Posts Tagged ‘Formworks’

Fire Safety & Burn Prevention

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Here is a summary list of the things to do (and not do) if you want to go all out in avoiding getting injured or killed by a fire:  Don’t drink, smoke, or use candles.  Have smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and a sprinkler system in your home.  You should have ground fault circuit interrupters, arc fault circuit interrupters, a home gas detector, and a fire escape plan.  You should have good house wiring, and your house should be wired such that you don’t feel the need to use extension cords.  Excess electrical cords should be tied up.   It’s best never to use any sort of space heater at all, but if you do then be very careful with them.  Your appliances should be in good repair, serviced properly and not abused.  Also, all appliances should be unplugged when they aren’t being used.  Have anti-scald devices, and set your water heater’s temperature down.  Wear fire resistant sleepwear, and don’t wear loose clothes when around fire.  Children simply have to be restricted around burn and fire hazards.  Don’t use fireworks, don’t have a natural Christmas tree, and don’t use candles in jack-o-lanterns.  Build a fire-proof house with fire-safe landscaping around it.  If you are staying in a motel be prepared for the possibility of a fire.  For the details read below:

Every year about 4,000 people in the United States die in fires.  Approximately 3,500 (80%) of these deaths are from residential fires.  The other 500 deaths are from motor vehicle crashes, aircraft crashes, electricity, chemicals, hot liquids, hot substances, and other sources of burn injury.  (Burn Incidence and Treatment in the US: 2007 Fact Sheet - American Burn Association)  Burns are one of the most expensive catastrophic injuries to treat.  A burn involving 30% of your total body area can cost as much as $200,000 in initial costs and fees. (BURN INJURY FACTS - Burnfree)

Certain groups are at higher risk from fire-related injuries and deaths.  These include males, children under 5, adults 60 and over, African Americans, American Indians, people who live in small rural communities, the poor, those living in substandard housing or manufactured homes, and people in the Southeast.  Risk factors for fires also include it being wintertime, and alcohol use (40% of deaths). 

In home fires most people die from smoke inhalation while they are asleep, and not from burns.  About 2/3 of these deaths occurred in homes without a working smoke alarm, and installing one reduces you chance of dying from a home fire by about half. (1)  The safest type of alarm has a combination of ionization and photoelectric sensors, which gives you better protection against both fast flaming and slow smoldering fires.  You should have one on every level of your home, inside bedrooms, and outside sleeping areas.  Alarms should be placed either in the center of the ceiling, or, if installed on a wall, between 6 and 12 inches below the ceiling.  You should test the batteries regularly, or get the kind of alarm with sealed lithium batteries designed to last 10 years.  Don’t locate them too close to a fireplace, heating appliance, or stove since this might cause false alarms.  Don’t locate them near bathrooms, windows, or ceiling fans.  Keep them free of dust, and replace them every 10 years. (Smoke Detector Guidelines – Township of Edison New Jersey)

A sprinkler system is one of the best protections against fire, and will typically lower insurance rates by 5% to 15%.  For a new home the cost of a sprinkler system is about $1.00 to $1.50 per square foot, and retrofitting a home with a sprinkler system can be done using minimal extra piping.  (Fire sprinkler system – Wikipedia, Residential Sprinkler Systems – USFA, Fire Protection Systems: Industrial & Commercial – Koetter)  If you want to protect your electronics and books, etc. from water damage you can get a Sapphire system that uses 3M’s Novec 1230 fluid.  It looks like water, but doesn’t get things wet and damage things.  (Sapphire: A Liquid That Won’t Get Things Wet) (Ansul SAPPHIRE™ Fire Suppression Systems & Ansul Products both by Tyco Fire and Security) (Vanguard Sapphire Systems) Commercial properties sometimes use foam/water sprinkler systems.  (FOAM/WATER SPRINKLER SYSTEMS, ANSUL® R-102 kitchen fire suppression system)

