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  • Fort McMurray Fire Forces Entire City to Evacuate

    Fort McMurray Fire Wildfire along highway 63 Fort McMurray, Alberta Canada May 3, 2016. Courtesy CBC News/Handout via REUTERS

    Fires rage through Fort McMurray, a city in northeastern Alberta, Canada. The pine trees, once green, burn like candles. The entire city – over 80,000 people – has been evacuated. What will become of their homes is left up to fate. After burning for days, the fire has destroyed at least one neighborhood and caused severe damage in others. Fortunately, there have been no reports of deaths or injuries.

    The Fort McMurray fire started on Sunday, May 1, 2016, and continues to burn today, May 4, 2016. Because of hot weather, low humidity, and strong winds, the raging fire has been difficult to contain. The only way in and out of town is the city’s lone bridge spanning the Athabasca River. Officials have marked that as a high priority to protect.

    Without that bridge, nobody is getting in or out, and that includes supplies.

    After subduing the fire on Tuesday, the winds shifted, and according to reports, “flames stormed along a ravine and roared into the city and the race was on to get out.” The scene was not far off from something in an apocalyptic movie.

    Unfortunately, once the fire picked up, there was little time to get out. That meant evacuating with basically just the clothes on one’s back. One man opened his front door of his house and was greeted by smoke and flames surrounding his neighborhood. He promptly got on his motorcycle, made his way through traffic, and out of Fort McMurray. He took nothing with him.

    Wild fires are swift and dangerous. They can escalate without warning, and much of the time – as in this case – leave no time to gather emergency supplies. Being prepared for such unexpected emergencies is crucial. You never know when you’ll need to jump in your car and leave your home and belongings to fend for themselves.

    Because you just never know what will happen – or when – it is of vital importance to put an emergency plan together and prepare with essential supplies you will need for any scenario.

     

    72 Hour Kits

    First things first. Make sure you have the necessities you need for the first three days of an emergency. Your 72 hour kit should include water, food, sanitation items, gear for warmth, and other personal items specific to your needs. Ensure this bag is in an easy to reach location so you’re not wasting precious moments searching for it. Keeping it in the front hall closet (or similar location) is a good idea.

     

    Fuel

    Always keep your vehicle at least half full of gas. If you’re running on empty and have to evacuate, you could be in for quite the ordeal if your car suddenly runs out of gas. This is what happened to many people evacuating during the Fort McMurray fire. According to one report, vehicles were scattered on the sides of the road, some broken down, but some were out of gas. Police officers had to walk up and down the bottle-necked highway with gas cans to help those stranded make their escape.

    This example fuels the importance of always being prepared – no matter what. Make it a priority to keep your car at least a half a tank full. Otherwise, if there is a sudden emergency, you might find yourself trapped on the side of the road, and in that instance, there may not be kind police officers with extra gas to hand out.

     

     

    Listen

    Pay attention to what’s going on around you. If you know there is a big fire nearby, keep tabs on it. The man who left his home with just his motorcycle received a phone call from a family member warning him to leave. That’s when he opened his door, saw the flames, and rode away. We are uninformed as to his situation, and perhaps there was a reason he didn’t know the fire had come so close, but this scenario helps hit home the need to monitor emergency situations. Because you never know when the heat will get cranked up and you need to run.

    Also, follow the council of your local officials. If they give the order to evacuate, do so immediately. They have lots of information available to them, and they know better than anyone the dangers involved. It’s just not worth the risk to wait.

     

    Emergency Plan

    Create a plan with your family of important things to remember during an emergency. Who grabs what and what actions to take in certain circumstances would be a good start. Likewise, come up with a few locations to meet up, just in case you aren’t all together at the time of an evacuation. This will help keep your family together during emergencies. Ready.gov has many more ideas for an emergency plan.

     

    Clean Up

    Keep your yard free of highly flammable objects, such as dead grass, leaves, or branches. Clean out those natural fire starters every once in a while so that if a fire does come, your yard won’t be a huge contributor in feeding the flames.

