Can I take a "sick day"?

At our house, everything stops when I am sick.  Laundry, cleaning, cooking... everything.  Of course, I try to stay healthy, exercise, eat right, wash my hands, but when the germs win the fightI am out of commission.  Cue the emergency meals.  I have carefully stocked my pantry in advance with a few inexpensive, easy to prepare, family-friendly meals for just such an occasion.  I strive to buy things that require no more preparation than boiling water and stirring.  And maybe, if I'm lucky, someone else will boil the water and stir.

A few favorites at our house:

Macaroni and cheese with the foil cheese pouch (no milk or butter or measuring required)
Your family's favorite canned pasta (ravioli, o's etc)
Frozen lasagna or other entrees
Frozen chicken nuggets and a frozen vegetable
Baked Beans with hotdogs

You can always compliment these meals with a simple salad (greens and dressing) and a frozen dessert (ice cream sundaes), if that completes the meal for your family.  I write on the cans, bottles, and boxes with a permanent marker that these are "emergency" supplies, so no one inadvertently sucks down my soda or snacks on my chicken nuggets.  I need those things to be there when I need them.

I also keep a couple of cans of my favorite chicken noodle soup, a box of plain crackers, a bottle of lemon-lime soda, and an electrolyte sports drink.  (And a spare box of tissues and cold medicine, but that's another post.)  There is nothing worse than having to run to the store when you are feeling sick (and it's even worse dragging a sick kid to the store), so I try to avoid that with a bit of planning.  

You can take two minutes right now and add a few items to your shopping list. 

(Early) Functional Friday: Preparedness Project - Give Thanks!

The official origins of Thanksgiving are often disputed - was it really in Plymouth, Massachusetts? Before that back in England? And the traditions have almost certainly changed. Why turkey? I highly doubt our ancestors had cranberry-orange relish or hash brown casserole. But, the same theme remains – a thankful heart and a grateful spirit for whatever blessings that we might have: health, home, family, medical care, food, safety, excess or even “just enough”.

This week’s preparedness project is to spend time with those whom we value: family, friends, a neighbor, the needy. Do a good deed, say a kind word, make someone feel wanted and appreciated and valued.

No amount of food or water stored, degree of financial stability, number of first aid kits are as valuable as the people in our lives.

And for that we are truly Thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Shiny Silver Emergency Blankets

Those shiny silver space blankets we see wrapped around disaster victims in movies are available everywhere these days.  And for good reason, they can be a great addition to your "just in case" kits.  But you've got to know their benefits and limitations.  My family recently spent a beautiful week-end in October camping.  In order to try out the efficacy of this material, we purchased space blanket sleeping bags.  They were essentially larger sheets taped together at one edge and the bottom to create a traditional sleeping bag shape.

The weather had been getting down in the 30s at night and none of us had sleeping bags rated even close to these temperatures.  Our tent is a ginormous screen filled monstrosity, as well, so the breeze blew right through.  I acknowledged that we might end the night in our van, or at Wal-mart buying warmer sleeping bags.

But the first night we endured sleeping with our cute but useless summer sleeping bags on the outside and the mylar bags on the inside, right against our pajamas.  The kids complained the plastic smelled funny, and this was the LOUDEST night I'd even spent camping.  Every move threw a barrage of crinkling around the tent.  (Our camping neighbors didn't seem to hear it, though.)  We were warm enough with a sleeping bag included, but by morning sweat and condensation left us damp inside our "plastic bags."  The second and third nights we put the mylar bag on the outside of our sleeping bags and found it to be warmer, dryer, and quieter. The bags appear fairly sturdy. The thin tape ripped on a couple of bags, but we repaired it with duct tape and saw no more problems.  I can't image being comfortable using a smaller flat space blanket, I imagine we'd be chilly. 

I'd love to try this experiment in "worse" conditions but a controlled environment.  We may find ourselves "surviving" a night in our suburban backyard this fall. Most likely, I'll be surviving and the family will be inside watch movies and eating popcorn.  I'll let you know how it works out.

Winterize Me!

Can you believe it's still a month before winter officially begins?  Winters in the northern and central parts of the US require preparation to go smoothly. Whipping winds, icy sidewalks and roads, snow drifts, frosted windshields, and death defying temperatures may soon become a part of your everyday life.  Skidding cars, frozen locks and cold and flu plague us as well.  Using some everyday preparedness, you can avoid or endure these hurdles with a bit of grace.

Use your pockets, purse, bag, car, and desk drawer as an emergency storage location for some helpful items.

