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Thinking Outside the Box During a Fire
We all know that heat, flame and smoke kill more people in fires than anything else. The standard advice is to get low to the ground and crawl your way out of the structure as soon as possible. It’s also wise to have a fire extinguisher handy as a way to beat back flames as you evacuate. However, there are some other things that you may consider having on hand to increase your chances of survival if you can’t escape in a timely manner. Let’s look at some basic guidelines for dealing with fires as well as how you can add an extra layer of protection as well.
A lot of people don’t realize that one of the biggest dangers during a fire is breathing in toxic fumes. When homes, apartments or buildings go up in smoke, many items inside release poisonous gases as they burn. The term “smoke inhalation” is almost misleading. We get the impression that we breathe in smoke and ashes from burning material, and all we need is some fresh air to eliminate the problem. The reality is that we are breathing in poisonous gases that can lead to permanent respiratory damage along with an increased risk of cancer and a range of other life-long health problems.
While it is important to stay as low to the ground during a fire as possible, and covering cracks around doors and vents will help to keep rooms free from smoke, it is also important to get to fresh air. Consider purchasing a respirator or small oxygen canister to use during an emergency. This will prevent you from inhaling fumes and exposing yourself to health risks. You can put it on and start to evacuate while breathing fresh air, and this can make all of the difference in the world in terms of exposure to toxic gases.
It doesn’t take a lot to burn our skin or cause our clothing to spontaneously combust under the right conditions. Fires can quickly raise temperatures to over a thousand degrees, and many victims succumb to extreme heat before they have a chance to escape. Keep in mind that you may not become injured from direct contact with flame. The ambient air can become hot enough to render you unconscious or literally cook the body without burning.
One of the best things that anyone can do if they are not able to evacuate quickly is to cover themselves with a Mylar blanket. Mylar blankets are used by those who fight forest and wildfires. If they are faced with an imminent disaster, they will crouch down and bury themselves under the blanket as a last line of defense. However, this is the last thing that most people think about having on hand in their homes, even though it could be a life saver. Consider purchasing some Mylar blankets just in case. They are not expensive, and their ability to insulate the body from extreme temperatures are well-worth the small investment.
Finally, smoke from structure fires can be dark, thick with particles and extremely irritating to the eyes. Many people end up feeling their way around their homes because they can’t open their eyes. It’s very easy to get disoriented and end up going the wrong way during an evacuation. Purchasing a good mask or goggles that can be placed over the eyes can put you in an advantageous position. Combining that with an oxygen supply can help to buy you precious time and give you more options as you try to escape.
While following traditionally-accepted guidelines with respect to evacuating during a fire is important, these additional items can be invaluable. Consider obtaining them in order to give you a better chance of avoiding succumbing to heat or smoke, getting disoriented or wasting precious time during an escape. Fires happen quickly, spread rapidly and force people to make split-second decisions that can mean the difference between life and death. You need all of the help you can get during a fire, and these items can make all of the difference in the world in terms of getting out unscathed.
How Many Survival Kits do You Need?
When we think of survival kits, we tend to focus on having a bug out bag or a limited amount of supplies on hand for sheltering in place. However, chances are that these are not enough to meet your real needs. Let’s take a look at some things to consider in order to ensure that you have access to everything you need if and when disaster strikes.
Where You Are
You should have a basic survival kit that follows you where ever you are. This means having one at home, one in the form of a bug out bag, one at your workplace and one for your vehicle. Each one will be slightly different. For example, your vehicle survival kit should include basic tools and equipment that is relevant for being stranded on the road. Your home kit will be less-portable whereas your bug out bag should contain everything that you need to survive for a couple of days.
Most recommendations from credible sources suggest that you should have a 24 hour survival kit for the workplace, school or in your get-home bag. Bug out bags should be stocked with 72 hours of supplies whereas your home survival kit should last up to a week if necessary. The car kit will vary depending on the time of year, where you do most of your traveling and other factors that are unique to your area and movements.
The idea is to always be protected, and unfortunately, many people only prepare for sheltering in place or bugging out from the home. Remember that disaster can strike at any time, and there’s a good chance that you may be at work, in school or on the road when it happens. Make sure that you have what you need on hand to get through the immediate situation as well as the short-term aftermath.
Where You Will be Going
It’s important to consider where you will end up going if you have to evacuate. Most of us have a few different plans in place so we can adapt as the situation warrants. However, if the destination is going to serve as a temporary shelter, you will need to make sure that you have supplies stocked up there as well. Make sure you think through how long you may be staying and what resources you will need until the dust settles. You should also think one step further and consider what your next move may be as well. Plan accordingly whenever possible.
How Many People Are There?
This is a big question that many people forget to ask. This goes back to our focus on having a bug out bag or survival kit at home to supply the needs of our family. However, if you and your spouse both work, then you should have two work survival kits or get-home bags. If your kids are in school, they should each have one that they can stuff in their locker as well. While many schools and employers have some sort of disaster contingency plan in place, there is no guarantee that food, water and other basic essentials will be available for everyone. It’s better to ensure that each member of your family has their bases covered for where they may be when disaster strikes.
Consider where you and your family members are, where they will be and where you all will be going. It’s really easy to lose sight of the big picture and underestimate what you really need. Take stock of your real level of preparedness and beef up supplies and resources as necessary.