Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires

All About Wildfire Safety

The Waldo Canyon Fire has been declared the worst in Colorado state history. With flames raging out of control, at the time of this writing, the fire has destroyed 346 homes in Colorado Springs, killed at least one person and burned an estimated 18,500 acres of land. Meanwhile, the High Park Fire in Fort Collins has charred countless pine forests. Nevertheless, (as hard to believe as this is,) these blazes are small compared to the storied history of U.S. fires which have scorched millions of acres in the 19thand 20th Centuries:

  • In 1825, when the Great Miramichi Fire broke out, it burned 3 million acres in Maine and New Brunswick and killed at least 160 people.
  • Two decades later, Oregon’s Great Fire of 1845 blazed for weeks and downed 1.5 million acres of timber.
  • The Great Fire of 1910 occurred in Idaho and Montana, as a result of severe winds, small fires and dry forests combining to unleash fiery havoc over a two-day period. The wildfire destroyed some 3 million acres (1.2 million hectares) and took the lives of 86 people. So great was its destruction—in loss of land and human life—that it prompted Congress to begin setting aside money to help the National Forest Service suppress fires.
  • The recent California Wildfires in 2003 and 2007 claimed 1,500 lives and 1.3 million acres. Nine people died as a direct result of the fires and 85 others were injured, including at least 61 firefighters. The fires were so pervasive, they were visible from space.

Wildfires break out for a myriad of reasons…arson, overgrown brush, careless campers, welders’ and machinery sparks, fireworks, tossed lit cigarettes, spilled chemicals, improper trash burning, to name a few. Unfortunately, wildfires are incredibly easy to start and extremely difficult to stop.

While we at RJWestmore, Inc. usually concentrate both of our blogs to preparing for disasters and managing emergencies in urban settings and high rise buildings, where most of our clients do business, we consider it worthwhile to advise our members and friends about fire safety away from home and office. After all; our mission is to “Save Lives through Training.” And our motto is: “BE SAFE.” We want you to be safe at home, work or play!

There are lots of great free resources to help citizens and their pets prepare for wildfires. Among available materials is a downloadable PDF booklet produced by FEMA called “Wildfires: Are you prepared?” The booklet reminds us to take steps because, intentionally or accidentally, most wildfires are started by people, which is why Smokey the Bear’s mantra is: “Only YOU can prevent wildfires.” I’ve always been a fan of Smokey…even before he became a celebrity.

Here is an overview of how you can practice wildfire safety:

  • Contact local authorities to obtain information about fire laws in your region.
  • Make sure that fire vehicles can get to your home. Clearly mark driveway entrances with your street address.
  • Report hazardous conditions that could lead to wildfire.
  • Teach children about fire safety. Keep matches out of their reach.
  • Design and landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind. Select materials and plants that can help contain fire rather than fuel it. And while you’re at it, I’d suggest you install your own fire hydrant. Your dog will thank you for it.
  • Use fire-resistant or noncombustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of your dwelling, or treat wood or combustible material used in roofs, siding, decking, doghouses, or trim with fire-retardant chemicals.
  • Create a 30- to 100-foot safety zone around your structure. And you might want to let man’s best friend mark the territory. Just an idea.
  • Plan your water needs. For example, is there an outside water source such as a small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool, or hydrant? If not, make sure the garden hose is long enough to reach any area of the property. This is critical for dog bowls, too!
  • If you’re sure you have time, take steps to protect your home.
  • If advised to evacuate, DO SO IMMEDIATELY!
  • Post fire emergency telephone numbers.
  • Plan several escape routes away from your home—by car, by foot or by paw.
  • Run fire drills. (Fire drills are not just for schools.)
  • For comprehensive planning, take advantage of free information offered by Firewise.org, which is a service of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
  • Share fire safety information with your neighbors.
  • This is by no means a comprehensive list. For more about wildfire safety and preparation, check out resources provided by NFPA, FEMA, Ready.Gov, the American Red Cross, the CDC and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IIBHS).

When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. What’s more, the NEW RJWestmore Property Messaging System is included FREE for all RJWestmore Online Training System users. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information.

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Safety, Fires, Floods, Going Green, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Hurricanes, Terrorism, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

The Second Line of Response

Cartoon Oil Dripping
Second Responders do a lot of the dirty work following disasters.

 

Throughout our disaster planning and prevention blog posts, we often focus on the safety and actions of first responders. For example, we suggest proactively working with the fire department when the schematics of your building change or to get their advice about the best way to implement cutting-edge safety measures. Understandably, first responders also get lots of press due to the inherent danger of their jobs. I’ve been on some four-alarm fire calls with these braves gals and guys. And it’s some serious work! Firefighters and EMS personnel rush directly into dire circumstances just as everyone else is racing out.

 

For large scale disasters, after the first responders do their high-profile jobs, significant hazards remain which must be dealt with, properly cleaned or contained, or even rebuilt. This is where second responders come in. From cleaning oil spills and radioactive waste to assessing the safety of bridges, second responders serve a vital role by bringing communities back from disasters.

Second responders face multiple challenges:

  • In many instances, the job of the second responder is considerably less glamorous than that of the first people to arrive on scene who are seen battling blazes and pulling people from piles of debris. It’s important to publicly recognize the work of second responders to be sure they feel appreciated. And just a pat on the head won’t cut it! These industrious folks aren’t pooches, you know!
  • Second responders who participated in Hurricane Katrina cleanup efforts were met by the health hazards from standing water, including mold and bacteria exposure and hordes of insects. That doesn’t sound fun. My water bowl gets bugs in it sometimes; I just consider them a high-protein, low-carb snack.
  • After earthquakes, trained engineers need to enter precarious buildings to test structures to determine if they can be repaired or need to be demolished. For example, buildings in New Zealand are being used as test specimens to give an up-close view on earthquake damage.
  • Air quality issues are a considerable issue which harmed second responders following the 9/11 attacks, to Katrina, and the California wildfires. Second responders need proper filtration and breathing equipment in order to be safe.
  • Proper hygiene and disease prevention following emergencies are priorities for second responders who work to prevent outbreaks that are especially common when survivors are grouped together in cramped temporary quarters. Speaking of cramped, the guys went to Vegas for a week, and left me at a kennel. I had a terrible case of kennel cough when they returned because we had been packed in there like sardines!

Keep in mind that there are multiple types of people and jobs which fall into the “second responders” category. After some disasters, social workers and counselors are part of very important response units that can help mend broken families and allow people an outlet for expressing frustration or anguish. There are also categories of second responders who serve over a longer period of time. For instance, there is a group called the Lambi Fund of Haiti Earthquake Recovery which is a planning on civic rebuilding and growth of the nation after the major relief organizations have moved onto the next disaster.

A focus on second responders can be an eye-opening experience into the long-term effects of major disasters. It builds an understanding that there is more to emergency management than literally saving lives in the moment, but also a need to rebuild so those who are saved have a place to call home. On a side note, everyone deserves a good home, so donate to your local pet rescue facility today!

Proper planning and learning the “Do’s” are the keys to managing the situation when disasters strike.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.