Dress appropriately for the weather.  If your car stopped on the highway, could you walk a mile in the cold, dark, rain or snow to the next exit for help?  Pick function over fashion this season.  If you must wear a mini-shirt and 4" heels to a party (or shorts and a t-shirt to the gym), make certain you have a change of clothes and shoes, as well as a warm coat and gloves, in a bag with you.

Put a blanket, a flashlight, gloves and a hat, a coat or hoodie, a rain poncho or large trash bag, a first aid kit, some water and snacks in your car.  Improvise the same if you commute by train or carpool.

Stay healthy by keeping hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, a box or travel pack of tissues, a tube of lotion, a first aid kit, lip balm, and a small bottle of your headache medication of choice at hand as well.

Get plenty of sleep.  Sleep is not a luxury, it's a necessity for mental clarity and disease fighting systems.  

Eat right.  Especially in the winter, we need the vitamins that fruits and vegetables provide.  Whole grains also sustain  our energy levels longer. Keep a healthy snack with you.  Pack bags of veggies each day or keep dried fruit (raisins) and whole grain crackers nearby.  Maybe a can of tomato or chicken noodle soup, too. 

Drink a lot of water.  Coffee and tea help as well, but after 2 cups the caffeine can cause as many problems as it helps.  Keep a bottle (consider an aluminum or stainless bottle) with you and refill it frequently.

If the lock to your car and/or house is outside, keep a small can of lock de-icer with you. (Not in your glove compartment, as I have discovered won't help.)  Make sure you have an ice scraper in your car as well.

If you travel with kids, keep more snacks and water on hand.  An extra diaper and change of clothes may save you one day.  Also some easy activities - action figures, dolls, and paper with crayons can often relieve the tension of a weather related delay.

An extra set of keys, well placed, can save the day.  I have a set at the neighbor's, my sister has a set, and I leave a set at work.  That $10 total investment has been worth a million bucks at least three times (that I can think of) in the past 10 years.

Take the train to work? A Pashmina-style scarf tied on the handle could warm up that lone denim jacket you wore.

Soup on your favorite blouse?  A travel bottle of baby shampoo can be used for hair/body/clothes in a pinch. An extra shirt/scarf/jacket in the car or at the office will be appreciated, too.  At least, keep an instant detergent pen with you.

At your first oil change of the fall, get you car safety checked and winterized. 

Keep some emergency cash in your glove compartment.  Whether that's $20 or $200 is up to you.

At home, you should exchange the screens for glass in windows and doors.  Inspect your door and window seals for breakage and gaps.  

Have your furnace inspected for function and efficiency.  Remember to change your filters monthly.  Ensure that vent and cold air returns are clean and clear of obstacles.

Stock up on sidewalk de-icer and windshield solvent.  These items become scarce in the midst of a storm.

Dig out and check on the condition of your snow shovel and/or snow blower BEFORE you need it.  Make sure you have enough gasoline to get the job done.

Keep staple food items on hand.  If you run out of bread or milk (or diapers and formula)on a dark and snowy night, it may not be safe to go out for it.

Make a plan with your whole family.  Have a family communications plan with an out of town alternate. (i.e. "In case of a weather, or other, emergency Mom's cell is the contact.  If we can't reach Mom, everyone should call Grandma in Seattle to tell her where we are, what we are doing, and how to reach us.")  Make sure your alternate contact knows the plan, too.

Plan and prepare to be a good samaritan.  I always keep an extra hat, gloves, and ice scraper in my car.  Cost = $3!

Functional Friday: Preparedness Project - Phone List

What if the pizza guy can't find your house?  What if you need to call your neighbor to make sure everything is OK at 3:00 am?  What if your out-of-town guests call and need directions to your house from the interstate, and your teen-ager takes the call?  What if a 9-1-1 call to the fire department puts you at a loss to describe which house is yours?

This week's Preparedness Project will help you plan for these situations and more with a list of helpful information posted by the house phone, or in another conspicuous location.  My aunt has had this posted by her phone for as long as I can remember.  Honestly, as a kid I thought it was a little strange.  Now that my kids are old enough to make a phone call, but not old enough to have much to say :) I see the value in the phone list.  We have one posted by our kitchen phone. 

The phone numbers we included are:
Our home phone number
Mom and Dad's cell numbers and work numbers
The neighbor's name and number (with an arrow pointing to her house)
In town and out of town family names and numbers
Two local family friends' names and numbers
(Consider indicating which numbers are text-able.)

