Winter Emergencies, Part 2

Posted 12-27-2010 at 05:37 PM by ParamedicMama

Once the snow starts to fall, a whole new set of 911 calls begin at the ambulance I work at. Instead of worrying how we’re going to carry a 300 lb. person down 467 stone steps in the local gorge, we start to worry about getting a person out of their car that’s upside down in the icy creek, or the hunter that’s lost in the sub zero degree weather. In many instances, winter emergencies can be more dangerous than emergencies that happen in other times of the year simply because there isn’t as much light, travel isn’t as easy, and the cold is a very real enemy. While we all hope that our family is never the one affected, sometimes it is, and it’s best to be prepared. This is the second in a two part series dealing with the two major emergencies seen in winter and will focus on house fires.

The rate of house fires increases during the winter because more heating devices are in use and are often not kept up to standard, thus increasing the risk of catching fire. While most of the time house fires can be prevented, they still do happen and cause great damage when they do. Preparation is the biggest key to preventing and surviving a house fire, so use this guide to make sure that your family will be safe in case it happens to you.

Before a fire begins

  • Make sure your house number is VERY visible on both your home and mailbox. So many times, we are delayed in reaching a medical patient or a burning building because we can’t see the house number!
  • Buy home insurance and correctly install and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide alarms throughout your home.
  • Once a year, go through your home with a video camera so you can know what you had for insurance purposes. Store this video along with other important documents and valuables in a fire proof safe. Place the safe in a particular corner of your basement so that you would be able to find it amidst debris.
  • Copy precious family photos onto a CDrom disc and into that safe.
  • Practice crawling under the smoke, leaving the home, and going to a predetermined safe location with your entire family.
  • Keep your shoes near your bed. I have gone to many fires where the family had to stand outside in the snow without shoes on. Just make sure you put them on after you’re outside where it’s safe instead of taking the time to do it inside before you leave.
  • Keep your home free of major clutter, and stack papers tightly. This will help the firefighters navigate through your home easier, and will also decrease the “fire load”, or amount of things in a room that can catch fire. Since oxygen is required for something to burn, tightly stacking things or putting them into containers will buy you more time before they will catch fire.

During and After a fire:

  • Get everyone out safely and don’t go back in. Yes, we’ve heard that a lot of times, but a lot of people also break the rule.
  • Tell the fire department as soon as they arrive that everyone’s out, and if there are any pets or firearms/ammunition inside. Also tell them how the fire started and its location (if you know).
  • Find a warm and dry place to stay while the fire’s being put out.
  • Call a friend to go buy sandwiches and hot drinks for the firefighters. Trust me, they’re going to be there for hours, probably aren’t getting paid, and really appreciate free food.
  • Remember that possessions can be replaced.
Filed Under: Family Health, General


8 Responses to “Winter Emergencies, Part 2”

  1. JoelleB on December 27th, 2010 6:57 pm

    You don’t think the firefighters are getting paid to do there job??? I just lost all my stuff and my home and this article suggests me to go buy food and drinks for others???!!! I realize they work hard and are trying to save my home, but they have a home and a place to go back to after they are done.

  2. JoelleB on December 27th, 2010 6:57 pm

    I didn’t actually lose my home.. I was speaking figuratively..

  3. ParamedicMama on December 28th, 2010 2:26 am

    @JoelleB- did you know that in 2003, 73% of firefighters in the US were actually volunteers–NOT paid*? Volunteer firefighters must undergo the same training as paid firefighters (though most departments don’t require the same physical training/testing), yet don’t receive benefits or a monetary reward for their training or volunteer time.

    These men and women willingly get out of their warm beds, leave their families, and risk their own health and lives to help their neighbors…so yes, I am suggesting that if possible, a person try to at least provide support to fire departments during emergencies–food and beverages are just an easy and VERY appreciated option! :-)

    Did you know that firefighters have a significantly higher divorce rate than people in other occupations**? I know many firefighters that DON’T have a stable home to go back to after saving someone else’s home. Sometimes it’s because of the huge strain being in a fire department can be on a family (thus causing relational instability), while other times that firefighter doesn’t have the money to physically fix up his or her home to make it a safe and welcoming environment to go back to.

    Even if your area is served by a paid fire department, please understand that it’s still very straining of an occupation and you are still faced with the same health, safety, and family stress as any volunteer firefighter is. A little kindness can go a very long way for both the giver and the receiver in these situations, and I hope that you will reconsider your opinion.




  4. MRBLayaw on December 28th, 2010 3:19 am

    Excellent article. It contains a lot of simple yet not-so-common-sense items that most people don’t realize or think of, especially in a time of crisis. Perhaps if they read this article, a thing or two will pop into their minds from it should they, God forbid, experience something like this.

    @JoelleB- Actually, the article suggests you call A FRIEND to help out the firefighters, most of whom are volunteers and NOT paid! They’re committed to helping and protecting their communities and are 100% volunteer (except in select areas where paid departments still exist). They’re endangering their lives for you and your family and you resent the suggestion to ask a friend to bring them sustainance while they fight for you and your family’s home? Wow. I don’t really have words to address that. I *DO* know that in time of crisis, most people’s family and friends will be clamoring with offers of help, so instead of saying, “Thanks, but I just don’t know right now,” perhaps you could say, “Actually, these firefighters are working really hard and have been for hours. I’m sure they’d appreciate something to eat and a drink.” Let them take it from there, if they’re able. But then again, you resent that suggestion because YOU are the victim and not about to support the people who have homes to go back to after they risk their lives to save yours and your family’s…

  5. Sara on December 28th, 2010 4:18 am

    Well…if it is that big of a fire, usually the Red Cross will come and provide food and drinks for the firefighters. But it is always appreciated.

    And, as a firefighter, I would just like to point out that the vast majority of us are NOT getting paid. We’re standing outside in subzero temperatures fighting a fire because it is the right thing to do, and when we get back home in the morning after no sleep, we still have to go to our job.

  6. mommyto2girls on December 28th, 2010 10:57 am

    Can I add something….
    Always put your keys and purse in the same spot!

    A couple of years ago while staying with my parents they had a vehicle(s) fire that went to the house….Anyways the night before I didn’t put my purse/diaperbag & keys in the same place, and my dad couldn’t find them =( my stuff ended up ok, but my van had heat damage to it b/c we couldn’t move it in time.

  7. kathy on January 15th, 2011 1:19 pm

    sign me up

  8. PurposeDriven on January 17th, 2011 12:50 am

    I honestly believe there is great reward to those who are able to think of the needs of others in the midst of their own needs/unfortunate circumstances. It is easier to think of and care for the needs of others when all is well, but it takes a heart full of love and compassion towards others to recognize a need to serve in the midst of needing be be served. Oftentimes, we do not have control over what happens to us, but all the time we have control over how we react to what happens to us. It is during the toughest of times our true character is revealed.

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