House Fires

House Fires

Photograph by Jeff Werner

Did you know that if a fire starts in your home, you may have just two minutes to escape?

There are more than 350,000 house fires in the United States every year. There are 3,500 deaths and 15,000 serious injuries from house fires. Unattended cooking, space heaters, cigarettes, or candles cause most house fires.

Be prepared:

  • Install and check smoke alarm batteries regularly.
  • Install fire extinguishers and check expiration dates. Install the fire extinguishers in areas that are close to fire hazards, like next to a stove.
  • Practice evacuation routes and have alternative paths.
  • Have ways to escape from higher floors. For example, rooms on the second floor keep a rope in the closet to use to escape safely.
  • Establish a designated meeting point so that all escaping members can be accounted for immediately.

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What to do in a fire:

  • Attempt to extinguish immediately. You can use a hose or attempt to smother it with a blanket or coat. If the fire is beyond control, evacuate immediately.
  • Use a previously established code word to alert all family members.
  • Close doors when leaving rooms, this will slow down the spread of fire.
  • Flames move upward and heat and smoke rise, so stay low and as close to the floor as possible.
  • If flames while on an upper floor block evacuation, tie bed sheets together and fasten to a firm object such as a bed leg.
  • Get away from the burning structure and head toward the pre-established regrouping area.

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When learning facts about fire, it’s important to understand the fire triangle. The triangle represents the three components that fires need to exist: heat, oxygen and fuel. If one of these components is missing, a fire can’t ignite.

Heat can be generated by cigarettes or an in home heater.

Fuel can be anything combustible, such as wood, paper, clothing, furniture, gases or chemicals.

Once a fire starts, if any of the three components is removed, the fire is extinguished.

Water is used to cool a fire and take away the heat source. Oxygen can be removed by smothering a fire with dirt, sand or a blanket. Fuel can be removed by moving combustible materials away from the fire or by simply waiting until the fire consumes the material and goes out of its own accord.

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Facts about fire deaths: Every year more than 3,800 people die fire related deaths in the U.S. Approximately 18,300 people are injured every year in fires. Practicing proper fire safety and having fire alarms could have prevented most of these fires! 

One of the more interesting facts about fire is that most house fires start in the kitchen. Cooking is the leading cause of home fire injuries. Cooking fires often start from overheated grease and unattended cooking. Electric stoves are involved in more fires than gas ones.

Another fact about fire is that smoking is the primary cause of death by fire in the U.S. The second cause of fire deaths is heating equipment.

 Arson is the third most common cause of home fires. Arson in commercially operated buildings is the major reason for fire deaths and injuries in those types of properties. 

Facts about fire show that more people die from smoke inhalation than flames. Fire can suck all of the oxygen from a room and fill it with poisonous smoke and gases before flames even reach a room. Many times people die from lack of oxygen before the fire reaches their room. 

Firefighters in the U.S. were called out on 362,500 house fires in 2009, which caused 12,650 injuries, 2,565 fatalities and $7.6 billion in property damage. 

Another of the interesting facts about fire is that candles caused approximately 12,900 home fires and 140 home fire deaths between 2005 and 2009.They were also responsible for 1,040 injuries and $471 million in property damage.

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Facts about fire support the importance of having working smoke alarms in your house. Approximately two-thirds of all fire deaths happen in homes where there’s no working fire alarm. Your chance of dying in a home fire is cut in half if you have a working smoke alarm.

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Courtley, C. (2012). SEAL survival guide: A Navy SEAL’s secrets to surviving any disaster. New York: Gallery Books.

Home Fire Safety. (n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2014.

9 facts about fire. (n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2014.

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Building Fires

Building Fires

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Be prepared:

  • If you live in an apartment building or work in an office building, know the location of the nearest fire exits. You should know two or more evacuation options for each floor. Never use elevator
  • Practice evacuation during nonemergency conditions so that you will be familiar with it. For example count the number of doors from your office to the nearest fire exit and rehearse it several times. Be able to find the way to the exit with yours eyes closed. There could be no visibility during an actual fire.
  • Have ways to escape from higher floors. Ensure all fire escapes open and operate correctly especially in older buildings.
  • If renting, know the building you live in and report any flaws that can be life threatening.

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What to do in a fire:

  • Flames move upward and heat and smoke rise, so stay low and as close to the floor as possible.
  • If trapped in room with a window that doesn’t fully open, smash glass in center with an object and cover the jagged edges with a towel or blanket before exiting.
  • If you must jump, you the PLF or the parachute landing fall. Lower yourself as far as possible then push off of the wall. Keep your legs bent with your knees and feet together. After you let go, bring both of your hands in front of your body with your fists close to your face. This will spread the landing impact throughout your body.
  • Get away from the burning structure

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Statistics of building fires:

National estimates for nonresidential building fires in 2011, the most recent year data are available, are:

—Fires: 85,400.
—Deaths: 80.
—Injuries: 1,100.
—Dollar Loss: $2,435,700,000.