Along with you, I'll be adding those detailed directions this week-end.  Try to include all major routes into your neighborhood from major local routes.  Google Maps or Mapquest could help with that.

If your home includes children, pets, or household members with medical conditions or functional needs, include helpful information and contacts for these as well.  (Veterinarian number, food allergies, required medical equipment, service animals, etc.)

First responders (police officers, fire/EMS rescue and EMT's) are trained to look for this type of information in an emergency.  They also will search your cell phone for ICE (In Case of Emergency) information as an App (iPhone, Blackberry, Android) or as a listing in your contacts, so make sure you include some information there as well.

Week-end Preparedness Project
Time:1 bee
1 bee
 ☐  Type and print, or grab a paper and marker for clear readability.
 ☐  Write detailed directions from major local routes to your house. (Include at least two routes.)
 ☐  List the names, relationships, and phone numbers for important contacts.
 ☐  Go ahead and include doctors and other medical numbers as well.
 ☐  Post in one of more locations in your home.  Near phones?  In your wallet?
 ☐  For extra credit: make sure you have at least two ICE contacts (ICE1, ICE 2) in your cell phone.

    PACE yourself...

    Remember in "What about Bob?" when Bill Murray's troubled character took an unprecedented cross country trip using the "Baby Step" method?  Preparedness always comes in baby steps.  Slowly building, adjusting, adding, modifying, until one day we find ourselves ready (more or less.)  Each essential item and process needs to have multiple resources, especially in an emergency.  PACE is an acronym that addresses the need to prepare in layers.  Each need (shelter, heat, food, water, light, communication, transportation, etc.) should have several back up plans.

    PACE stands for:

    Example 1:  An everyday situation where we use the PACE method is calling a friend or family member at work. Primary - Call the cell phone. (No answer.) Alternate - Text a message. (No reply.)  Contingency - Call their desk at work. (Call goes to voice mail.) Emergency - Call the company receptionist... or the police. (I guess it depends how big the emergency is, right?)

    Example 2:  Cutting a string from your shirt hem. Primary - Get scissors and cut it. (Scissors aren't there.) Alternate - Use nail trimmers.  (They aren't in the medicine cabinet.)  Contingency - Use a kitchen knife. (The knife isn't sharp enough to cut it.) Emergency - Chew the string off with your teeth.

    Example 3: Power goes out at 3:00 am, and you need to get down two flights of stairs in the dark. Primary - Grab the flashlight you keep in your nightstand, right? (Your kids "borrowed" the batteries, ugh!) Alternate - You keep a pen light in your purse. (You left your purse on the kitchen table.) Contingency - You light the candle from the hall table.  (There are no matches.) Emergency - Your cell phone, which was at your bedside, casts enough light to get to another flashlight.

    See? Easy! When making a plan, purchasing gear and supplies, and storing items.  Keep the PACE principle in mind.

    Your Emergency Framework

    Each individual has a certain capacity and defined expectations for the support we will receive in a disaster.  When we need a bandage strip, we expect it to be in the first aid kit.  When we call for help, we expect someone to come running.  When we dial 9-1-1, we expect someone to answer.  When we need an ambulance, we expect it to arrive right away.  When these things do not happen, some of us are capable of handling the situation, others are not.  As an event grows in scope (more people, more distance, more impact), the assistance available from first responders (like police and fire departments) and friends and family diminishes -- as it is divided among more and more people in need, the help gets spread too thin.

    The good news is that local, state, and federal governments are working hard to learn, prepare, and practice making the best use of limited resources.  Departments are planning ahead to share resources and assist one another in times of need.  In the midst of tough economic times Emergency Managers are getting creative and downright frugal to prepare for the risks that our communities face.

    Take a minute to think about what you could tolerate for a day or two or three... At my house a power outage is never a problem, UNTIL it occurs in below breezing weather.  Flooding wouldn't affect my home, but could keep my husband from coming home from work.  If an ice storm stopped all transportation, how long could we go without going to the store?  What if when we got there, the store was empty. What if an earthquake destroyed our water supply for a week... a month?  I am prepared to handle situations within my tolerance, but I must plan for those catastrophes that exceed my tolerance.  I can buy equipment (a generator, a water filter.)  I can stock up (candles, kerosene heaters, bottled water, canned food.)  I can ask for help (Making plans for special assistance you might need is always prudent.) I can train to take care of myself and friends and family (Red Cross First Aid and FEMA Disaster Training). 

    What about you?  What have you done to build a framework of support to help you when things go wrong?

