Creating a Fire Safety Plan for Austin Homes
published on July 6, 2012
Fire safety in a home may start with “Stop, drop, and roll,” but it expands to an array of measures that can be taken to ensure a home is set to help slow fire and provide easy escape for homeowners during an emergency situation. Firescaping through careful plant selection and landscaping along with vegetation maintenance, such as clearing dry or dead plant debris, can play a large part in slowing a fire’s spread before it can reach a home, but prepping the inside of a house and the inhabitants also can help save both the home and life.
No matter where a house is located, whether close to the green belt like Barton Creek or next to water like Lake Austin, or what time of year it is, drought conditions can turn landscapes into tinderboxes, vulnerable to the smallest spark, and while recovering from the extreme drought of last summer, Austin still is unseasonably dry. The first step a homeowner can take for fire safety is creating a plan to evacuate. Because wildfires can move so quickly, a homeowner should be prepared to act immediately in the event of an emergency. Below are a few points to include in your own emergency plan:
1. Practice family fire drills.
2. Know where you’ll seek shelter if you face mandatory evacuation.
3. Identify at least two escape routes from your home and neighborhood.
4. Discuss how family members will reconnect if separated.
5. Make a plan for your pets, and keep in mind not all evacuation shelters accept them.
6. Prepack necessary items for seniors and infants in your family and keep them in or close by an emergency kit.
7. Put together an emergency kit. Include comfortable clothing; a blanket of pure wool, which is naturally more fire-retardant than synthetics; smoke-filtering masks; goggles; moisturizing eye drops; a battery-powered radio; drinking water; and a first-aid kit.
8. Keep your insurance information and an extra set of car keys with your pre-packed bags.
9. Ensure emergency vehicles can find and access your home. Work with the neighborhood to ensure street signs are legible, and make sure your driveway is at least 12 feet wide with a vertical clearance of 15 feet and a slope of 5% or less.
In the event of an emergency, Firewise recommends the following steps:
1. If you are home when a fire approaches, gather your family, medicines, pets and valuables, and leave immediately.
2. If authorities indicate you have time, turn off gas and water, and leave a note saying when you left and where you plan to go.
3. Use a battery-powered radio for instructions from authorities and stay on designated evacuation routes, avoiding shortcuts.
Learning how to protect your home and being prepared can help reduce the risk of loss during a fire. "Destruction is not inevitable in a wildland fire," says Michele Steinberg, manager for the National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise Communities Program. "By preparing ahead of time, we can make a difference." Austin Realtor Brian Talley concurs that all homeowners and prospective homebuyers considering an Austin home search should create an emergency plan with all of a home’s inhabitants, just in case a disaster should befall. “While losing a home to fire isn’t likely, the reward of planning ahead far outweighs the time used to consider the chance of risk,” Talley said.
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