Experiencing a natural disaster such as a violent flood,
storm, or earthquake is frightening, and the damage
to your personal environment (i.e., home, community,
and business) can be both distressing and long term.
Government resources will
be on the way as soon as possible, but the efforts of
individuals and neighborhoods immediately following
the disaster can save lives. Being prepared and knowing
how to respond appropriately in an emergency situation
is key to your survival.
The United States has one of the
highest fire-related death rates in the industrialized world.
Every year nearly 4,400 Americans lose their lives in
fires and another 25,100 are injured. Property loss
due to fires is estimated at $8.6 billion annually.
The reality is that most of these
incidents are preventable and knowing how to protect
yourself and your home in the event of a fire is crucial.
Here are some tips on how to increase your chances of
surviving a fire.
- Have working smoke detectors.
There has been an increase over the last ten years
in the number of fires that occur in homes with nonfunctioning
- Install a fire alarm system that
is monitored by an outside agency. These systems not
only serve a useful function, they also add a feeling of
security to your home.
- Create an evacuation
plan for your home, and practice it as a
- Have working fire extinguishers
in your home at all times. Test and recharge your
fire extinguishers according to the manufacturer's
- Install residential sprinklers.
Sprinklers can prevent a fire from spreading from
one room to another and limit the size of any damaged
- Avoid using or keeping flammable
or combustible liquids in your home.
- If you have a two-story home,
make sure each bedroom has an emergency fire ladder
in case the only escape route is through a window.
- In your workplace, make sure
that you are familiar with the building's evacuation
plan and procedures. Always follow the signs
to the nearest exit or stairwell. Never use elevators.
If you discover a fire, the most
important thing to do is to get out of the building.
Once outside, notify the fire department immediately.
Call 911 and be prepared to provide the address, the
nearest cross street, and a callback telephone number.
Do not fight the fire unless it
is to save a life. If the situation allows, close doors
to help contain the fire.
More and more people choose
to live in mountain settings and wooded areas outside
large cities where they can enjoy the natural environment
away from the busy crowds and traffic. In these areas,
wildfires can be started by lightning; careless acts
of humans (discarded cigarettes, campfires, arson,
etc.); and combustible debris and often go unnoticed for some
time until they spread.
Knowing how to protect your home
from a wildfire is key. First, you must find out if
your home is indeed at risk. Contact your local fire
marshal or fire department—if you are at risk, there
are measures that you can take to protect your home,
your property, and the lives of your family more effectively.
- Meet with your family and decide
what to do and where to go in the event a wildfire
strikes your neighborhood. Have a meeting place in
case you are separated. Make sure all of your family
members know how to call 911 and reach the authorities.
- Make sure fire vehicles can access
- Clear the area around your home
of shrubs, woodpiles, and combustible debris. Make
sure all trees are at least thirty feet away from
your home unless you are in a pine forest, in which
case you should maintain a minimum of one hundred feet between
your home and the tree line.
- Report any hazardous or suspicious
activities that could cause a wildfire to the appropriate
- Regularly inspect your chimney,
gutters, and the roof of your home. Keep these clear
of debris at all times, especially in hot and dry
- Keep household materials and
tools that could be used in the event a fire strikes
(e.g., shovels, a chain saw, rakes, axes, and buckets)
- Make sure there is a water supply
nearby, and always have a garden hose ready that is
long enough to reach any area on the outside of your home.
These are just a few precautions
you can take to protect yourself and your property from
wildfires. Speak with your local fire marshal to obtain
more detailed information on the specific wildfire dangers
in your area, and remember—if you are ordered to evacuate, do
so immediately. This can mean the difference between
life and death.
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