    Functional Friday: Preparedness Project - 90 day Storage

    A four day blizzard, a food safety recall, a loss of income... Any of these items might leave you unable (at least temporarily) unable to purchase food and day to day items.  Planning for the best counts on those inevitably dark times coming round.  Financial guru Dave Ramsey says that when Murphy comes knocking at the door and sees that you are prepared, he goes on to the next house.  Not worried about that deadly pandemic?  That’s ok, there are other advantages – no last minute runs to the grocery store, buying items on sale saves money in the long run, and meal planning becomes a little easier.   (Monday's and Wednesday's related posts.)

    But before you run to Costco and max out your credit card, start by thinking and making a list. This week's projects is free, easy, and meant to get you started.

    Week-end Preparedness Project
    Pick one (or pick them all)

    1 bee


    1 bee
     ☐  Grab a pen and paper
     ☐  Make a short list of a few places you could consider storing some canned good and household supplies.
     ☐  Now make a list of your family's seven (or more) favorite "from a box or can" meals.  (It doesn't have to be what you eat every day, just often enough that you'll be able to rotate through it.
     ☐  Divide that menu into a list of ingredients to buy for one week.
     ☐  Add some snacks (cookies/crackers) and drinks for a regular week to the list.
     ☐  Your final list is household items that you buy and use regularly. (Toilet paper, dishwasher detergent, toothpaste.)
     ☐  Keep these lists close at hand and add items as you think of them over the next few weeks.
     ☐  Feel free to purchase and store some of these items, but we'll be sharing more about how to do this soon.  For now... you've got your brain thinking about this project.

    Food Storage in 87 Easy Steps

    If you haven't read Monday's post, start there.  We live in a very different world than our grandparents, and most of us don't have the time, resources, or knowledge (not to mention the desire) to "put up" all of our own food.  But that doesn't mean that we don't need a stock of food and other household supplies to help us "weather" tough times. 

    First Step is to Plan: 

    Think about your needs, your potential “winter”, your potential emergencies - times when you might have to scale back. Prioritize what is most important to you. 

    Lists! I love making lists, and the computer is key for this.

    Household Items: Make a list of all the consumable items that you use on a daily basis: shampoo, paper towels, Q-tips, laundry detergent, pet food. Think about how much you’d use in 90 days. Then think about things you might only use weekly: cleaning supplies, stamps, cat litter. Then monthly: vacuum bags, furnace filters. Finally seasonally: yard waste bags, for instance. Work out the numbers to 90 days -- try not to be overwhelmed.  Just start the list and work on a few items.  Once you've found a rhythm, you can add items easily and "catch up."

    Food: Make a menu for your family of 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 7 dinners. Try to come up with meals that aren’t heavily dependent on fresh ingredients. If you like a salad every night, that’s great, but it won’t last long. Consider planning with a frozen bag of vegetables or a canned item. Write down the ingredients needed. (An excel spreadsheet is good for this.) Make sure that these meals are ones that your family enjoys and will eat. One on my list is spaghetti dinner: 1 lb pasta, 1 jar of pasta sauce, 1 lb of ground beef, onions, California blend vegetables, bread, butter, and garlic powder (for garlic bread), etc. Then I multiplied by 12. That’s right, twelve jars of pasta sauce, 12 pounds of ground beef, etc.

    I’ve been buying these items as they are on sale. Not long ago, I found our favorite pasta sauce on sale for $0.99/jar. I also found our favorite pasta on sale for $0.99/box. Could I have found something cheaper? Maybe, but I’m filling our pantry with the food that we like. I’ll be looking out for a sale on ground beef to put in the freezer.

    Water: It’s going to be hard for anyone to store 90 days of water, but storing water is a good idea. A reasonable plan is to plan to store at least 7 days for your family (at least 1 gallon/person/day).

    Second Step is to identify a Space: 

    If you’re lucky enough to have a pantry, then this a no-brainer. But if not, consider underneath the stairs, in the basement, in the spare bedroom, the upstairs bedroom, a heated garage, a large cabinet. You may have to find more than one place to store your food. This can also be a work in progress as you realize what, where, and how large you need exactly.

    The Third Step is to slowly build up your supply: 

    Budget for your food storage. Before you go to the store, identify what you need, peruse the weekly ads. Start with the basics - a few complete meals, some bottled water. Then go from there. If you’re buying laundry detergent because you need it, throw in an extra to store, especially if it’s on sale or you have a coupon.