You should have and practice a fire escape plan.  Draw up a floor diagram, so everyone can see the whole plan.  Every room should ideally have two escape routes.  Keep an emergency ladder on upper floors of your home, and, of course, make sure all your windows will open and you can crawl out through them. (Portable Fire Escape Ladders – firesecapesystems.com)  If an alarm sounds don’t try to save property, but get out. (2) Sleep with the bedroom doors closed, since this will give you more time by keeping smoke out of your rooms.  Everyone should know to roll out of bed, stay low, and crawl to get out of a fire.  Staying low makes it easier to breathe and see, since smoke rises.  Practice alerting other household members.  Have a designated meeting location, with one person assigned to go to a neighbor’s home to call the fire department.  Teach your children how to call 911.

You should buy sleepwear that’s labeled flame-resistant. (How to Pick Flame-Resistant Sleepwear – eHow)  Make sure everyone knows to stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches fire.  Cover your face and hands to prevent fire from getting to your eyes, nose, and mouth.  If you get burned remove all clothing and jewelry from the area of the burn, and immediately place the wound in cool water for 10 minutes.  Cover the area with a clean dry cloth.  Do not use butter on a burn, since this could further damage the skin.  If a burn blisters or chars, or is bigger than your fist, see a doctor immediately.

Once you have escaped from a fire get medical attention even if you think you are fine.  You might have been exposed to smoke, will suffer its effects later, and not realize it immediately. This site (After a Fire – FireSafety.gov) provides advice on how to recover after a fire.  It has suggestions on what to do in the first 24 hours, insurance issues, how to value your property, valuable documents, salvage tips, fire department operations, etc.

Heating and cooling equipment are very common sources of home fires.  These include your furnace, space heaters, fireplaces and chimneys, water heaters, and heat transfer systems.  All of these should be inspected annually.  

Space heaters are especially dangerous, since two thirds of home heating fires in the U.S. in 1998 were caused by space heating equipment.  All types of them are involved in fires: electric heaters, kerosene heaters, wood stoves, fireplaces, and room gas heaters.  Never leave any space heater unattended.  Electric space heaters must have the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label.  Check to be sure it shuts off if tipped over.  Don’t use one to dry clothes.  Don’t store things on top of it.  Keep all combustibles at least three feet away from a space heater.  Unplug it when it’s not in use.  Turn off space heaters (or unplug them) whenever you leave the room.  Kerosene heaters must be UL approved.  Never fill one with anything but clear K-1 kerosene, and never overfill it.  To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning use one only in a well ventilated area.  (Carbon Monoxide – Lost Wanderer)  These are dangerous devices that have been banned in New York City.

Electrical fires are commonly caused by faulty wiring and lighting, and they are the third leading cause of home fires.  Problems can come from frayed wires, faulty electrical outlets, extension and appliance cords, plugs, overloading circuits, and old wiring.  Wiring should be replaced when it becomes stiff or cracked through wear, flexing, or age.  Unless you are trained don’t “fix it” yourself, but have an electrician do it. 

Extension cords shouldn’t be used as a long term solution for too few wall outlets; one reason is that they can become damaged when they are run under rugs or furniture.  Don’t run them over nails, in high traffic areas, or against walls where heat can build up.  You shouldn’t use an extension cord with a space heater, microwave, any other cooking appliance, and any appliance that draws much current.  Don’t run multiple high amperage devices off of one outlet by using a power strip.  Instead you should have an electrician install more outlets.  Check if any electrical outlets, switches, or cords are overloaded by feeling if they are unusually hot to the touch.  Are any of your electrical outlet cover plates discolored?  This could also be a sign of overheated wires.  You should tie any excess electrical cord with twist ties to reduce the likelihood a child or pet will chew on them.  You can also buy a holder designed to hide extra cord.  (Organize and Protect all Your Cables and Cords - Cablecordorganizer