National estimates for the major causes of fires in nonresidential buildings for 2011, the most recent year data are available, are:

  1. Cooking: 24,100 fires.
    2. Intentional: 8,900 fires.
    3. Other Unintentional, Careless: 8,400 fires.

National estimates for the three leading causes of nonresidential building fire dollar loss for 2011, the most recent year data are available, are:

  1. Other Equipment: $483,400,000.
    2. Electrical Malfunction: $302,600,000.
    3. Other Unintentional, Careless: $277,500,000.

The number one deadliest building fire in the U.S. was the world trade center on September 11th, 200. 2,600 people were killed in this fire.

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Courtley, C. (2012). SEAL survival guide: A Navy SEAL’s secrets to surviving any disaster. New York: Gallery Books.

U.S. Fire Administration. (n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2014.

Outdoor Fire Safety

Outdoor Fires

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Every year an average of five million acres of forests burn. The fires cost $1 billion to extinguish and causes deaths of at least 3,000. Fires are started from natural sources, such as lightning or by humans, such as campfires or cigarettes.

If a fire nears your house, you should evacuate and not ignore official alerts. Hot flying embers can travel miles from forest fires.

If you are in a forest or brush area during a period of low rainfall, know where the rivers, lakes, or ravines are and stay in close proximity of these. Flames can burn at speeds of 80 mph.

If you are in a forest or brush area and you smell smoke, immediately move to a safe area. Fire burns more rapidly in an upward direction, so don’t try and move to high ground. You want to evacuate to low-lying areas, waterways, or roads.

Survival Checklist

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  • Be familiar with fire-hazard conditions
  • Evacuate well in advance of a fire. If you live in a high-fire hazard area, you should already have stuff packed and ready to go.
  • If within smoke range, wear respirator or put am moistened cloth over your nose and mouth.
  • In a wildfire or forest fire, head to low ground. Get to ravines, lakes, rivers, or ditches.
  • If you are in a vehicle, wait two to three minutes to see if the flames pass, if not you may have a better chance of going to the direction from which the fire approached.
  • If you have to cross a fire, put water all over clothing, remove jewelry, and cover your head with moistened blankets.
  • If your clothes catch fire, roll onto ground to extinguish fire-stop, drop, and roll.

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Guidelines to help you prepare for fire safety, evacuation, and home defense:

  • Thin tree and brush cover.
  • Dispose of slash and debris left from thinning.
  • Remove dead limbs, leaves and other litter.
  • Stack firewood away from home.
  • Mow dry grasses and weeds.
  • Trim branches.
  • Clean roof and gutters.
  • Remove branches overhanging chimney and roof.
  • Use noncombustible roof materials.
  • Place shutters, fire curtains or heavy drapes on windows.
  • Use a chimney screen or spark arrester.
  • Clear vegetation around fire hydrants, cisterns, propane tanks, etc.
  • Make sure an outdoor water supply is available, with hose, nozzle and pump.
  • Make sure that fire tools, ladder and fire extinguishers are available.
  • Post address signs that are clearly visible from the street or road.
  • Make sure the driveway is wide enough for fire trucks and equipment.
  • Install and test smoke detectors.
  • Practice a family fire drill and evacuation plan. 

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Like mentioned before you want to have a bag already prepared in case you need to evacuate quickly. Some things you may want to have in the bag include:

  1. A supply of drinking water.
  2. One change of clothing and footwear for each member of the family.
  3. A blanket or sleeping bag for each person.
  4. A first aid kit that also includes any prescription medications.
  5. Emergency tools including a battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries.
  6. An extra set of car keys and credit cards, cash or traveler’s checks.
  7. Extra pairs of eyeglasses and other special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members.

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Courtley, C. (2012). SEAL survival guide: A Navy SEAL’s secrets to surviving any disaster. New York: Gallery Books.

Forest Home Fire Safety. (n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2014.

Elevator Safety

Elevator Emergency

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Elevators account for 150 deaths and 18,000 injuries per year. By following the seal survival techniques you can prevent these injuries.

Situational Awareness

If you know the basic operation and technological advancements of elevators you are more prepared in the event of an emergency. Many serious injuries and deaths caused by elevators are due to door malfunctions. Some people have died from stepping into an elevator when the door opened without a car there and fell down the shaft because they weren’t being aware. It is very important to know how to properly ride elevators and what to do if an elevator becomes stalled.

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Elevator Entrapment

On average, an elevator rescue takes three hours. Those who experience entrapment will offer suffer extreme panic. Sometimes this panic can bring a heart attack. If trapped in an elevator you should try to keep yourself and those around you calm, to prevent extreme panic. If the elevator stops between floors, there is plenty of air in the elevator shaft there is no need to panic.

