Every year over 12,000 lives are snuffed out by fires in the United States alone. The average person suffers from FIRE every 12 years! Here is what you can do to protect your family from the Blazing Fury of FIRE!
A RAGING inferno in the dead of the night; screams and wails, crying children, weeping adults, panic-stricken at the hot lash of thick smoke and searing flames. Like a scene from Dante's inferno.
Your chances of suffering from a fire during the next twelve years are extremely high. According to fire department statistical estimates, the "average" person is a victim of fire every twelve years or five times during his lifetime! This could include fire in your home, automobile, place of business, or on a camping trip. It may include loss of property, burns, even death! Are you prepared for the time fire may strike your family? In 1968, fire killed almost as many Americans as the Vietnam War! Over 12,000 were killed. Multiple other thousands were maimed, scarred, burned, crippled, and disfigured. Fire is one of man's greatest servants, but it can be a vicious killer! It frequently strikes in the dead of the night, when people are unaware, asleep. It strikes often suddenly, stealthily, seemingly silently. It is no respecter of persons. It has no regard for human values or human life.
The Frightful Scourge
Fire can be a horrible enemy when out of control, on the rampage, stirred to a frenzy by dry timber, oil-soaked rags, gasoline, a faint stirring breeze. It can kill scores at a time, devastate buildings, desecrate forests, prairies and grasslands, and scorch the earth with its unrelenting heat and savage fury. Every year fire costs the American people over $2,000,000,000 loss in property damage. Yet, authorities state that 95 percent of all fires could be prevented! Think of it! There is no excuse for 95 percent of all fires ever occurring! Yet it happens. Daily. Hourly. Every day in 1968 there were an average of over 6,500 fires (2,400,000 in the year). Somewhere in the United States, a fire erupts into spontaneous fury, devouring property, possibly life and limb, every 13 seconds. These fires sent at least 12,100 people to death. Fires in the U.S. cost a whopping $6 million every single day or over $4,000 every minute. Millions of dollars' worth transformed into smoke and ashes, not to mention lives destroyed. And 95 percent of it could be avoided! According to the National Fire Protection Association, every single day fires in the United States alone claim an average of 33 human lives, 1,510 homes, 167 apartments, 23 schools, 10 churches, 21 hospitals and nursing homes, 149 farm buildings, 126 industrial plants, and 208 stores, restaurants and offices. That's every single day! Residential fires alone kill at least 6,500 people, including 2,100 children, one third of whom are alone or without proper supervision at the time of the fire. Said an article in the Chicago Tribune, "The United States has the highest death rate per capita from fires of any of the world's major nations... "J. Herbert Holloman, Acting Under-Secretary of Commerce, said the United States rate is twice that of Canada, four times that of the United Kingdom, and 6 times that of Japan" (April 6, 1967). That's nothing to be proud of. But regardless of where you live, fire can catch you unawares and horribly mutilate, massacre, and murder innocent people, including young children. Unfortunately, most people dismiss fires as just "bad luck." They call them "accidental." Not at all! Fires are not unavoidable. How "unavoidable" is smoking cigarettes? Is "bad luck" to blame for over loading electric circuits? Is a poorly maintained heating unit or cooking equipment "accidental"?
Time Was When the Fireman...
In years gone by, the fireman was loved by children, and many young people wanted to be firemen when they grew up. Time was when the fireman was a much honored, respected member of any community. But times have changed. What other conclusion can one reach when today firemen are often pelted with rocks, sniped at when battling a blaze, cursed or taunted, jeered and hooted by malicious, angry crowds? Firemen haven't earned that hatred! They haven't changed from the protectors of life and preservers of property. But times have changed. Today, arson is becoming more commonplace, false alarms are increasing. Ghetto hatred of anybody in a uniform has grown tremendously. Today, it is dangerous to be a fireman in a big city or metropolis like New York City, Los Angeles or Gary, Indiana. Last year alone New York City experienced 127, 956 fires an increase of 40 percent over the previous year. Since 1960 in Los Angeles, fires have more than doubled! In 1968 New York firemen experienced 947 attacks and 125 firemen were injured by angry people they were attempting to help. Three times as many firemen proportionately are killed in the line of duty as policemen. In large cities and especially ghetto areas, being a fireman is fast becoming one of those "thankless jobs." Anybody wearing a badge, or toting a fire hose, or wearing a uniform today is a symbol of authority represents the "establishment" and therefore seems to be "fair game" for dissidents, mobs, the disenchanted and disenfranchised. Hindering a fireman in the performance of his duty is like cutting off your nose to spite your face. It's comparable to smashing your fist through a window to see if it'll bleed. Firemen are protectors of property and life for all segments of our population equally and certainly do not merit hindrance in their humanitarian effort.