Only use the proper sized fuses in your fuse box.  Unplug all the bathroom appliances when you’re not using them. (3)  You should install ground fault circuit interrupters in the bathrooms and kitchen, (How does a GFCI outlet work? – HowStuffWorks) and install arc fault circuit interrupters throughout your house. (Preventing Home Fires: Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) - Consumer Product Safety Commission)  When buying a house have the electrical wiring fully inspected. (Fire Safety Tips)

The appliances that cause most electrical fires are electric stoves and ovens, central heating units, televisions, dryers, radios, and record players.  Keep electrical appliances away from water, and be especially careful about this in the kitchen and bathroom for fear of electrocution.  Don’t allow children to play with or around appliances such as irons, hair dryers, or space heaters.  Look for the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) mark on the appliances you buy.  Keep combustible items, such as curtains or clothes, three feet or more away from all heaters.  Only use three-prong plugs in three-slot outlets, otherwise you have defeated the ground on the appliance.  Shut off and replace light switches that are hot to the touch, or if the lights flicker.  Use electrical outlet covers to child-proof them. (Children and Electrical Outlets – State Farm Insurance, Electrical Safety – KidSafe Home Safety ProductsSliding Safety Plate for 3-Pronged Outlets – Safebeginnings.com

Position your television and stereo equipment against the wall, so children can’t get to the back surfaces and cords.  But also be sure these appliances have adequate ventilation, so they don’t overheat.  If you use an electric blanket be sure to follow all the safety precautions provided.  Only buy new electric blankets, and replace any that is over 10 years old.  (Older blankets cause 99% of electric blanket fires.)  Clean the clothes dryer vent of lint after each use.  Regularly inspect your electrical tools for signs of wear.  Replace any chords that are frayed or cracked, and replace any toy, tool, or appliance if it causes small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out, smokes, emits an unusual smell, or sparks.  When kids get older make sure they’re careful when using irons or curling irons, since they can be very hot for some time after they are used.

Be sure to use the correct wattage bulbs for a fixture.  Keep combustibles away from light bulbs, especially halogen ones.  Don’t place clothing or cloth on top of a lampshade to dry items, and always use a lampshade.  Nightlights should never be in contact with fabric.

Mattresses (4), bedding, and upholstered furniture are where many fires start.  They are often ignited by open flames from such things as cigarettes, cigars, cigarette lighters, matches, and candles.

Smoke outside if you can, and consider using fire-safe cigarettes.  (But many smokers say they “taste like crap.”) (Smokers burned up over ‘fire-safe cigarettes’)  Set your lighter on low flame.  Close your matchbook before striking.  Use deep stable ashtrays placed on sturdy and hard to ignite furniture.  Extinguish all smoking materials before you leave.  Dowse butts and ashes in sand or water.  When smokers visit your home ask them to smoke outside.  If they smoke inside you will need to check in and under furniture afterwards for left butts.  Try not to smoke if you have been drinking, are taking medicine, drugs, or are sleepy.  Of course, never smoke in bed, or even when lying down anywhere.  Don’t smoke in a house where oxygen is used. 

Keep matches and lighters away from young children by storing them in a locked cabinet or drawer, and teach them they aren’t toys.  About 7% of structure fire deaths in the United States are caused by a child setting a fire, and children playing with fire cause more than one-third of preschool child deaths by fire. (BURN INJURY FACTS – Burnfree)  Don’t leave a child alone in the bathroom, kitchen, or a room with a lit candle, lit fireplace, hot appliance, stove, or portable heater.

If you use candles put them in stable holders positioned where they can’t be easily knocked down, and don’t put them near fabric.  If an area has a draft, something like a drape could be blown into a candle.  Never leave lit candles unattended.  You can also get flame-protective shades or globes for candles.  Never spray an aerosol can near a lit candle or any other open flame.  If the power goes out use a flashlight instead of a candle. 