     

    Fort McMurray fire via Edmonton Journal Fort McMurray fire closing in - via Edmonton Journal

    With the massive evacuations up north, we are reminded of what we must do in order to be effectively prepared. While you can’t necessarily protect everything you own, you can at least protect yourself and your family. Things come and go, but life is precious, and by preparing in advance for emergencies (such as earthquakes, drought, or even raging wildfires), we can make sure we are properly prepared for, protected, and comfortable during these times of crisis.

     

    Take time today to go over your family emergency plan. In what areas do you need to improve?

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner  Fort McMurray Fire

  • How to Survive a Burning Ship

    How to Survive a Burning Ship

    More than 400 people were safely evacuated from a car ferry that caught fire Sunday off Greece’s Adriatic coast. Poor weather conditions made rescue difficult, but Italian and Greek helicopters and rescue teams managed to bring most of the passengers to safety. Unfortunately, there were 10 casualties.

    The boat drifted in rough seas between Italy and Greece as passengers waited to be rescued. The cause of the fire is still unknown, and attempts to tow the ship to shore ended when the tow cables broke overnight. Italian and Albanian magistrates are debating whether to continue attempting to tow the boat for investigation.

    The U.S. Coast Guard’s 2011 Recreational Boating Statistics Report listed 218 boating accidents that year involving a fire or explosion. Though there were losses in the ferry fire, passengers and rescuers worked together to bring most of the passengers safely to shore.

    The problem with boat fires is that you cannot simply run across the street to escape it; the only way to escape a boat fire is to await rescue or go overboard, which can be nearly as dangerous.

     

    HOW TO SURVIVE A BURNING SHIP

    Plan Ahead

    Thinking ahead of the best way to respond to a boat fire increases the probability you’ll remain calm and react correctly should one break out. Boat fires can go from smoke to inferno in minutes, so every moment counts. If possible, test safety equipment ahead of time to ensure you will know how to use it in the heat of the moment.

    Wear a Life Jacket

    First and foremost, put on a life jacket in case you do need to go (or accidentally go) overboard. Life jackets are designed to keep your head above water and in a position that helps you breathe when in the water. Keep in mind that adult-sized life jackets are not suitable for children. A life jacket should fit snugly and won’t allow the child’s chin or ears to slip through.

    Locate an Escape Route

    If the boat is docked, escape is simple. You can even bypass the life jackets and just get off the boat. In this case, call the firefighters to handle the fire for you; professionals are always a good bet.

    If the boat is at sea or in other deep waters when fire breaks out, escape can be more challenging—and, of course, the bigger the boat, the more complex your route can be. Every time you step foot on a large boat, like a ferry or cruiseliner, take note of the emergency plan (which should be posted in a public area of a ferry, as well as posted in your state room on a cruise ship), and pay attention during the “boring” emergency practice drill you’re required to attend on a cruise.

    Attempt to Extinguish the Flames

    If a fire extinguisher is handy, aim it at the base of the flames and discharge it, using a back and forth sweeping motion. Remember P.A.S.S:
    • Pull pin,
    • Aim at base of fire
    • Squeeze handle
    • Sweep side to side
    Never use water on an electric, gasoline, grease, or oil fire. Fifty-five percent of boat fires are caused by wiring and appliance malfunctions. Be sure that the fire extinguisher you are using is appropriate for the type of fire you’re facing. If the fire cannot be contained, the boat will be lost.

    Watch this video on methods for fighting various boat fires:

    Move Away from the Fire

    If the fire is uncontainable, move away from it, closing doors and hatches behind you, and move windward if possible. At this point, you’ll need to decide whether to wait for rescue or abandon ship.

    Bear in mind that the smoke and chemicals released in the fire can be more dangerous than the fire itself.