Are YOU Prepared?
In 1968 in the United States alone there were an estimated 2,400,000 fires, costing a total of $2,180,000,000. But the stark tragedy of fires is not revealed in mere numbers and dry statistics. It is revealed in the personal agony, anguish and suffering of flesh and blood human beings like you and me. Fire unleashed can be a deadly foe a dangerous killer and expensive! What can you do about it? There are positive steps you can take to prevent fires to safeguard your own family and protect your property! But the question is are you willing to take the time to not only read what safety experts say, but also to implement their suggestions and precautions into your own home and family life? Or are you too calloused, too negligent, too unconcerned, like some, to make the effort to protect your family? What would you do if your house caught fire? What if some rioter threw a fire-bomb through your front window, where it smashed on your floor and erupted into flame what would you do? Most people would panic. They are unprepared. If fire strikes them, they jump in terror from high ledges without thinking. They flee in confusion and forget their children left behind until it is too late. They rush headlong into the wrong course of action, because of ignorance and/or lack of training. Since the law of averages has already virtually picked you out, singled you out for a fire within the next twelve years, at the outside, you need to take steps now to "lessen the odds" by practicing fire prevention. You can lessen the odds, and increase your chances of avoiding serious fire, if you are willing to spend the time and energy to take the necessary action!
The CAUSE of Fires
What causes fires? Lightning strikes timber and causes a sizeable number each year. But man's carelessness and negligence is far and away the number one cause! This is especially true in home and industrial fires. Several years ago, a study by the National Fire Protection Association, of fires that caused four or more deaths showed 43.5 percent were caused by heating and cooking equipment, 13.2 percent by flammable liquids, the same percentage by children playing with fire (or matches), 11.8 percent caused by matches and smoking, and the same percentage also by faulty electrical wiring or equipment. The Royal Bank of Canada Monthly Letter revealed: "Nearly all fires are due to human blunders. Having an alarm system, fire extinguishers and escape routes do not provide the security you can obtain by taking all possible precautions to prevent fires from starting. "House fires in Canada are caused, according to the federal fire commissioner's office, by: smokers' carelessness 47 percent; heating equipment 16 percent; rubbish and trash 12 percent; electric wiring 10 percent; flammable liquids 4 percent; ashes 3 percent; others (usually not connected with home fire safety) 8 percent." The most frequent causes of building fires in the United States are: smoking, matches 23%; heating, cooking equipment 21.4%; electrical 13%; flammable liquids 9%; chimneys and flues 9%; and so forth. The fact is, lightning which is not humanly preventable is responsible for only five percent of building fires in the United States or Canada! These are some of the causes of fires. Now consider how to prevent them.