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  1. Push the door open button. If the car is at the landing, the door will open. Before exiting, make sure there is no movement in the car.
  2. If the door does not open, do not climb out of the elevators especially if the car is between floors.
  3. Never try to exit a stalled elevator car. When the elevator starts to move again, this can lead to death or serious injury.
  4. Use the alarm or help button to call for assistance. Always wait fro trained emergency personnel.
  5. If service response exceed 30 minutes, 911 or the fire department should be called to report the entrapment.
  6. The best thing to do is relax and wait for professional assistance. If you wait for professional help, you will be safe.

Free Fall

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57 percent of elevator deaths are from fall deaths. Some are when the door opens but no car is there, some happen when the floor of he elevator car collapses.

  • When you are waiting for an elevator and the door opens, wait and be alert. Look to make sure there is a car to step into.
  • In the event of a fire or situation that can lead to disruption of electrical services, take the stairs.
  • When available, hold onto handrail while riding an elevator.
  • Report unusual metal sounds, grinding cables, car jerkiness or spongy or uneven floor to building management.

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A woman survived in the longest elevator free fall in 1945. The elevators plugged a thousand feet. The woman survived by holding onto the handrail.

Courtley, C. (2012). SEAL survival guide: A Navy SEAL’s secrets to surviving any disaster. New York: Gallery Books.

Hurricanes and Tornados

Hurricanes 

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Wind rain and the flooding caused by hurricanes make for a life-threatening natural disaster. When winds reach 74 miles per hour or greater, it is classified as a hurricane. Wind speeds of hurricanes are measured by categories. Category 1 has wind speeds from 74mph-95 mph. A category 5 hurricane has wind speeds of at least 157mph.

The pressure from a hurricane can cause a house to implode. Hurricane should be taken very seriously. Floods can also happen as part of the aftermath of a hurricane.

Prepare!

We are given plenty of time to prepare and/or evacuate for hurricanes.

Home Prep:

  • Cover all openings. Use hurricane shutters or plywood.
  • Make sure the traps that attach your roof to the wall plate are properly nailed.
  • Tie down or remove exterior lawn furniture.
  • Trim overhanging trees and remove trees that are within falling distance of your roof.
  • Know how to turn off your electricity and gas.
  • Make sure you have a plan for pets.

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Equipment: Be prepared for short-term lack of power and water.

Essential supplies:

  • Medications for yourself an family members for at least a week
  • A good first-aid kit to treat cuts, abrasions, and other general illnesses or injuries.
  • Water: fill bathtubs and stock up on water jugs. Have at least one gallon of water per person per day. Bathtub water is used for hygiene and bottles water for drinking.
  • Nonperishable foods that can be eaten without cooking.
  • An emergency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration radio with plenty of extra batteries.
  • Cell phones that are fully charged.
  • Valuable documents and emergency contact numbers stored in sealable plastic bags.
  • ATM’s could be down and banks may be closed for some time.
  • Sleeping bags ready and a well-stocked safe room.
  • Ample flashlights and chemlights.

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Vehicle:

  • Get car filled with gas.
  • Make sure windshield wipers are new.
  • Check spare tire and jacking equipment.
  • Have a map showing several evacuation routes.

When to evacuate:

People usually don’t want to leave their homes. If you are going to evacuate, you’d want to do it sooner rather than later. Traffic jams are going to be inevitable. Stay focused and relaxed.

A traffic jam is seen during the rush hour in Beijing

  • Listen to weather broadcasts and evacuate if directed by authorities to do so.
  • Evacuate if you live on the coats, near a river, or near an inland waterway.
  • Evacuate if you live in a mobile home or temporary structure.
  • Evacuate if you live in a high-rise building.
  • Evacuate if you feel you are in danger.

When planning your evacuation route, know the routes firsthand. Look for less-traveled roads. In hurricane areas, drive the route during a nonemergency situation. Get to the highest ground you can, away from the coast and waterway. Make sure you have an out-of-town emergency point of contact that anyone in your family can call in case your separated.

Holding your position:

If you are unable to evacuate, set up base in an interior room or on a lower floor without windows or exterior walls. In a two-story house, consider what heavy furniture is located in the room above.

Caught outside:

If you find yourself threatened by a hurricane when you are outside, you should abandon your vehicle and find shelter immediately. If no structure is available, lie flat on the ground and seek out a ditch or get behind a rock. Stay away from poles or trees that can be uprooted. Stay low to the ground and use a crawling technique until you find suitable shelter. Do not walk through standing water.

Hurricane Isaac Hits New Orleans, Gulf Coast

It’s not over yet!

You might have just been in the eye of the storm. The violent winds could return!

Tornado Survival

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More deaths occur from tornados than from hurricanes. Tornados form more rapidly and warning time is shorter.