Cooking accounts for most home fires, and unattended cooking causes most of these fires.  You actually shouldn’t leave the kitchen if the stove is on, but if you must you should set a timer to remind you.  Never leave the house when the stove is on.  In general, don’t wear loose clothing when cooking anything anywhere.  Try to avoid clothes with sleeves, but if your shirt or blouse does have sleeves at least roll them up.  If possible avoid reaching over the stove, and, to reduce the risk of this, don’t store things over or behind the stovetop.  Since children often don’t appreciate the danger, there should be a three foot zone marked out around the stove (or anything else that is hot, such as a fireplace or a portable heater) where children aren’t allowed.  Don’t allow a child use a walker in the kitchen.  Turn the handles inward so your pots and pans won’t be knocked or pulled (by a curious child onto themselves) off the stove.  Install a stove shield, and cook on the rear burners of your stove.  (Stove Top Shield – Security World)  Install stove and knob locks.  Keep cooking surfaces clean.  Keep curtains, pot holders, towels, flammable cleaners, and solvents away from kitchen heat sources.  Don’t get in the habit of leaving anything make of fabric, such as pot holders, on the stovetop when the burners are off.  Don’t hold a baby while cooking.  Don’t drink hot beverages or soup when a child is sitting on your lap.  Don’t carry hot dishes or liquids around kids.  Kitchen appliances should be unplugged and their chords hidden when not in use. 

Close the oven door and turn off the heat to smother a broiler or oven fire.  To put out a pan fire slide a lid over the flames to smother an oil or grease fire, and then turn off the heat and let the pan sit and cool.  Keep a lid handy in case you need it.  Use baking soda to put out other food fires. Don’t use flour or water on cooking fires.  Have the right type of fire extinguishers throughout your home, especially in your kitchen, and know how to use them.  (Fire Extinguisher Reviews and Buying Guide – GALT) (5) 

Don’t heat baby bottles in a microwave.  The milk or formula might heat unevenly and scald your baby’s mouth.  Allow food cooked in a microwave to cool for a few minutes, and open microwave food containers carefully.  Be careful with hot foods and drinks around children.  Don’t use tablecloths or large placemats with children because they could pull a hot drink or food onto themselves.  Keep hot things away from table edges.  Test a food’s temperature before giving it to a child. 

For barbecuing, before lighting up, check the fuel line and connection between the propane tank and grill.  Make sure the tubes where the air and gas mix are not blocked.  Check your grill thoroughly for leaks or cracks before using it.  You do this by smell and the soapy bubble test.  Don’t overfill the propane tank, and never start a propane grill with the lid closed.  Never grill or barbecue in enclosed areas since the carbon monoxide could poison you.  (Carbon Monoxide – Lost Wanderer)  Keep the grill at least 10 feet away from your house, garage, and trees.  Don’t use grills on top of anything that can catch on fire. 

As always when dealing with fire, don’t wear loose clothing while barbecuing.  Use long handled barbecue tools and flame resistant mitts.  Only use barbecue starter fluid on a barbecue fire, and when using it don’t squirt fuel into a fire.  The flame can run up the stream to the container causing it to explode.  Of course, keep matches and lighters away from children.  Don’t let kids play around a grill or fire pit.  Mark out with a chalk line a no child area three feet around the grill.  Keep all alcoholic beverages away from the grill since they are flammable.  Don’t leave the grill unattended.  Have a fire extinguisher and water nearby so you can douse the fire if necessary.  When you are done, douse hot coals with lots of water and stir them thoroughly.  Clean and store the grill properly.  Never store flammable liquids or pressurized fuels in the house, in the garage, or near any source of flame or heat. Never keep gasoline in the house.

If a fire starts, turn off the burners on a propane grill, close the grill lid on a charcoal grill, and disconnect the power on an electric grill.  On a propane grill if you can reach the safety valve shut it off, but if the fire involves the tank leave the area and call the fire department.   