You and Your Home
Take inventory of your home and check these 7 areas of potential hazard. If you follow these recommendations, your home will be a much safer place in which to live. 1. Heaters Remove all combustibles stored near space heaters, water heaters and other open flame devices. Many times floor heaters will become loaded with children's toys, dust, etc. during the summer and these items will ignite the first time the heater comes on in the fall. Repair or replace any vent pipe that may have rusted, cracked or deteriorated. 2. Electric Appliances and Cords Check your electric appliances for a buildup of lint and grease (behind refrigerators, washing machines, etc). Also check all of your electric cords for a worn-out, frayed or cracked condition and don't run cords under rugs. Remember, overloaded circuits (plugging in too many appliances at an outlet) cause many home fires. 3. Flammable Liquids Store all flammable liquids in metal containers with tightly fitting lids. These liquids should be stored and used outside of the home. Their vapor could be ignited by a spark from a light switch or fan, or from the tiny flame of a pilot light. Remember, gasoline vapors are heavier than air; and one gallon, properly vaporized, has the explosive force of 85 one-pound sticks of dynamite. Don't use gasoline for anything other than an internal combustion engine. 4. Fireplaces Use a screen in front of the fireplace and have a spark arrester on top of the chimney to keep burning brands from coming through. (You can make a spark arrester with ½ inch wire mesh) Bear in mind that fire can extend through loose bricks or cracked masonry in the chimney. 5. Fuse Panels Never use overrated fuses. For regular 110 V. service use 15 amp fuses in the light circuit and 20 amp fuses in the plug circuit. A fuse is a fire safety feature to prevent wiring from overheating. Never put a coin in a fuse panel because the wiring will burn before the coin will ever melt. A circuit that frequently blows fuses is dangerously overloaded. 6. Kitchen Stove Keep your stove areas (and vent) clean. Don't allow grease to accumulate. Remove from the area all combustibles such as towels, mittens, curtains, etc. Keep baking soda close at hand for those broiler, oven and skillet type fires. A handful of baking soda freely thrown over flaming grease in a skillet or broiler will generally extinguish the fire. A tight-fitting lid placed over a flaming frying pan will also smother the fire. Caution: Many people have been severely burned while trying to carry out a pan of flaming grease. 7. Combustible Storage Clean it out! (Garage, closets, basement, attic, and backyard) Call the junkman, if you need to. Remember, fire prevention and good housekeeping goes hand in hand.
Fire Fighting Tips
"A word to the wise is sufficient." Are you one of the wise? If you are wise, then you will be prepared to FIGHT FIRE in case it does start in your home. A garden hose makes an excellent and inexpensive fire-fighting tool. To be effective it must be maintained with a nozzle and valve handle. It must cover all of your property, including roofs and every room in the house. More than one hose may be necessary. Baking soda is very handy for kitchen type, small flammable liquid and electrical fires. There are three keys to putting out fires. A fire will go out if you remove its fuel, if you rob it of air, or if the burning material is cooled below its combustion point. Fuel, heat, and air are essential for any fire to burn. Remove one of these, and the fire will die out. There are many effective kinds of fire extinguishers on the market, including a dry-chemical type. This unit, containing 2Ύ pounds of dry chemical and selling for $10-$15, might do the trick. It will extinguish flammable liquid and electrical fires and is handy for carrying in your car, boat, or camper, as well as around the home. For larger fires or greater protection, a 10-pound version costing between $25 and $45 will operate longer. Be sure any extinguisher you buy carries the seal of a recognized testing association and is guaranteed.
There are three classes or kinds of fires ordinary combustibles (such as wood), flammable liquids, and electrical fires. Each of these fires should be fought properly, or you could make them worse! For ordinary combustibles ("class A" fires), the key to putting them out is to lower the temperature by using water or a water-based extinguisher. Wet the fire to cool it down. Soak it to stop smoldering. Water is the best extinguisher of "Class A" fires. For flammable liquids or "class B" fires (such as gasoline, oil, grease, paint thinner, etc), the key is to smother the fire by using an extinguisher blanketing and covering the whole flaming liquid surface. Recommended would be a carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguisher or a dry chemical extinguisher. Plain, ordinary baking soda could also be used on small fires of this type. For electrical equipment fires, called "class C" fires, it is best to use a non-conducting extinguishing agent such as carbon dioxide (CO2), or a dry chemical extinguisher. Do not use water, soda-acid, foam or water-type extinguishers until electric power has been shut off. A non-conducting extinguisher agent will prevent receiving an electric shock which could kill you!
