Fires can break out unexpectedly from many causes especially during hot dry weather. Fires occur more often than major disasters like earthquakes However, following an earthquake fires can be a major cause of damage, injuries and death. Most people that died in the great San Francisco earthquake 1906 died from fires that broke out from ruptured gas mains.
Safeguard your Home to Prepare for the Possibility of a Fire
Here are ways to safeguard your home against the possibility of a fire. The time to prepare is before such a disaster strikes. People who prepare their homes ahead of time are more likely to survive.
Everyone should have a smoke alarm installed on every floor in your home. A smoke alarm will give off a warning sound to alert you that a fire has broken out. It can also wake you and your loved ones up when it detects smoke.
Every home, apartment, school, kindergarten, etc. should have smoke alarms. These are very inexpensive and save lives. They will alert you if there is the slightest bit of smoke and wake you before a fire gets out of hand.
Water Hose or Fire Extinguisher
Every home should have a water hose or fire extinguisher or both. However, the fumes from a fire extinguisher can be dangerous in an unventilated place. Therefore, it is preferable in most cases to use a water hose.
One place you can install a water hose is in your shower stall. Many shower stalls have a tap near the floor which people use to fill up buckets or wash off their feet. You can easily attach a water hose to this tap. You can also attach to the wall some kind of a wheel device for wrapping the hose around to store it when it is not in use.
Another place you may be able to attach a water hose is near your washing machine. You can install a double cold water tap; one tap for the washing machine and the other tap to attach a water hose.
Caution: Never aim water on an electrical fire. You must first shut off the electricity at the fuse box. Pouring water on an electrical fire will only increase it and you also run risk of being electrocuted.
Small Fires can be Smothered with Cat Litter or Sand
You can also smother many small fires with cat litter or sand.
Emergency Escape Route
There may be a fire in the corridor or heavy smoke which can prevent you from leaving by your front door. However, if you have bars on your windows, as you should if you have small children, you must make sure that one of the windows has bars that can be opened in case of a fire or other emergency. Some bars have metal windows that open and close with a lock and key. Make sure the key is kept out of the reach of small children, but is kept near this locked window so that it can be opened in case of a fire.
Today the trend in apartment buildings is to build them higher and higher – junior skyscrapers from 12-35 stories. These are baby sky scrapers compared to what are found in New York, but still these present a challenge if a fire breaks out in one of these towers. Very few buildings in Israel have fire escapes. These are outdoor metal stairways.
If you live on an upper floor, you should buy a flexible ladder that you can climb down on in an emergency. It is possible to purchase a nylon emergency ladder called a sulam milut which can be thrown out of a window after securing it and using it to escape a fire from upper floors in apartment buildings. This is made up of extremely light weight metal and can’t burn. It can be kept folded up very small in a bag and then once it is secured to something strong can be used to evacuate people from a burning building. It comes in the following sizes.
The 12 meter size sells for about NIS 900 including VAT. This is a small price to pay to save your children’s lives and your own life.
This is literally a portable fire escape and I urge each and every one of you who live on upper floors in apartment buildings to buy one.
Baby Carriers to Carry Infants to Safety
You should also have baby carriers (Snugli, Kangaroo, etc.) which you can strap on your back so you can carry infants and small children down the ladder and while having your hands free to hold on to the ladder.
Another much less expensive item is a fireproof blanket called a smichat esh.
You wrap yourself up in it and then you can sometimes race through flames to safety. It can also be used if someone’s clothes catch on fire from a stove, etc. You wrap the person up in this and it will smother the flames.
The price is about NIS 120 + VAT. I think everyone should buy one or more of these.
Masks to Protect Against Smoke Inhalation
You can also buy special masks which will protect you and your children against smoke inhalation I suggest one for every member of the household. These are not the same as gas masks for chemical protection- these are strictly for smoke. If you have to walk down 4-6 flights of stairs to escape from a fire in your building you will die from smoke inhalation long before you make it to the bottom unless you are wearing smoke protection masks.
Leave Home Immediately if a Major Fire Breaks out
If a major fire breaks out shut off your gas and electricity and leave as fast as you can. Once you are safe you can phone the fire department.
Do not Enter an Elevator if there is a Fire
Do not enter an elevator if there is a fire. You can get trapped there and you may run out of oxygen.
Where to Buy Firefighting Equipment
The main importer firefighting and emergency equipment for the entire country is Magen v’Handassa in Jerusalem. You can phone them to see if there is a small branch in your area, but most likely you will have to order from Jerusalem. You don’t have to come to Jerusalem. You can order over the phone no matter where you live.
Here you can also buy smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, gas masks against smoke inhalation, fire extinguishers, fireproof blankets and all kinds of emergency and firefighting equipment etc.
Magen v’handassa Safety Services & Engineering Ltd., Tuval 8, Romema, Jerusalem
Tel: (02) 537-7770
It certainly pays to invest in firefighting items. Hopefully, you will never need to use them but just in case you do, you and your families and loved ones will be protected.