Southern California has been feeling fairly apocalyptic of late. Fires
everywhere. Brown skies and falling ash. Smoke gets in your eyes, and
less romantically, in your throat. More seriously, many, many people
have lost their homes. And some have lost their lives.
As we know, all of us in Los Angeles could potentially be in danger at any time from fire or earthquakes. I work for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation
(www.aarbf.org), a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to
enhancing the quality of life for burn survivors and promoting burn
prevention. As a person who works on fire prevention education programs
for a living, I thought I’d share a few pointers with you on how to
prevent fires, and how to prepare for those we can’t prevent.
As you may have heard, most of the fires now raging in California were
accidental. The same goes for the most deadly fires across the country.
But most of those fires are in the home. In 2005, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), home structure fires caused 82% of non-firefighter fire deaths, and 74% of fire injuries.
You may be surprised to learn that cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. Leaving food cooking unattended
(usually frying) is the number one factor contributing to those fires.
Here are some tips to prevent these types of fires and injuries in the
• Stay in the kitchen while cooking.
• Wear tight or short sleeves. Long sleeves can easily catch fire.
• If a pan catches on fire, put a lid on it or throw baking soda on it. Do not put water on a flaming pan.
• Do not add lighter fluid or other flammable liquids to hot coals
in a barbeque. The fluid can ignite, causing the container to explode.
• Keep young children out of the kitchen or at least 3 feet from the stove while cooking.
We want to prevent fires from happening in the first place, but we also want to ensure preparedness if a fire does happen. Here are some tips to keep you and your home safe:
• Place smoke detectors
on every floor of your home and outside each bedroom. Test them once a
month and change the batteries twice a year. Two-thirds of home fire
deaths in 2005 occurred in homes without working smoke alarms.
• Make a home escape plan,
including a meeting place outside, and practice it twice a year with
your household. You should know two ways out of every room.
Finally, for the homeowners and buyers out there, there’s some great
information on the web to help you safeguard your home against
wildfires. Chief P. Michael Freeman of the Los Angeles County Fire
Department points out that “the most important thing that you can do to
help your local firefighters to protect your home is to properly clear
brush located around the perimeter of your home.” Brush clearance has
been noted as the difference in some San Diego County neighborhoods
between houses that burned and others that didn’t. You can see Chief
Freeman’s full letter along with more tips on brush clearance here:
Another great site to help homeowners and homebuyers with wildfire
protection is the United States Fire Administration’s page on wildfires:
The USFA site also has other pages with great tips on preventing all
kinds of fires and fire injuries. Another website that has a wealth of
information on burn and fire prevention is the NFPA site: www.nfpa.org.
Here’s wishing you a safe and happy Halloween!