Train Your Family
Most home fires break out between midnight and 6 a.m. Does your family each individual have an escape plan? Home fires, starting in the living room, kitchen or basement can extend into hallways or stairways blocking your escape. You should have a second exit preplanned. A window could be a lifesaver. Make sure yours open easily. (Small children need special training in this area) Rope ladders might be effective for those upper stories. Remember that carbon monoxide gas is present with the smoke and some member of the family may be rendered unconscious by its deadly presence. When you discover the fire, make noise yell out! Alert everyone to proceed to safety. All members of your family, especially children, should be instructed to meet at a prearranged safety area, so you can "count noses" making sure that they are all safe. Don't delay, call the fire department. Firemen are dedicated professionals, trained and equipped to save lives and property, but they cannot respond until they are called. Have that fire department phone number right on your telephone. You could dial "0" but the time spent waiting for the telephone operator could make the difference between life and death. Most metropolitan fire departments will also dispatch rescue squads carrying life-saving oxygen for persons suffering from heart and other respiratory problems.
If Caught in a Fire
There are several pointers you should know in case you are caught in the middle of a burning inferno. Be sure your family also knows. First, realize that heat and smoke under intense pressure may be on the other side of any door ready to rush in and kill you in seconds. Therefore don't yank open doors! Test the door first. If the panel is hot to your hand, or smoke leaks around the edges, then exit another way. Even when a door seems safe, open it carefully, bracing yourself with your shoulder against it. Keep your head to one side, ready to slam it shut if heat and smoke start to pour in. If you are trapped in a room, stuff cracks with fabric to seal out lethal gases and keep low. Smoke and hot gases rise. You might have to crawl face down near the floor to get good air to breathe. Opening the window at the top and bottom will create an exchange of air, purging some of the smoke and lethal carbon monoxide gas. Use a towel or sheet for signaling help from below. If you believe help is coming, postpone jumping from an upper story until it is the only way left. But if worst comes to worst, drop a mattress, or quilts, blankets, or anything soft where you want to land. Then slide out backwards until you can hang by your hands from the window sill, push yourself outward slightly as you let go, aiming for the softest spot available perhaps the mattress, or a dirt pile, lawn, or bushes even a metal car roof is better than hard concrete.
Whenever we go above the first floor of a building, the fire potential begins to increase. Many of us live in apartments, work in offices, and shop or spend some of our time in these buildings. Know where the exits are located. Thousands have perished needlessly because they didn't know there was an exit within a very few feet of them. Many buildings have doors that lock behind you when you enter the stair shaft and some stairways dead end at the top floor. (This could be a death trap) Know which stairways go to the roof. How about those fire extinguishers in the building? Do you know how to use them? Most people don't! Read the directions on the label and know the different types. They are put there for the public, not the fire department. Many buildings are equipped with fire hoses in cabinets. These hoses are also for the public and are intended for larger fires. Remember to get all of the hose out of the cabinet and stretch it out to remove kinks before turning on the water or you may not get water out of the nozzle.
No one knows if or when fire might strike. It is best to be prepared for any eventuality! Who knows? It could happen to you. Don't make the mistake of always thinking it happens to the other fellow. If you value your life and family, you should plan ahead what to do in case of fire. It is wise to draw out a diagram of your home's floor plan, with everyone's sleeping area, and select the exits from each room. Each bedroom should be sketched in and the possible exits (two or more exits from each room). Go over the diagram with your family so each understands his own responsibility and escape routes (the ordinary preferred exits and the alternative exits). The best answer, of course, is to prevent the fire in the first place by making sure your home is clean, in good repair, and all fire hazards are removed and to teach your family to be safety conscious, cautious, and careful with any fire. Teach your children not to play with matches, as many fires are started that way. Teach them the basic principles of safety and be sure to practice them yourself! Never leave small children unattended. Too frequently, we read of individual children or entire families being burned to death as a result of children playing with matches. If you detect children playing with matches, call your fire department and let them help you correct the problem. If you are prepared, vigilant, alert, you diminish your risk of perishing in a nightmarish, hellish inferno. You will confidently know that you have done everything humanly possible to prevent such an occurrence and you will be prepared to act in the face of any potential sudden tragedy!