags or blankets for each person
Other items to consider:
- Emergency reference materials such as first aid book
- Rain gear
- Mess kits
- Paper cups/plates
- Plastic utensils
- Cash / Traveler’s checks
- Paper towels
- Fire Extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Signal flares
- Paper / pencil
- Personal hygiene items (tampax etc)
- Bleach *** DO NOT USE non-scented, color-safe or bleaches with added cleaners *** to disinfect water for drinking (use 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water for drinking purposes)
- Copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account records placed in a waterproof container.
Once you have prepared your emergency kit it is important to plan how to get in touch with other family members. Some ideas for staying in touch include:
Deciding that each member will call or e-mail the same person. For example, each person will contact Uncle Bob first. If he’s not home, each person will contact Aunt Suzie instead. If cell phones are not working, you should try using a land-line phone at a neighbor’s or friend’s house, or a public telephone. Everyone should have coins or a prepaid phone card to make the call. It might be easier to reach a person who’s out of town. You can contact him or her to let them know you’re okay.
Next you need to determine where you would meet up with each family member. In determining this you should choose an easy-to-find location near your home. Next choose an easy-to-find location outside of your neighborhood in case you can’t get home. To ensure being able to keep in touch keep a copy of your family’s contact numbers and meeting place(s) taped to the inside of your briefcase, with your emergency supply kit, in your car, and in your child’s binder or backpack. Remember phones may be hard to use during a fire emergency but just keep trying.
Parents of school age children should talk to teachers or school principles to find out about the school’s emergency plan. This plan may mean that your child will be required to stay in their classroom or go somewhere else until the emergency is over. Therefore, it is important that you advise your children that in the event of an emergency they must remain calm and listen to the direction of teachers and/or the principal and that they will be reunited with you as soon as possible.
Lastly, for those pets that you cannot take with you make sure that you have made arrangements for them to be taken care of. In many cases it will not be possible for you to take them into the shelter with you. However, if you do plan to keep them with you be sure to include these in your emergency kit:
- Pet food and treats
- Drinkable water in plastic bottles
- Can opener for canned food
- Pet medications and medical records in a waterproof container
- Sturdy leashes, harnesses and/or carriers so you can move your pets safely and they can’t escape (remember they may be scared and may act different than usual)
- Current photos of your pet in case they get lost
- The name of your veterinarian
- Pet beds and toys, if there is room.
- All your pets should have an identification tag and collar, too.
In the event of a fire emergency these basic preparation guidelines may not only make things tolerable but could actually save your life. Given that, please take the time to ensure your family’s survival by gathering your emergency supplies and formulating a plan – one which you hopefully will never be required to utilize.
[tags]fire, emergency, emergency supply list, family plan, emergency prepardedness, preparation guidelines, protecting your children, smoke alarms, battery-powered radios, battery-powered flashlights, sleeping bags, infant formula, medications[/tags]