    Abandon Ship, if Necessary

    If possible, enter the life raft directly from the boat; avoid swimming to reach the raft. Bring a radio distress beacon on board the raft along with emergency supplies, such as important medication, water, a Swiss army knife, a whistle, a flashlight and a first-aid kit (many life rafts and escape boats will already be equipped with these supplies; that’s the kind of information you’ll want to know in advance). If you are traveling in foreign waters, bring travel documents as well.

    Once on board the raft, get to a safe distance from the burning boat. Try to stay dry and stay warm by huddling with other raft passengers. If there is no supply of drinking water on the raft or escape boat, arrange to collect rainwater and ration it to a maximum of half a quart per person per day.

    Preparedness is Key

    The more you are prepared for a boat fire when traveling by sea, the more likely you’ll able to handle it calmly, should it happen. More than 400 passengers aboard the car ferry did the right thing in a tough situation and lived to tell about it.

    Sources
    http://www.boatus.com/seaworthy/fire/
    http://www.nordhavn.com/resources/tech/boat_fires.php
    http://www.boat-ed.com/pennsylvania/studyGuide/Preventing-Fires-and-What-to-Do-if-Fire-Erupts-on-Your-Boat/101039_101039194
    http://threesheetsnw.com/blog/2014/05/what-to-do-when-your-boat-catches-fire/
    http://www.soundingsonline.com/boat-shop/sea-savvy/292025-fire-on-board-heres-what-to-do
    http://www.uscgboating.org/safety/life_jacket_wear_wearing_your_life_jacket.aspx

  • 5 Ways to Start a Fire with Water

    5 Ways to Start a Fire with Water

    A crucial skill to have in practically any emergency situation is knowing how to build a fire. Whether you get lost overnight on a ski trip or your car runs out of gas as you pack up to leave your campsite, knowing how to build a fire and stay warm could save your life.

    So what’s the best way to build a fire? “Building” a fire typically comes in three stages: gather the materials, lay the fire, and then start it. Check out our Insight Article to learn “How to Build a Fire” using these three stages.

    However, in an emergency situation, there’s one other item that could actually help you start a fire that many overlook—water. It’s true. Grant Thompson, from thekingofrandom.com, shows five ways you can start a fire using water. Check it out:

    There you have it: five ways water can start a fire. Four of Thompson’s five fire starting methods show you how to use water as a magnifying glass to spark a fire, letting the power of the sun do all the work (or at least a lot of it!). But e But B ven if there’s cloud cover, you aren’t out of luck. With just a few supplies you can still ignite a fire in seconds.

    If you plan to use water to help you start a fire in an emergency, make sure to add the following supplies to your emergency gear so you are completely prepared.

    Method 5:

    • A light bulb. Make sure your bulb has been rinsed and cleaned according to Thompson’s directions. Cushion the bulb with fabric, grocery sacks, or other forms of padding to keep it from breaking and place it in a small container before you put it in your emergency supplies.
    • A balloon to cap off the end of the light bulb after you’ve filled it with water

    Method 4

    • Plastic wrap
    • A bowl

    Method 3

    • Plastic wrap
    • A picture frame

    *For this method, make sure you have a way to securely attach the plastic wrap to the frame and to heat water.

    Method 2

    • A juice bottle (that looks like a bubble) filled with water

    Method 1

    • Toilet paper
    • Toilet paper roll
    • Small chunks of sodium
    • Jar lid

     

    Caution! Playing with fires is dangerous so make sure to have proper safety gear (a fire extinguisher, goggles, and leather gloves) with you when practicing these new ways to start a fire. Also, make sure to light fires in a cleared area away from flammable objects or dry grass.

    These are some fun, unique methods you can use to start a fire, but don’t forget about the traditional methods as well. Adding items such as the Sparkie, the P-25 Strike Master or FiredUp! firestarters to your emergency supplies are reliable ways to get a roaring fire and warmth fast. (Or, taking a hint from Thompson, how about a magnifying glass?)

     

     

    Sources:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCyHC7lnMyQ

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