Keep Your Family Safe
With these Emergency Preparedness Tips
Virtually anywhere in the world where there is a forest or vegetation that can become dry during the summer, you can suddenly and unexpectedly have a forest fire or wildfire erupt and spread rapidly. When this happens near you, you may only have a few minutes to collect your family, grab a few items, and leave. The results can be devastating. I live in Southern California where wild fires have destroyed hundreds of homes on more than one occasion. Fires have become so common here that people have become accustomed to having a few brush fires during late summer and early fall. However, although the fires are not entirely unexpected, few people are ever prepared for it to happen to them! What can you do to keep your home and family safe if a wildfire erupts in a field or forest near you?
Wildfire Safety Tips
The best defense we have against having our property or our families hurt by a forest fire is to prevent the fire from occurring in the first place. National Geographic wrote an article entitled "Wildfire Safety Tips" that is intended to help people learn how to keep their personal activities from causing an unintentional forest fire. Since most wild fires are caused by people, education is the best way for all of us to stay safe. Here are some of their suggestions:
If you see a fire, contact the authorities quickly. The faster it is caught, the easier it will be to control.
If you build a campfire, never leave it out of your site. Pour water over the ashes when you take a hike, go to sleep or if you decide to leave.
Be very careful with the fuel that you use in your lantern and camp stove. These fuels are very volatile and could cause a fire to spread rapidly. Try to avoid letting them spill onto the ground, and do not leave the cans anywhere near an open flame.
It should not have to be repeated, but please be careful with your cigarettes and matches. I still drive along the highways in California and see people discarding their cigarettes along the road. More than one California fire has been needlessly started this way.
How to Keep a Fire Away from your Home
There are also steps you can take to decrease the chances that your own home will be destroyed by a forest fire.
If you are building a new home, or re-roofing your current home, be sure to use roof shingles or tiles that are fire retardant.
Keep anything that can burn easily away from the side of your home, especially if you live in a wooded area. Cut brush back so that it does not grow too close to your home. Cut tree branches away from your house, as well. Remove trees that hang over your house. Do not stack firewood, or keep a gas grill too close to the outside walls of your home.
In addition, if you have to evacuate, make sure that you close all the windows, vents and doors to your home in order to prevent a draft that would suck the fire into your home.
What to do if there is a Fire Near You
If a fire does erupt near your home, play it safe. Frequently, people are hesitant to leave their homes when a fire erupts in their neighborhood. If you are asked to evacuate, do it. People who stay in their homes not only endanger their own lives, but they also endanger the firefighters and policemen who may feel obligated to keep coming back to check on them.
In addition, the forest fire smoke itself can be hazardous to your health. You do not want to breathe the smoke any longer than necessary, and you certainly do not want other members of your family inhaling it. The smoke from a forest fire can contain many dangerous toxins. In addition to the wood that is burning, you could also be inhaling the smoke from burning houses, burning furniture, burning cars, and many other highly combustible and toxic items. Take your family, and get as far away from the toxic stew you are breathing as quickly as you possibly can.
Even if the smoke is not close to you and you do not have to evacuate, you need to be cautious about inhaling the toxic smoke. For example, even if the fire is miles from your home, if the smoke is blowing your way, this is not the time to exert yourself by exercising outdoors. Although you may be strict about your exercise routine, if you want to maintain good health you should not be jogging or playing tennis outside, where you are likely to be inhaling more deeply because of the exertion.
Beware of that gorgeous sunset. Sunsets that are red from forest fire smoke may be beautiful, but they can also be a sign that the air is dangerous to breath! Whenever you can smell forest fire smoke, stay indoors as much as possible, with your air conditioner on. Do not have open windows and, especially, do NOT use window fans that suck the outdoor air inside. This is one time when the outdoor air is probably more polluted than the air inside your home. If you get bored at home, go to an indoor mall or a movie theater, as far away from the fire as possible. After the fire is over, replace the filters in your air conditioner as soon as possible.
Avoid burning candles. They'll only make the indoor air pollution worse. Although you may want to cover up the smell from the forest fire smoke, do not burn candles in your home, and try not to smoke cigarettes. These activities will only increase the indoor pollution!
What to do if you have Medical Problems
If you suffer from emphysema or heart disease, be especially careful whenever there is a forest fire and smoke in your area. See your doctor immediately if you are having trouble breathing, or if you suffer from chest pains.
To read more about ways you can keep your family healthy, you may also want to read some of the articles listed below:
Keep Fire Extinguishers on Hand
They could save your home!
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