There are more and more reports in the news about home fires, prescribed burns, unplanned wildfires and other fire hazards around the country and world.
Fire preparedness matters in the kitchen, home and in your community.
I have a few ideas and thoughts for you to consider, when crafting your own fire preparedness plans.
Home and kitchen
Home kitchen and cooking fires can happen easily. I cringe when I hear loud fire truck sirens in my community and silently bless the people in harm’s way.
Indoor and Outdoor Kitchen and Cooking Safety
- Cooking fires are a common type of fire in U.S. households. By paying careful attention while cooking, you can prevent a kitchen fire.
- If you are frying, grilling, or broiling food, stay in the kitchen.
- Turn off the stove if you must leave the kitchen, even if only for a short time.
- Monitor small children around kitchen stoves and outdoor cooking equipment. They must be supervised.
- Keep matches and lighters out of the sight and reach of children.
- Check the food being cooked regularly and use a timer to remind you that there is something cooking. (I use my cell phone timer and keep my cell phone in my pocket.)
- Keep flammable objects such as dish cloths, potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper towels, napkins, mail & paper or plastic bags away from burners and the stovetop.
- Wear short sleeve shirts and/or close-fitting clothing that won’t extend over or touch burners while cooking.
- Always use grills and outdoor fryers in a ventilated area and use according to the manufacturer’s directions.
- Position barbecue grills at least 10 feet away from siding and deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging tree or shrub branches.
- Turkey fryers can pose significant fire hazards. Again, always review and follow the manufacturer’s directions and use caution when using a turkey fryer.
- Keep a fire extinguisher available.
- Use your common sense. Identify potential danger spots inside and outside of your home and take the proper precautions.
- Install at least one smoke alarm/smoke detector on each level of your home, including near sleeping areas and change the batteries regularly.
- Know what to do in the event of a fire and/or necessary evacuation.
- Purchase a home fire extinguisher. Have fire extinguishers in the kitchen, laundry room, and garage. An extinguisher with an ABC rating can fight fires caused by paper, wood, cloth, flammable liquids, and electrical short circuits. Contact your local fire department with questions.
- Know how to use a fire extinguisher.
- Maintain a water source around outdoor fit pits, when in use. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.
Uncontrolled, accidental, or natural wildfires may significantly affect air quality and those with pulmonary issues. I was recently in MN and witnessed the outbreak of multiple wildfires and smoke-filled skies firsthand and the damage they can do.
Fires can break out without notice and instill fear. Fear of the unknown is frightening. The possibility of evacuation is more and more real with accidental fires, climate change, lack of rain, and wildfire outbreaks.
In the event of wildfires, you need to follow the recommendations of the authorities, plan to leave early, when advised, and stay calm. When experiencing stress and anxiety, during a fire, hurricane and/or other emergency, deep breathing is important as well as the use of other stress management techniques.
- Photograph or film the contents of your home and exterior. Update when new home contents are purchased and/or changes are made to your landscape. Do this in advance.
- Keep a list of important phone and/or hotline numbers and addresses
- Store contact information for your health care provider and pharmacy, in your cell phone.
- Consider putting together a “to- go- bag” which can be a tote bag or suitcase. A suitcase on wheels is easiest to transport.
- Compose a list of what is to go into your “to- go -bag”
What is a “to- go- bag”?
A part of a fire related evacuation plan is having a “to -go -bag” for each person in your family. You may want to consider a “to- go- bag” for your pets as well. These “to- go -bags” are to be filled in advance and should include items you would need for at least 3-5 days. They should be kept in a place that is easily accessible.
“To-go-bag” contents may include:
- Important papers (insurance policies, birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, social security card, health insurance cards and other documents). Make digital copies, and safe guard important documents, as able.
