Safety Basics – FIRE

There are many aspects of preparedness that make perfect sense if you take the time to think about it, and I understand that once you come to the realization that you aren’t prepared figuring out what to do can be completely overwhelming.  But as I’ve said before in these articles, you must learn to walk before you can run.  It is hard to quell the panic because there is so much that “needs” to be done and seemingly so little time and/or resources. I get it. I really do. But panic gets you nowhere. What I see most overlooked is just good ol’ common sense personal safety in the home.

So let’s just STOP right here a minute and breathe. Look at it this way, whatever you’ve been doing (or not doing) has gotten you this far, right? Anything you can improve upon is going to be, well, an improvement. That being the case, let’s take a look at one of the most basic, yet common issues that can come your way. No matter where you live, no matter what your socioeconomic status, no matter what political party you belong to, etc. your life can be changed dramatically by fire.

Yep, fire…one of man’s first tools. We’ve harnessed it for centuries and used it in countless ways and yet it still shows us lowly humans who’s the boss almost daily.

For example, did you know that in 2014 there were over 1.2 million fires reported in the U.S. alone?  Those fires led to 3,275 civilian deaths and over 15,000 injuries.  In other words, nearly 20,000 people that year faced life-changing events, from house fires.  Not financial collapse or the New World Order, no Zombies on the march. House fires.  Just think about that for a minute and let it sink in…

When is the last time you checked your smoke detectors?  Not only do they need to be checked routinely for battery replacement, but smoke detectors themselves also have expiration dates.  This is something most people aren’t aware of.  If you haven’t checked yours in a while, do it today. It takes two minutes and no tools or specialized equipment. Hit the test button and make sure it sounds. Then look for the detector’s expiration date. If it makes noise and it isn’t expired, you’re good to go. If it doesn’t sound, replace the batteries. Almost every smoke detector I’ve ever seen takes a 9 volt battery (you know, the little rectangular ones) but your mileage may vary. If the expiration date is within 6 months, make note of it and pick one up the next time you do a little shopping at the hardware store, department store or even on Amazon. You should be able to get a new detector for 10 bucks or less – cheap insurance. Yes, you can certainly pay more, but in this instance I’m of a mind that it’s better to have something than nothing when it comes to life safety.

Now let me ask you, do you have any fire extinguishers?  Do you know off the top of your head or do you need to think about it for a second?  Can you easily grab one, or is it behind a bunch of stuff that will need to be knocked out of the way?  Do your spouse and/or children know where the fire extinguishers are located?  Do they know how to use one if necessary or when NOT to use them? When is the last time you checked the extinguisher to see if it is still good?  Some extinguishers are disposable and have expiration dates; others can be routinely serviced and can last for years.

Have you made a family/household evacuation plan?  If so, have you ever practiced it?  Nothing can make a minor emergency spiral out of control faster than not knowing what to do in said emergency.  Everyone needs to know at least two ways to get out of the home and where to go once they’re out.  I’m not talking about “bugging out”; I’m talking about evacuating your house due to fire.   You’ve made it out of your home, but the street is blocked off, there are emergency vehicles everywhere, maybe news vans and reporters and of course the curious neighbors and passers-by.  Where do you go?  How do your kids find you if this happens while they are away from the house and the LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) blocking the road won’t let them through? At the very least you should practice your evacuation plan at least once a year.  The more you practice, the more your response becomes automatic.  And besides, things change.  Another example; my family’s “muster point” should we need to evacuate is in a little courtyard at a small shopping center down the block.  This worked great for 10 years, until suddenly the courtyard was fenced off completely for construction and was off limits for a year… It’s important to keep things up to date and even better to have a Plan B, just in case.

My point is this, we all live with danger, every day of our lives.  There are many things we can do to lower our risk and shorten recovery time, but you have to identify them ahead of time. That is why we all participate in this thing called preparedness! Sure, smoke detectors aren’t exciting and nobody is going to care about the picture you posted of your freshly serviced fire extinguishers on your social media pages, but these are simple things that will most likely do more to save your life and the lives of those you care about than the latest tactical gear.

It’s easy to get caught up with the preparedness “stuff”, I know because I’m guilty of it too.  And I’m not saying the gear and the long term storage foods and all those other goodies aren’t great to have around.  I’m a firm believer in the better-to-have-it-and-not-need-it-than-need-it-and-not-have-it camp but the fact of the matter is that you and your loved ones are far more likely to face a house fire, a natural disaster or some other mundane crisis than you will need to grab your B.O.B. and your AR-15 and head off into the great unknown to fight the Illuminati.

If you’re one of the newly awakened, take a step back, a deep breath and ask yourself “what type of disaster is the most likely to happen to ME?” and go from there.  Apply a little common sense and get your house in order before you spend all your time and resources on the survival toys that are so popular these days.  After all, nothing is going to ruin your day more than having all your hard earned preps lost forever for want of a $6 smoke detector.  It’s often said that skills trump gear nearly every time and I believe that.  I also believe that critical thinking is a skill and one that is under used by many.  If you really think about it, I believe you will agree that preparing your home for the everyday, common emergency will give you a much better chance of survival in the long run than say, another hank of paracord or the latest and greatest gadget to show up on the magazine covers.

Prepare smart, with serious consideration for your location and personal needs and before long the overwhelming panic will subside. And once you got your home base covered, you’ll be ready to move on to your next preparedness phase with a clear head.

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