Beware of turkey fryers, since they have burnt a number of homes down. (Turkey Fryer Safety – Scottsdaleaz.gov, Turkey fryer – Wikipedia, Turkey Fryer Safety Tips)

Fireplaces need to be cleaned frequently since they build up creosote in their chimneys.  They should also be regularly inspected for cracks and obstructions that can lead to fires.  Make sure the damper is open when starting a fire.  Flammable liquids should never be used to start a wood fire.  Don’t burn trash, paper, or green wood in your fireplace, since they cause more creosote buildup than wood, and also can lead to large uncontrolled fires.  Use a heavy and large screen to catch flying sparks and rolling logs.  It should cover the entire opening.  As always, don’t wear loose-fitting clothes near open flames.  Teach children to never put anything into the fireplace, especially when it is lit.  Also teach them that the glass doors to the fireplace can be very hot.  Make sure the fire is totally out before going to bed or leaving the home.  You should store the cooled ashes in a sealed metal container outside. 

Build campfires away from dry grass and leaves where they won’t spread.  Have water and a shovel on hand to douse the fire when you’re done.  Douse it, stir it, and douse it again.  Don’t leave it unattended.

Wood stoves cause about 4,000 home fires each year.   You should follow the installation and maintenance instructions.  Buy one that is solidly constructed with plate steel or cast iron.  Make sure that there aren’t any cracks, and that the joints and seams are smooth.  You should screen it as you would a fire place.  Never burn treated lumber (Lead Poisoning – Lost Wanderer), plywood, green wood, artificial logs, or trash in one, but only seasoned wood.  Check and clean the chimneys and pipes every year.  Check monthly for obstructions or damage.  Keep all combustibles three feet or more from it.  It’s okay to leave a wood burning stove operating unattended on the condition that it’s in good working order.  If they are hot to the touch radiators and electric baseboard heaters need to be screened the same as a fire place. 

Always test the bath water with your elbow (and possibly a meat thermometer) before putting your child in.  Bath water should be warm (100 F), but not hot.  Set the thermostat on your water heater to 120° F (49° C), or the “low-medium setting.  Also install anti-scald devices. (Anti-Scald Shower Valves – HomeTips)  You should turn the cold water on first, and then turn it off last, when running water in the bathtub or sink.  Turn kids away from the fixtures in the tub, so they’re less likely to play with them.  Use a cool-mist type of humidifier or vaporizer rather than a hot-steam one.

The safest choice is not to use fireworks, but, if you do, always have a bucket of water and fire extinguisher handy.  Never ignite them indoors or near dry grass.  Of course, (for the last time) when using fireworks don’t wear loose clothing.  Stand back from lit fireworks.  If a device doesn’t perform don’t pick it up or stand over it.  Pour water on it, pick it up with tongs, and throw it out.  (You should also wear hearing protection when setting them off.  (Tinnitus and Permanent Hearing Loss – Lost Wanderer))

When you select a Christmas tree the needles should be green and pliable.  If you shake a branch, and a lot of needles fall off, the tree is too dry.  The trunk should also be sticky.  Don’t put it up too early, and don’t keep it up longer than two weeks.  If the tree has been stored for more than three days without water cut one inch off the bottom of the trunk, and then place the tree in a stand that holds at least a half-gallon of water.  Keep the tree stand full of water.  Don’t place the tree close to a heat source, such as a fireplace or heating vent.  Don’t flick or drop smoking ash on it.  Never put lit candles on a tree, and don’t go near it with any open flame.  You might try using the product No-Burn 1019 Christmas Tree Fire Gard.  Don’t put the tree where it cuts off an exit. 

