Winter has come, and now that Game of Thrones is officially over, we can all get back to our normal lives and not have to worry about how the series will end (whether we like it or not). The year is almost half-way over, meaning summer is on the horizon. And for those of us who live in California, we know how dry things can get. The warm dry season is great for going to the beach, but can present unprecedented dangers. Fires have ravaged through California every year for the past several years, and although we’d like for this year to be different, no one can predict the future. For that reason, it is best to have a plan, and be fire ready in the case of an emergency.
Facts About Fires
To be as prepared as possible, it is good to know these important fact about fires.
Fires are FAST, very fast. A small flame can turn into a large fire in a matter of 30 seconds. An entire house can fill with smoke in a single minute, and can become completely engulfed in flames in a few minutes flat.
This one may seem more obvious, but fires are extremely hot. When we say hot, we mean temperatures can rise as much as 500 degrees within four vertical feet. What we mean by this is that if the temperature at floor level is around 100 degrees, the temperature at eye level in that same room could be somewhere close to 600 degrees. These types of temperatures can melt clothes on your skin, and cause burns and permanent damage to your lungs.
Despite fire producing light, house fires create a dark environment. Think black smoke builds up in the home, reducing visibility to zero. This smoke is incredibly toxic and hot, making breathing it extremely dangerous.
All of these factors combined make for an incredibly deadly situation. For this reason it is important to be as prepared as possible in the event of a fire.
Here are some ways you can be fire ready.
Create a Plan
It is important to have a plan for when a fire takes place in your home. Just like at school or work, you’ll want to have a coordinated escape plan. Here are some ways to help you put this plan together.
- In the event every primary entrance and exit is blocked, find two separate ways to get out of every room. This could include a window onto a roof, of a fire ladder on the ledge of a window.
- Make sure you have clear access out of your windows. Make sure they open all the way, that the screens can be removed, and if there are bars make sure they can be removed in the event of an emergency.
- Practice navigating your house in the dark or with your eyes closed. Fires can cause minimal to zero visibility, so you will need to know how to navigate your home in total darkness.
- If you have children, teach them to not be afraid of fire fighters. Fire fighters have masks and respirators which can seem unfamiliar and scary to children, so it is important for them to know not to hide from fire fighters and that they are there to help and keep them safe.
First step is to make sure every room on every level in the home has a fire alarm. the best fire alarms are those with dual sensors, both ionization and photoelectric alarm sensors. Test the batteries on a monthly basis, and replace the batteries once a year (this includes battery operated alarms and hard-wired alarms). It is good practice to replace the entire alarm unit once every eight to ten years, or according to what the manufacturer’s instructions say.
Even if you are cooking, DO NOT disable your smoke alarms. Smoke alarms going off can be a nuisance, but more than anything they are life saving and are there to notify you and anyone around in the event of an emergency.
Some extra things to have in mind:
Keep extra copies of important documents and photos in easy to access places. In the event of a fire you won’t have a lot of time to search for things as you are leaving the house.
Sleep with your bedroom door shut. If a fire happens while you are asleep, a closed door will provide a shield between you and deadly smoke and fumes.
Have a fire extinguisher in your home. The most popular places to keep a fire extinguisher include the kitchen and the garage. If you are not trained on how to properly operate a fire extinguisher, contact your local fire department for free tips and training.
Although less common, some houses and most apartments include sprinkler systems throughout the residence in addition to smoke alarms. This is a way to help prevent the spread and destruction of a fire throughout your home.
In the Event of a Fire
Fires can be scary, and it is important to keep your composure during the event of an emergency. Here are some guidelines to follow in the event of a fire.
- Crawl low. Both smoke and heat rises. Temperatures will be lower near the floor, and visibility will be slightly better the closer you are to the ground.
- When you approach doors, test the handle and door for heat before opening. If the door is hot, or if there is smoke coming out from under the door, leave the door closed and find another exit.
- When opening doors, open them slowly. If smoke comes out from the other end or if there is fire on the other side of the door, shut it quickly and find another exit.
- If there is someone trapped in the home where you cannot get to them, leave the house, call 911, and tell the operator where the person is located inside the home.
- Tell firefighters right away if there are any pets trapped inside the home.
- If you become trapped inside the home, cover any vents or cracks under doors with towels, cloth, or tape to prevent smoke from entering the room. Call 911, and try to find a window and signal for help.
After the Fire
Fires are devastating, and dealing with the aftermath can be harrowing. For this reason it is best to know how to deal with the aftermath of a fire before it happens.
- If you need temporary housing, contact your local emergency relief service, such as the American Red Cross.
- Contact your insurance right away. They will want you to develop a list of items that were lost, so it is best to develop an inventory of items within your home as part of the preparation for any type of emergency. (Pro tip: keep this list, and other important documents, in a cloud-based software you can access on any device. If you lose your devices, you can still access these lists and documents)
- Do not throw away damaged good until a full inventory has been made
- Check with the fire department to see when it is safe to re-enter your home, and when it is safe to once again use utilities. If utilities are disconnected, DO NOT attempt to reconnect them yourself. Call the fire department or utility company for assistance.
- After a fire, make sure to save all of your receipts. This can include, food, clothes, and other living expenses. These losses can potentially be recouped through your insurance agency, and they will want to see all receipts from related transactions.
- If you own the home, notify your mortgage company of what happened.
Here at Clean Earth Restorations, we know it is always better to be prepared. We want to help provide you with information to keep you and your family safe. For more information on fire safety and prevention, contact your local fire department for tips and resources. For more information on how clean up and restoration services are performed after a fire, give us a call at 619-284-4239, or contact us at cleanearthrestorations.com.