Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Surviving Fires and Fire Safety

Fire is a double edged sword. In survival situations fire can provide heat, light, the ability to prepare food, disinfect water and comfort. As a disaster fire can destroy houses, large areas of forest and even entire cities. As a disaster fire can occur from natural causes like a lightning strike but it can also be a manmade disaster both by accident but also intentionally as arson or used as a weapon of war. More than one hundred accidental fires take place in the US every year. The vast majority of these fires took place in homes. In 2009 around 2500 people died and almost 15.000 were injured.

Your Home
A fire in your home can destroy everything that you own in just a couple of minutes. By taking some steps you can reduce the chance that a Fire takes place in your home. Examples of some steps that you should take:
Install Fire Alarms in Your Home
Make sure that you have at least one Fire Alarm on every floor of your home as an absolute minimum.

If the worst would take place what ways can you have of leave your home in a hurry? Are fire escapes available? Make sure that there is a primary and a secondary meeting point outside your home where your family can meet up.

Fire Extinguishers
A Fire Extinguisher can help you took stop a Fire before it gets out of hand if you are lucky and react fast enough. What types of Extinguisher you choose depends on several factors but it’s important that you learn how to use an extinguisher if you get one. A Fire Proof blanket can also be a good complement to a Fire Extinguisher.

Making sure that you are properly insured can be critical in order to make it through the economical consequences of a fire. Make sure that you know what your insurance cover and if there are specific events when the insurance does not provide cover. In order to protect personal documents, cash, photographs and digital backups it can be a good idea to get either a fire proof safe in your home or a safe deposit box at a bank.

Minimizing the Risk that a Fire will take place
Taking steps in order to minimize the chance that a Fire might take place is also a very import step. There are periods of time like around Christmas when many people light candles in their homes; during this periods of times accidental fires are more common. Make sure that you don’t place candles so that they can easily fall down by accident. Smokers as a group are at a higher risk when it comes to accidental fires; especially those how smoke in their beds. If you smoke make sure that you take steps to minimize the risk of accidental fires. Many fires are also linked to the use of alcohol and other drugs.

Historical Fires - Timeline
1666 The Great Fire of London destroyed the homes of almost one hundred people living in medieval city. The number of people how died in this disaster is a debated subject.

1812 almost all of Moscow was burned so that Napoleon and the French Conquerors could not lot the city. The retreat during winter conditions would prove disastrous for the French Army.

1871 The Great Chicago Fire started on the 8th of October and would cause widespread devastation destroying homes, building and infrastructure. Almost one third to of cities inhabitants lost their homes in the disasters that were one of the worst American disasters of the century.

1871 The Great Peshtigo Fire in Wisconsin devastated an enormous area, destroy several communities and is believed to have killed somewhere between 1.500 and 2.500 people. This disaster is one the deadliest fire in American history.

1902 Iroquois Theater Fire in Chicago is one the worst fires in US history leaving around 600 dead.

1906 After the major Earthquake that hit San Francisco on the 18th of April a devastating fire followed that caused even more damage than the Earthquake. Many of the devastating fires were caused by ruptured gas lines but destruction was also added by the fire department how tried to limit the spread of the fire. Almost 500 hundred city blocks and several thousands of buildings were destroyed.

1923 after the Great Kanto Earthquake a severe fire followed that turned into a Firestorm. Almost 150.000 people is believed to have died; most of them from the fire.

1942 Cocoanut Grove Fire in Boston was one of the most deadly nightclub fires in history, leaving almost 500 dead.

1945 The Allies Dropped large amounts of incendiary bombs over the German city Dresden creating a Firestorm that destroyed most of the city an killed somewhere between 25.000 and 500.000 people. A Firestorm also followed after the bombing of Hamburg in 1943.

1945 The Fire Bombings against Tokyo destroys hundreds of thousands of home and kills around 100.000 people.

1967 A fire at the LÌnovtion Department Store in Brussels resulted in the death of over 300 people.

1988 The Yellowstone National Park Fire was the largest wildfire in US history leaving an area larger than 3000 square kilometers burned. During the disaster thousands of fire fighters and military personal was fighting the flames.

1988 68 youths was killed in and over 200 was wounded after a fire in a nightclub in Gothenburg. It was later established that the cause of the fire was arson.

2003 The California Cedar Fire was the largest wild fire in Californias history. The fire resulted in the death of 15 people and over 1000 square kilometers was burned leaving thousands of buildings destroyed.