Make sure your light strands are in good condition and fused properly.  Check for frayed wires, cracks in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, or excessive kinking.  Unless the directions say otherwise, don’t link more than three strands together.  The wires shouldn’t be warm to the touch.  Test them before you put them on the tree and don’t leave them on unattended.  Use only nonflammable decorations.  If you use an artificial tree be sure it is flame resistant. (How to Prevent a Christmas Tree Fire – eHow, Holiday Fire Safety – USFA)  Don’t use electric cords on a metal tree.  Don’t burn the tree in your fireplace or stove, but dispose of the tree by taking it to a recycling center, or through a community pick-up.   

During Halloween it is best to not use candles in jack-o-lanterns, but instead use battery powered lights.  Only use flame retardant costumes.  (Halloween safety tips – New York City Fire Department

To protect your property from an advancing fire keep your lawns trimmed and leaves raked.  Thin the trees and brush within 30 feet around your house.  You should plant fire resistant plants.  Your roof and rain-gutters should be kept free from debris.  Try to wash your roof on a regular basis.  Keep flammable materials, such as stacked firewood, at least 30 feet from your house, other wooden structures, and fences.  You can install protective roofing, stone, brick, and metal to protect your home.  Exterior vents, attics, and eaves can be covered with fine metal mesh screens.  Multipane windows, tempered safety glass, and fireproof shutters will protect large windows from radiant heat.  Fire resistant draperies offer added protection.  The Castle Defense company sells foam and gel systems for spraying down your home and property that create a defensive fire barrier.  (Castle Defense)  During winter clear snow away from fire hydrants in front of your home or building.

If you are building a new home you have many more options for building in fire resistance.  To fire harden one particular home the architect used ICF foam building blocks manufactured by Arxx, a steel interior frame, insulated shutters, no ventilation, and defensible space landscaping.   (Fireproofing a Dream Home – Napa Valley, CA)  (See also: How to Build a Fireproof Home By Amy R. Hughes and Mark Powers – This Old House, How to Build a Fireproof Home – eHow)  I was once told by a workman that galvanized steel tubing conduit (aka Galvanized rigid conduit (GRC)) is the ultimate gold standard for wiring conduit, but it’s difficult to work with, so it tends to be used only in industrial applications.  (Electrical conduit – Wikipedia)  I’ve written before about one man who built The Ultimate Secure Home.  (Secure Homes and Survival Shelters – Lost Wanderer)  The house is an underground Formworks steel reinforced concrete home, which should stand up to any forest fire. (6)

If you live in the country you should post house address signs that are clearly visible from the road.  Emergency vehicles must have access to the property, with roadways and driveways at least 12 feet wide with adequate space to turn around.   Hydrants and ponds must be accessible to the fire equipment.  Be careful if you burn waste, and be sure to check the local laws before you do so.   

Arson occurs about 18,000 times a year and accounts for around 320 deaths a year.  To reduce your risk from arson keep trash from accumulating on your property, don’t have abandoned vehicles on it, remove dead branches, and install outdoor lighting to deter intruders.  If a child exhibits fire-starting behavior seek professional help, and don’t hesitate to report a neighbor’s child who starts fires to her parents or the authorities.  

There are a number of good general rules for dealing with high-rise, motel, and hotel fires, but you should remember that every fire is different, and sometimes you will have to make very hard decisions without knowing all the facts. 

In a high-rise never lock or block the fire exits, doorways, halls, and stairways.  Make sure that your apartment door is a tight-fitting self-closing type of door.  Keep rubbish out of the hallway.  Don’t prop a fire door open.  The exit stair doors should ideally be self-closing, snap shut, and unlock from both sides.  Have the building manager post the evacuation plan in high traffic areas, and have everyone learn it.  Practice your escape plan together.  Post emergency numbers near all telephones.  Fire hazards include such as things as blocked exits, piled-up trash, missing exit lights and open fire doors. Report them to your superintendent.  If the fire starts in your room get out quickly, close the door (but don’t lock it), sound the alarm, and let the front desk know.