- Cash, checkbook, debit card and/or credit cards
- 3-5 days of clothing
- House key, safe deposit box key and other important keys
- Small mementos, heirlooms, jewelry and/or photos from your home
- Personal hygiene items
- Glasses, contact lenses and solution
- Medical equipment
- First aid kit
- Flashlights with batteries
- Cell phone and charger
- Computer and charger
- Important addresses and phone numbers
- Inventory of home and exterior contents stored on a travel/jump drive
- Hand sanitizer and face coverings/masks
- Water and snacks
- Pet food, a water bowl, cage/crate and/or a collar and leash
What is a prescribed burn?
Some fires are prescribed fires. Prescribed burning, is carefully planned and directed use of fire to achieve land management goals, is a useful tool for resource managers in Florida. Prescribed burns achieve many benefits for the environment and for people, but they have a few side effects as well, which includes smoke.
Those with asthma and/or other pulmonary conditions need to be mindful of smoke inhalation and avoid it.
Families and consumers need to be aware of what to do in the event fire breaks out in the home and/or in the area you are living in. They must be ready to call 911 and/or evacuate, when a hazardous fire threatens life, property and/or the environment. The most important thing is to be alert, aware of your surroundings and have a plan. It is so important to have a fire preparedness plan and review the plan at least annually. Sometimes, there is no time for a plan, and you must leave immediately. Plan for the worst but hope for the best. Some things are in our control, and some things are not. Having a well thought out plan is one of those things that is in our control. One of my favorite statements is: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Get your plan in place.
According to Angie B. Lindsey, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues in Agriculture & Natural Resources, FL EDEN-” A plan is our first line of defense when facing any kind of disaster. Preparation is key for any unexpected disaster including fires. Having a fire preparedness plan will provide your family with a guide to ensure everyone’s safety.”
- You must have a well thought out fire preparedness plan.
- Make a family plan for fire emergencies and practice your escape plan one to two times each year.
- Discuss, review, and update your evacuation plan with your family on a regular basis.
- Have an evacuation plan that all family members are aware of.
- Don’t be careless with leaving the kitchen stove on and unattended or any other potentially hazardous cooking equipment.
- Keep candles, matches, and lighters out of the reach of children.
- If your clothes catch fire, stop, drop, and roll. You should stop immediately, drop to the ground, and cover your face with your hands. Roll over and over or back and forth until the fire is out. If you or someone else cannot stop, drop, and roll, smother the flames with a blanket or towel. Use cool water to treat the burn immediately for three to five minutes. Cover with a clean, dry cloth. Get medical help right away by calling 911 or the fire department.
- Sign up for local cell phone emergency alerts and follow the instructions from authorized personnel.
- Pack your “to- go- bag”.
- Fill your gas tank.
- Get extra cash to have on hand, if needed.
- Know where evacuation shelters are located.
- Secure your home before you leave/evacuate.
- Inform your extended family members of your evacuation plan
- Assist elderly family members and be mindful of those that have existing breathing/ respiratory issues that are exacerbated by smoke. Because so many of our residents are elderly, Florida’s population is more sensitive than populations in other states to pollutants and irritants in the air.
Check out the resource below on staying calm and other subjects. Plan to stay strong, be resilient and get through the event to the best of your ability.
Fire preparedness matters, and it can save lives.
Thank a firefighter today.
Resources for further information
Cooking Fire Safety Materials- https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/cooking.html
Recipe for Safer Cooking- https://www.cpsc.gov/safety-education/safety-guides/home-fire/recipe-safer-cooking
Fire is Everyone’s Fight- https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/fief/index.html
Where there’s fire, there’s smoke: Air quality and prescribed burning in Florida- https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/fr058
American Lung Association- https://www.lung.org/
American Heart Association- https://www.heart.org/
Staying well as a hurricane approaches- e2dea1c3-ebe1-4788-b1ce-cade5e8a2ccd.pdf (ufl.edu)
Stress Management Ways to Cope- https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/fy517
Turkey fryers; Fire Safety – https://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/turkey-fryer-fire-safety-infographic.pdf
Fire Prevention: Deep Fried- https://www.nps.gov/articles/p52-deep-fried-turkey-fire-safety.htm
US Fire Administration- U.S. Fire Administration (fema.gov)
Choosing and Using Fire Extinguishers- https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/extinguishers.html