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Special Bulletin: Fire and Life Safety During Storm Recovery

Simple Messages Reinforce Safety, Personal Accountability

The Fire Life Safety Section of the International Association of Fire Chiefs is offering a quick checklist of simple safety reminders for responders to use and distribute to the community during prolonged response operations and as recovery begins.

In the aftermath of a hurricane or other major event, citizens continue to need the support of emergency services. Community members are dealing with significant mental and physical stress that may lead them to forget or put aside even the most elementary safety messages. While threats like home fires can be heightened during a natural disaster, such an ordinary occurrence may not be on the public’s radar screen or they may not understand that standard precautions to prevent additional emergencies can be taken. Similarly, as individual’s lives return to normal, they may begin to relax, diminishing needed vigilance during the broader recovery period. 

Keeping simple, positive, life-safety messages in front of the public reinforces what people already know and avoids potentially deadly mistakes when people are distracted or overwhelmed by larger events.

Remind residents to:

  • Ensure battery-operated smoke detectors are working. Remind those with hard-wired systems to check their battery back-up. (If you were planning a Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery event this weekend, consider how batteries and smoke detectors can be redeployed to aid the recovery effort.)
  • Ensure battery-operated CO detectors are working. Remind the public that carbon monoxide is a silent killer. Don’t bring generators into the house. Don’t use camp stoves and lanterns without ventilation. Never use stoves for heating. Any of these can cause deadly buildup of carbon monoxide. If using a space or kerosene heater, practice proper safety procedures. 
  • Opt for flashlights; make all attempts to avoid using candles. If you must us candles, keep them away from children and never leave them unattended. Never use a candle for heat.
  • Keep fuel-powered electrical generators outside and away from buildings to prevent CO from coming into the building.
  • Keep away from downed electrical-service wires. Report downed wires to the proper authority.
  • Don't move through water left from the incident. It will be contaminated and may have other hazards below the surface.
  • Know where emergency-service facilities are located, even if you don’t need them right now. (Consider providing local maps, detailed directions and contact information.)
  • Keep cell phones charged when able, even if your individual home has had power and phone lines restored. Conserve your power in case of a secondary event of if brief service outages are required during the larger recovery effort.

Remind motorists:

  • If a traffic signal is out, treat the intersection as a four-way stop.
  • Never drive through water flowing across a road. It takes only 6 to 12 inches of water to float a small vehicle. Never drive around barricades.
  • Slow down when driving through standing water. Driving too fast through water could cause you to lose control and hydroplane.
  • Avoid flood-prone areas, especially along creeks and other low-lying areas. Water in those areas can rise quickly and without warning during heavy rains.
  • Watch for debris on the roadway. If you encounter a downed power line, don't try to move the line. Report it to the proper authority.
  • Monitor local weather and traffic reports before getting into the car. Before heading out the door, get the latest road conditions.

General safety:

  • Use 9-1-1 only in injury-related or life-threatening emergencies or to report crime. Call non-emergency numbers to report non-injury traffic incidents, nuisance complaints, etc.

Remind Your Team: Don’t Forget Responder Safety

  • Make reminders about the importance of using proper PPE and following safety precautions part of your daily communications. The hazards change continually and personnel need regular reminders.
  • Ensure that a structure is in place for adequate rehabilitation during operations and for medical attention (both physical and mental) if needed.
  • Remind personnel of any support services available to family members of responders.
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