2009 The Black Saturday Bushfire was the worst bushfires in Australia’s history. The fire left 147 people dead and wounded over 400. The fires took place during a period of extreme heat and little rain had fallen in the months before, strong winds also added to the destruction of the Firestorm.

Surviving Fires
The best way to survive a fire is to make sure that the fire does not take happen in the first place. Take precaution when engaging in activities that can cause a fire. If a fire would take place it’s important that you and that you act fast. A fire can spread with a very high speed – seconds count. If you can’t stop the fire - evacuate immediately and try to save those how are in harm’s way. Many modern buildings have a very high fire safety; the buildings are often constructed so that fire will be contained within different cells of the structure. But in order for this to work it is critical that doors between different areas remain closed. If you are leaving an area where there is fire and smoke close the doors behind you. This can stop or delay the spread of the fire and smoke. After you have made your escape contact first responders at once and give medical assistance to those how might need it.

When you visit different locations make sure that you know where the fire exists are located, this is not only important for accidents such as fires. If you are about enter into a nightclub or other facilities that is overcrowded and lack proper fire escapes you might want to think twice about entering. Trust your instincts. If it feels wrong, don’t go.

Smoke is one of the major killers during a fire; it is most the most common cause of death during fires. If you are indoors stay low in order to avoid inhaling smoke and poisonous gas. There are several extremely dangerous phenomena’s that can take place during fires like Firestorms, Backdrafts and Flashovers.

Wearing synthetically clothing can be very dangerous during fires; these fabrics can easily catch fire, melt and leave severe burns. Wool is much more resistant to fire and can be a good fabric to use for clothing for several reasons. Merino wool is not only resistant to fire; it also provides warmth even when wet and does not carry an odor as easily as synthetic materials. For those how like Buffs there are special fire resistant models made by Nomex on the market.

Psychological Reactions
Fire is one the disasters when the reaction denial often becomes a severe problem. Fire exercises can be a great tool for creating routines for an evacuation but many simply ignore Fire Alarms or even become angry when they hear them assuming that it is just an exercise or false alarm. This denial may continue even if smoke from the fire has been visible. It has even happened that people has hidden during fires not to be disturbed. If you hear Fire Alarm take this seriously and act accordingly.

If you engage in activities that could start a Fire
Many people do repairs in their homes using tools that can accidentally start a fire. Examples of such tools can be a weld, angle grinder, heat gun or reciprocating saw. Many might also be engaged in such activities in their professional life working with construction or contracting. Taking precautions is critical since it might prevent a fire, but not taking adequate measures to prevent a fire can also result in a situation when you become legally responsible for starting a fire or that your insurance company won’t cover the damage.

Before You Get Started
By planning ahead you can reduce the chance that an accidental fire might take place and minimize the consequences if it would. These are some steps that can be worth considering before you get started.

Contacting First Responders
What is your exact address and location? What is the best ways for the Fire Department to reach your location? What is the Phone Number to First Responders and do you have a phone or cell phone available to raise the alarm if the worst would happen?

Risk Management
Can You Reduce the Risk by changing the location? As an example if you have to cut a piece of steel pipe it might be better to move outside to a place without flammable materials instead of doing so inside a barn. Another way of reducing the risk is to change the tool; instead of using an angle grinder you might use a hand saw to cut trough a piece of metal even if it might take a little bit longer time.

Clean The Place Where Your doing the work, remove dust and all types of flammable materials. If there are materials that might catch fire from sparks that can’t be moved; cover them using Fire Proof Blankets. Spraying water over flammable materials before you get started is other method of reducing the risk that a fire will spread if you can remove the material. If there is crack in the wall, floor or other locations where you’re performing the work cover them up. It’s common especially when using tools like an angle grinder that sparks can enter small crack and start fire.

If there is a risk that your work might start a fire in a location that you can’t see from where your working make sure that you get someone that can stand guard at this location. A fire can sometimes start quite some time after you are done with your work; if you have been doing work in a high risk environment it can be good to post a Fireguard for a minimum of one hour after the work has been completed. Make sure that you have equipment to extinguish a fire available.

As a disaster Fire can be an absolutely devastating event. It can destroy your home and everything you own in a matter of minutes. In this article I have discussed some of the steps that you can take in order to minimize the risk that you will be affected by such an event and minimize the effect if the worst would happen. This is a subject that can critical for many groups; especially those how might have much equipment for disaster preparedness stored in their homes.

Also see
Equipment and Techniques To Start a Fire

1 comment:

  1. You have described the advantages and disadvantages of fire in this post that is informative. If we keep different types of Fire Extinguishers at these places then we can safe our property from the hazards of fire.