    The Fourth Step is to use it: 

    Rotate your food. Use the oldest stuff first and put the new stuff in the back. Replace what you’re using.  When I grab items from the pantry, I write them down on a list I keep on the fridge.  When I get home from grocery shopping, I put pantry items away in storage (at the back of the shelf).

    The Fifth Step is to review: 

    Take a look at what you’re truly using and what you’re not. Use up or donate the older stuff. Identify any lifestyle changes that require different supplies. New baby in the house? You need diapers.

    Always always remind yourself that you’re taking steps to protect your family in the event of an emergency.

    The Ant and the Grasshopper and Preparing for "Winter"

    If you’ve ever read the fable of the ant and the grasshopper, you remember that the ant spent his summer working - storing up food and generally preparing for the eminent winter months when food wasn’t plentiful. You’ll also remember that the grasshopper spent the summer playing the violin and ignoring the fact that winter was just around the corner. Whether you read the version where the grasshopper died or a friendlier version where the ant shared with the grasshopper, if it hadn’t been for the ant, everyone would have starved.

    Our pioneering grandparents had gardens, used glass jars for home canning, and stored food staples and dry goods for the harsh winters when supply and transportation may have been limited. The whole idea of that first dinner out in Plymouth was to express the sheer gratitude of the pilgrims for the bounty that they had received as they faced the long New England winter. Today, we’ve been spoiled with 24-hour grocery stores, drive-thru restaurants and various methods of food preservation. We rarely plan out our meals beyond a week. Most of us don’t know hunger or scarcity, so it’s impossible to understand the gratitude for having a full pantry in preparation for what was ahead.

    We don’t think about it, but protecting our food supply is a serious issue. Recently, in the news, we’ve heard reports of egg recalls due to salmonella and the increase in wheat prices due to the drought in Russia. Don’t feel like this will affect you? What about your ability to buy groceries? Losing a job, facing a health crisis, an unexpected expense can all affect our income and our food supply. We can’t control these events, but we can prepare for them by filling our pantry in the time of excess, because winter might be around the corner.

    One of my goals this year was to create an organized storage area and stock 90 days (3 months) of food and household goods. The year has almost come to a close and I have to admit that I haven’t achieved it yet. It was a daunting task when I sat down to it, and it’s been a work in progress all year. Over the next couple of months, I’ll share with you some of the ways that I’m working on my 90-day-supply.

    I’d love to hear what things your storing up in preparation for “winter”.

    Functional Friday: Preparedness Project - Smoke Detectors & Fire Safety

    September is Emergency Preparedness Month! Want an easy and simple step toward preparing for an emergency? Make sure your home is outfitted with proper smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. The upcoming months may include turning on the heat, using the fireplace, decorating with candles and Christmas tree lights, holiday cooking – all potential fire hazards.

    Week-end Preparedness Project
    Pick one (or pick them all)

    1 bee

    2 bees (depending on what you have already)

     ☐  Inventory your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in your house.
     ☐  Make sure that you have enough and they’re in the correct locations.
     ☐  Identify if any need replaced.
     ☐  Write down the type and number of batteries each one takes.
     ☐  This weekend, visit your hardware store and purchase replacement or new detectors.
     ☐  Purchase enough replacement batteries for each device.
     ☐  Visit the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) website for guidance

      Want to do more?

      Plan and practice using various escape routes, even out the window. This is a great way to identify if you need an emergency ladder.

      Buy a fire extinguisher. Rogue candles, cooking gone wrong, or an electrical fire could be contained long enough to escape with the help of proper fire extinguishers.

      Think of how you can store some emergency supplies away from your home in the event of fire: extra bag in the detached garage, a drawer at work, something at a neighbor’s house.

      Home Fire Escape Plan

      I am passionate about home and office fire safety.  I'm a risk taker by nature, and I love to play with fire. But I am heart-broken when I hear of needless injuries related to preventable fires. I have to admit I've been burned a few times, but never seriously.  However, my friend's son was recently burned quite badly in a home fire that started in the garage with a legitimate car repair project.  Fortunately, no one lost their life, but the suffering that this family has endured in the past few months has been heavy on my heart.

      If you didn't catch Monday's post, start reading there.  Fire safety always starts with prevention, and Monday's post contains lots of links and tips to keep you home (and office) safe from accidental fires.  This post is about what to do if you find yourself in the midst of a home or office fire.  I'm keeping it VERY simple.  There are so many possible twists and turns to a home fires that I get bogged down in the details at first.  However, many home fire injuries and fatalities could be avoided by following a few simple rules.