If the alarm sounds feel the door with the back of your hand to see if it’s warm.  If it is warm don’t open it, but instead stuff the door’s cracks, the ventilators, and any other sources of smoke with wet cloth or tape to keep the smoke out.  Fill the bathtub with water, and use it to douse and cool the door or any other hot surface.  Create a mask of wet towels.  If you have a phone, call the fire department and tell them which room you are in.  In general turn off all fans and air conditioners, but remember the bathroom vent might be useful for clearing smoke.   Signal at a window with a flashlight or by waving a sheet.  Do not break the window because smoke might come in and you will need to re-close it, but see if you can open it to get fresh air.  If fire is outside your windows then close them, tear down the drapes, and move combustibles away from them.       

If the door is cool and you decide to open it, get low to the floor, brace your body against it, and slowly open it a small bit.  If the hall and stairs is clear of smoke then evacuate the building, but take your room key with you.  Close the door behind you to keep smoke out of it in case you have to return to it.  Stay low and crawl.  A few feet above the floor might make the difference between toxic gasses and heat versus breathable air.  If you run into smoke or flames on your way out you might have to return to your apartment.  Never use an elevator to escape since it might stop, instead use the stairs.

When staying in a hotel or motel ask if they have smoke alarms and fire sprinklers.  When you get to your destination read the evacuation plan, locate the two exits from your room, the fire alarms on you floor, and count the number of doors from your room to the exits as you walk the escape route.  If the exit doors are connected to an alarm obviously don’t test them.  Check if the stairwell doors will lock behind you.  If they do, and if a fire occurs, be careful about committing to that route of escape.  Check and see if you can open your room’s windows, and if not, plan what you would use to break them.  Locate the fire alarms and extinguishers, and review how to use them.  Try to get a room on a lower floor.  Ask for a map of the building.  You should take a flashlight and a battery powered smoke detector along when you travel.  Place the detector on the inside top of the door of your room, but not near any vents.  Put your flashlight and room keys in your shoes when you go to bed.  If a fire starts leave everything else behind.  Use the wall as a guide as you crawl.  If your escape is blocked then either return to your room, or hope the building has a rooftop exit.  If you end up on the roof, close the door behind you, stay on the windward side, and signal the firefighters below.  If you are traveling in another country remember that many of the industry’s standard safety features might not apply. (How to Survive a Hotel Fire - wikiHow)

(1) Post 1989 homes commonly are built with a hard wired interconnected smoke alarm system.

(2) You might consider using a safe deposit box, or having a fire safe box (or even a room) in your house, for your important items and papers, so you won’t be tempted to save them.

(3) Actually experts recommend that all appliances be unplugged any time they’re not being used, including computers, TV’s, and stereos.

(4) You might consider replacing any mattress made before 2007, because after that date they have had to meet the Federal Flammability Standard.

(5)  To avoid a kitchen explosion and fire from a natural gas leak or propane leak you might consider buying a home gas detector.  For example First Alert makes the GCO1CN, which is a combination gas and carbon monoxide detector.  (See also: MANUFACTURER LIST: GAS DETECTORS: RESIDENTIAL AND RECREATIONAL VEHICLES: LISTED BY UNDERWRITERS LABORTORIES

(6) For more general information on robust construction methods, see:  Hurricane construction guideHurricane construction, house building methods in high wind prone areas.)

(firesafety.gov, How to Prevent Burns – eHow, Preventing Burns, Shocks, and Fires – Household Safety, Child safety: How to prevent burns - Mayo Clinic, Fire Safety – Safetyresource.org, Fire safety – New York City Fire Department, Home Fire Prevention – U.S. Fire Administration)

Secure Homes and Survival Shelters

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

I ran across a site that describes an underground survival home built in Southwest Colorado, which the owner calls the, “Ultimate Secure Home.”  It is a reinforced thin-shelled concrete dome type house, designed by the company Formworks.  The house is buried under 6 feet of earth and requires almost no maintenance.  It is immune to any weather condition, including tornados.  It is also immune to mice, rot, insect infestations, fire, a 7.0 earthquake, and a near multi-kiloton atomic blast.