  • A designated safe room is the best option. Choose one in the basement far from exterior windows or doors. Also pick a place that doesn’t have heavy furniture above it.
  • If living in a tornado-prone area, have battery-operated National Weather Service radio.
  • Practice and rehearse with your family what to do in the event of a tornado.
  • If outdoors, seek low areas, such as a ditch or gully, and lie flat.
  • If you are in a vehicle, get out and get to a low area. If nothing is in sight, stay in your car and keep your seatbelt on, hunker down in the seat and brace your handing on the steering wheel.

Courtley, C. (2012). SEAL survival guide: A Navy SEAL’s secrets to surviving any disaster. New York: Gallery Books.

Lightning

Lightning  

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Lightning strikes form a distance and usually kills one at a time. It causes approximately 2,000 deaths per year. One in four people who get struck die. There are survival techniques to minimize your chances of being a target.

Know the Enemy:

Be able to plan and be prepared. Lightning travels at a speed of ,700 miles per second. Lightning can strike as far as ten miles from where its raining. You should make yourself insulated and not a target.

Targets:

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Lightning generally hits the tallest object and metal and electrical conduits.

Rwanda, Africa is the lightning capital of the world and Florida is the state with most strikes in the U.S.

The 30/30 Rule:

Victims of lightning strikes can either be oblivious to their surroundings and ignore the dangers of lightning, or just be extremely unlucky. You can increase your luck by following safety guidelines. Whenever you hear thunder, this means you are in the proximity of lightning. Anytime you hear thunder, there is an opportunity for lightning to hit you.

Alert and quick action can save you from being struck. The National weather Service’s 30/30 rule urges you to measure and count “flash-to-bang time.” If you see a flash of lightning, start counting to thirty, if you don’t hear thunder before you reach thirty, take shelter immediately. If you hear thunder before you reach thirty, hit the ground where you are. Whatever number you get to is approximately how many miles the lightning that struck is from you.

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Action Checklist:

  • Seek shelter in a permanent structure and move to the interior.
  • If indoors, stay away from window. Do not use electrical appliances or computers, and do not position yourself near plumbing or pipes.
  • If outdoors and no permanent structures are present, get into a vehicle, but keep your hands or any body parts from touching any metal in the car.
  • Do not stand near trees or tall objects.
  • Avoid touching fences, signposts, or any metal object.
  • Power down any cell phones or any portable electronic devices.
  • If caught outside, sit down and tuck your head between your legs. Try to sit on a blanket or anything that limits direct contact with the ground.
  • If you are in an open field, lie flat on the ground, preferably in a push-up position. If lightning does strike in this position, it will pass through your arms and into the ground, bypassing your heart and other vital organs.

Courtley, C. (2012). SEAL survival guide: A Navy SEAL’s secrets to surviving any disaster. New York: Gallery Books.

Flash flood, Flooding, and Tsunami

Flash flood, Flooding, and Tsunami

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A flash flood is an unexpected surge of flowing water. In the U.S., flooding is the number one cause of weather-related deaths. Sudden and heavy rainfall, melting snow, or dam breaches are some causes of flash flooding. When large amounts of water in moving swiftly, it can sweep away cars and trucks, demolish houses, and collapse bridges.

During a flood:

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If you live in areas that are prone to floods, you should be prepared ahead of time. The following actions are necessary:

  • If at home, turn off electrical power at the circuit breaker. Close windows and doors and get to the highest level, if you have an attic, go up to the attic and bring a ladder.
  • In a vehicle do not attempt to drive though water. Turn around and find another route for evacuation. If water rises around your car, get out immediately.
  • Do not try to walk or swim across flood waters deeper than one foot. The water is full of fast moving debris.
  • If outdoors, always ahead to high ground. If you have to walk though water, test water with a stick as you go.
  • If you find shelter on a roof or high branch in a tree, tie yourself to it, using a belt or whatever is at hand.

Aftermath:

If floodwater was due to flash flood, the volume will probably recede quickly. You must be mentally tough and physically prepared to ride out the initial surge. Try and get to the nearest roof or tree and ride anything that floats. You want to avoid getting in the floodwaters.

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Tsunami:

“Tsunami” is the Japanese word for “harbor wave.” It is a giant wave caused by earthquakes or under water volcanic eruptions. These waves can reach heights of two hundred feet.

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Situational Awareness:           

If you live in or are visiting a coastal area, be alert to earthquake and tsunami information.

  • If you are on vacation, while sightseeing get maps of coastal areas and find possible evacuation routes. Know which roads lead to high ground.
  • If you see water leaving or draining from a coastal area, don’t watch, run to high ground.

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Courtley, C. (2012). SEAL survival guide: A Navy SEAL’s secrets to surviving any disaster. New York: Gallery Books.