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Thinking Outside the Box During a Fire

Thinking Outside the Box During a Fire

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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.

Toxic Fumes

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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.

Heat Protection

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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.

Face Mask

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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.

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How to Make Fire Starters From Empty Plastic Cupcake Containers

How to Make Fire Starters From Empty Plastic Cupcake Containers

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There are limitless ways to create and improvise fire-starting options, and all of them can be beneficial to one degree or another.  We recently came across a simple and practical idea that builds on a more-traditional fire-starter, and it allows for a good deal of flexibility and improvisation as you can use various materials that you have on hand at the time.  Let’s look at the general idea below, and you’ll how easy it is to modify it according to your specific needs.

Getting Started

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The main ingredient for this project, no mater what kind of material that you end up using to make the fire-starter, is wax.  It can be any kind of wax that you may have laying around, from the remnants of candles to crayons or beeswax.  Expect to use at least 1-2 cups of wax in order to produce enough material to fill an average-sized disposable cupcake container.

As far as the material is concerned, the most popular option is dryer lint.  Why?  Because we all have plenty of it available, and it makes for an excellent form of tinder.  It also absorbs the wax and produces a nice, dense and slow-burning flame that is exactly what you’re looking for to get most fires started.  If you don’t have dryer lint available, the next best option is cotton balls or crumpled up and compressed sheets of tissue or toilet paper. 

Additives

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You also want to combine some solid and combustible items into the mix as well.  Small wood chips, sawdust, mulch, or even wood pellets that are used in organic cat litter are all examples of common items to consider.  You can also break up small branches, use tree bark or any other type of solid material that is available as well.  Look around and improvise as necessary.  These items will help to extend the life of the fire-starter as it absorbs the wax and provides a secondary burn once the lint is extinguished.

Putting Everything Together

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The first step is to melt the wax, and the easiest way to do this is by making a double boiler.  If you can’t make a double boiler, try to melt the wax in a pot over a low flame.  You may also want to consider holding the pot above the flame in order to keep it from getting too hot.  You don’t want to boil or cook the wax, and doing so can scorch it while causing a lot of the material to evaporate and vaporize.  Instead, get it just hot enough to melt without it reaching temperatures that cause it to bubble.  If you’re preparing these ahead of time, feel free to use the microwave.

As the wax is melting, bunch up some of the lint and other bits of material and compress it in your hand.  You want a nice, dense ball of material that will absorb as much wax as possible and burn as slowly as possible.  Press it into the cupcake containers and add more as needed until they fill the holes as much as possible.  Don’t worry about it being perfect, and it’s perfectly fine to have some of the material sticking above the top. 

Next, carefully pour the hot wax over the material in each hole, and keep pouring until the level of material and wax reaches the top of the molds.  If some of the material remains dry after pouring, use a pen, stick or spoon handle to press it into the liquid before it cools.  All you need to do now is let the wax cool and solidify. 

Wrapping Things Up

Once hardened, flip the mold over, give the bottoms of each cupcake a tap, and they should slide right out.  Place the cupcakes inside a zipper bag and store in a cool, dark place until they’re needed.  You should also add a couple to your bug out bag or backpack as well.

Try this out for yourself, and see how this is a great way to make use of items that we’d normally discard.  You can never have too many fire starters, and using wax and random items from around the house provides a safe, clean and simple option that can pay big dividends in a crisis.

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