Waterproofing is provided by 3/16″ thick - 18″ wide Bentonite rolls (Bentonite – Wikipedia), and a felt-like drain mat leading down to a French drain system. (How to Create a French Drain System)  In addition to the 6 feet of earth, two layers of 1″ thick foam were used for insulation.  Its earth shielding gives the home excellent radiation protection, and it has a lifespan of 200 to 1,000 years.

Part of the home’s electrical power is provided by a state of the art solar panel system that is rated at 11.5 Kw hours per day and can produce 240 volts.  The 16 Kyocera solar collector modules are mounted on two separate stands with 3-way trackers, so that they follow the sun across the sky.  The home has a safe room with a Trace Engineering master power supply control panel, dual 5.01 inverters, and dual C 40 charge controllers.  Both the inverters and charge controllers are programmable.  Power is stored in 24 two-volt lead acid batteries, which weigh out to 2 tons.  A TriMetric meter monitors the batteries for volts, amps, amp-hours, battery percent, how much energy is left, when to shut the chargers off, and how the solar arrays, inverters, and chargers are performing.  This system also allows you to determine how much energy any particular device is using.  The house has an 11.5 Kw Onan propane generator that automatically charges the batteries when necessary.  A Pulse Tech Power Pulse battery maintenance system eliminates sulfation on the battery plates and dramatically extends their life.

The safe room also has a Swiss Luwa air filtering system.  This system will filter out all known war chemicals, viruses, bacteriological agents, fallout, and smoke from forest fires.  You can shut off power, water, and propane to any part of the house from the safe room.

The radio communications console has multiple communication systems, including a shortwave radio, a two-meter HAM transceiver, a police, fire, and ambulance scanner, two-way radios, an intercom system, and several electronic security devices.

The house features a gravity-fed water supply from a 1,000 gallon underground cistern, along with a back-up of two 55-gallon water barrels.  The property has a private water well rated at 15 gallons per minute, along with a 3 hp stainless steel industrial well pump rated for continuous duty.  The septic tank and leach field are both oversized.  The house has a “Perfect Window” ventilation unit (Perfect Window – Honeywell) and efficient electrical appliances.

The kitchen has a Sun Frost refrigerator/freezer, a Peerless propane range with “no-glow-bar” propane oven, and a Staber 2000 clothes washer.  In the garage there is a chest-style freezer.

The house has a propane water heater with a power ventilator such that carbon monoxide won’t back up into the safe room if the exhaust pipe was to become blocked by snow or vandals.  Included are a propane wall heater and clothes dryer.

The property has multiple cameras stationed outside, an automatic emergency phone dialer, an in-house intercom system with five stations, an outside PA system, as well as a number of other security systems.

For storage the house has two attics (one of which is 576 sq. ft.) over 24 shelving units, numerous closets, a pantry, cabinetry, two multi-purpose rooms, and various hidden compartments.

The building can never get below 50 degrees F., even during the most extreme winter conditions.  The Stanley-Waterton woodstove and range is rated for coal use, has an electric blower that increases its efficiency, and has grate shaker and ash box that allow hot ashes to be removed without having to cool it down.  The property has 24 cords of split and stacked firewood, several tons of coal, and 2,000 gallons of stored propane.  1,000 gallons of the propane are in an above ground well hidden protected tank, and the other 1,000 gallons are in an underground tank.

To help attenuate any EMP pulse from an atomic blast, when the house was constructed eight 8 feet long copper grounding rods were driven into the earth underneath it that are wired into the steel I-beams.  One indication of the EMP protection provided by the structure is that no radio reception is possible inside of it without an outside antenna.

If you don’t want to go quite this far another option is that you can install an underground “All Hazards Shelter” based on corrugated steel pipe available from Utah Shelter Systems.