This is the eighth in a series of articles on disaster preparedness and how to safeguard your community, save lives and minimize damage.
No matter how is starts, a fire ca destroy a home in just a few minutes. In manufactured home communities, as in any densely populated community, fire is an especially dangerous problem, because the homes are often close together. One fire could damage many homes.
Many fires are started by faulty heating and electrical equipment and by flammable materials that are not stored properly.
If your community is near a wild land area, you and your residents also need to be prepared for wild fires. Danger zones include land that is heavily wooded, is filled with brush or has large grassy areas. According to FEMA, states at risk for wild fires include California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Also at risk are the national forests in the western United States.
What To Do
Encourage your residents to include a plan for fires in their family disaster plans. Special steps for fires include an escape plan for every room in the home. Draw a floor plan with at least two ways to get out of every room.
Here are some other steps that you and your residents can take to reduce the risk of fire and fire damage:
- Install smoke detectors and test them monthly. If they work on batteries, replace them at least once a year.
- Keep an “A-B-C” type fire extinquisher handy and teach all family members how to use it. (Fire extingquishers are labeled for the types of fires they can be used on. An “A rated unit is good for wood, paper, trash and plastic fires. “B” rated is good for gasoline, oil and grease fires. “C” rated is used to extingquish electrical fires. An “A-B-C” fire extinquisher can be used for all three types of fires, so it is the best choice for homes.)
- Keep trees and shrubs trimmed so they don’t come in contact with electric wires.
- Clean your roof and gutters regularly.
- Don’t store flammable materials under your home or near anything that could ignite them.
- Keep the stove area clean and don’t store anything that can burn, such as paper bags or napkins, near it.
- Repair or replace electric wiring if it’s damaged, and don’t overload electric outlets or extension cords.
- Don’t use space heaters near drapes, clothing or anything else that could burn.
- Have your heating system inspected regularly by a qualified technician.
- Install skirting material to keep leaves and debris from blowing under your home.
- Keep brush, debris and other materials away from fire hydrants.
- Practice alerting other people in the house and evacuating the house blindfolded. In a real fire situation, smoke might make it hard to see.
If your home is on fire, you and your family should get out immediately and call for help from a phone outside the home. Close doors as you go to slow down the fire.
If smoke is pouring in around the bottom of a door or it feels hot, use another door or window to get out. If there is no smoke at the bottom or top and the door is not hot, then open the door slowly.
When getting out, stay low to the floor to avoid breathing smoke. If possible, cover your mouth with a damp cloth.
Know how to drop and roll on the ground if your clothes catch fire. If someone else’s clothes are on fire, use blankets to wrap and smother the flames.
If a wild fire is in your area, monitor your local radio or TV stations to keep up with its progress.
Encourage residents to take the following precautions:
- Remove anything outside the house that could burn, like lawn chairs or firewood.
- Take down flammable drapes and curtains, and close the blinds
- Close all doors and windows insides the home to prevent drafts.
- If advised, close gas valves and turn off all pilot lights.
- Turn on a light in each room so you can see if there is smoke.
- If you have hoses and a good water supply, put sprinklers on the roof. Turn them on when the fire gets near.
- Have your car full of gas and your emergency supplies packed in case and evacuation is called for.
- Make sure pets are taken care of.
If you are caught outside in a wildfire, try to find a pond or creek to get into. Cover your head with wet clothing. If you can’t find water, look for shelter in an area without much vegetation. Lie flat and cover your body with wet clothing or dirt.
After A Fire
When your residents return home after a fire, they should inspect their home. Follow these special tips for fires:
- Don’t assume all of the fire is out – hot spots can flare up. Check your roof and all through your home for several hours after the fire seems to be out.
- Throw out any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.
- Don’t use furnaces, appliances or other major equipment unit they have been check by a qualified technician.
- If you know the cause of the fire, take steps to prevent it from happening again.