      • Practice your fire plan.  Can everyone in your family tell you what to do and where to meet?  Know who may and may not use a fire extinguisher.  Know who will lead children under 5 years and others who may require assistance.  Everyone should practice two ways of escaping from every room in the house.  Call 9-1-1 immediately!
      • Only use fire extinguishers if the fire is smaller than a small trash can. A home extinguisher only lasts 10-15 seconds.
      • Get down!  Smoke and heat rise to the ceiling.  Fire victims are significantly more likely to perish from smoke inhalation that actual burns. 
      • Check doors before you open them.  If the door or the handle are hot, don't open it.
      • Get out and stay out! Everyone should get out of ANY HOUSE with a fire.  Don't wait.  Don't go to another room.  Don't see IF you need to leave.  Seconds count.  Get out now!
      Here are a few other tips to keep in mind.

      Know who will respond to your home's fire and how to contact them.  (Some areas do not have 9-1-1 yet.  Some areas don't have public protection and require that you pay and register in advance.)

      Sprinklers save lives.  Home installation of a sprinkler system is becoming more affordable, especially during new construction.

      Security bars on windows present special considerations for fire escape planning. 

      Fire planning and drills are critical for the elderly, in offices, and multi-story or larger buildings.

      Fires spread fast.  Seconds count.  You don't have time to make decisions.  You will do what you have practiced.  Watch this 5 minute video that brings it all home.

      Home Fire Safety

      As we approach a festive season full of delicious feasts, baked treats, warm fires, and fragrant candles, everyday Providence will be taking this week to look at home fire safety.   Simple precautions will greatly reduce your family's chances of suffering a fire this season.  Thanks to heightened safety and awareness, the numbers of house fires, injuries, and fatalities has declined significantly in the past 20-30 years.  Let's take a look at a few potential causes of house fires.
      • Smoking in bed is NEVER a good idea.  Don't do it.  One in four fire deaths starts with a cigarette.
      • Cooking fires account for the most house fires and usually begin when food is left on the stove or in the oven unattended.
      • Many homes begin to turn on the furnace to break the chill of cool autumn nights. Most heating related fires occur in December, January and February.
      • Electrical fires are often caused by faulty wiring, electrical appliances, and extension cords, and light fixtures starting fires.
      • Candles cause 15,000 fires each year.  Burning candles must be attended at all times, away from flammable objects, and safely held in an appropriate candle holder away from children and pets.
      • Other areas for concerns for household fire safety include generators, fire places and chimney fires, outdoor fires (fire pits and grills) and space heaters.
      What’s on your home's Fire Safety Checklist? Here are some suggestions:
      • Ensure that you have adequate smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. Change the batteries ever 6 months. Test monthly.
      • Locate home fire extinguishers near every exit door and in the room with each heating device (furnace, space heater, oven/stove, water heater, etc.)
      • Schedule an inspection and cleaning for your furnace, fireplace, and fire extinguishers.
      • Take a careful look at your home’s potential fire hazards – flammable liquids, combustible materials – ensure that they’re stored safely (never in glass) and away from ignition sources.
      • Do not burn candles while they’re unattended.
      • Do not overload circuits; electric heaters can be a huge fire hazard. Use only UL Listed electrical devices. Avoid permanent use of extension cords or hiding them beneath rugs.
      • Review your evacuation plan and exit routes in case of a fire. Make sure that your exit doors and windows can be easily accessed and opened by everyone in the house.
      • Teach everyone what to do if the smoke detectors or CO detectors alarm. Practice it.  And when the alarm goes off, follow your plan, even if the fire is small.
      • Ensure that emergency response numbers and your contact information (including your address and directions to your home) are posted near the phone.
      • Make copies of important documents and store them at a secure location other than your house.
      • Purchase a fire-rated safe for other important items and documents.
      • Consider keeping some emergency clothing and other items away from your home – work, a detached garage, etc.
      • Go to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) for much more safety information. 
      Consider supporting your local fire department's efforts by providing fire safety equipment to local residents that may not be able to afford (or simply may not make the effort) to include smoke detectors, carbon monoxide (CO) detectors or fire extinguishers in their home safety plans.  Most of these items cost less than $20 each.  They can make a life and death difference in homes in your community because nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths occurred in homes with no (or non-working) smoke detectors.  Simply purchase an item and drop it off (in the original packaging) at your local fire house, or stop by and make a donation to provide equipment, batteries, or training and education for local families.

      Fire safety and preparedness should involve more than just preventing fires; next post we'll consider what you should do if a fire does break out in your home or work.