Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Marvellous Mums topic: ”FIRE SAFETY” BY TONI BROCKLISS

A few weeks ago now I received a phone call at dinnertime. It was from my friend Toni letting me know that she had evacuated her home in Upwey as the bush fires were extremely close by. I was in shock and not sure what to say to reassure her but I was glad to know that she had got out and had found somewhere to spend a night or two until the danger passed. I tried to imagine myself in the same situation but it was just impossible. I have no idea and no plan as to what I would do in this kind, or any kind, of emergency scenario.
It is with much appreciation that I accepted this month’s newsletter topic from Toni. In it, she outlines her own experiences of fleeing her family home not once but twice as well as some practical advice about what to do in preparation for this kind of event taking place in your own life.
Our hearts went out to all the victims of the Victorian bushfires and as a community we can continue to look for ways to support them through their ongoing rebuilding process.
Have a wonderful Easter break and I look forward to resuming our meet-ups in Term 2.
PS Don’t forget the next lunch: April 20th


When our family moved to Melbourne, we decided that we wanted to live amongst the trees in the Dandenong Ranges. We loved the smell, the fresh air and our tree view. When summer time came and those few really hot days, we started to wonder what we would do if we had a fire.
We didn’t give our tree home and fire danger another thought until the 7th February. The Black Saturday fires were a tragic event that left everyone shell shocked. It definitely made my husband and I put into place our own fire plan to hopefully avoid a terrible accident from happening and to save our life in the event of a fire. Little did we know that we’d have to put this plan into action when we had a fire in our suburb – Upwey, just four weeks later…
When I offered to contribute to Andie’s newsletter, I decided to do my article on fire safety in your home because our plan worked for our family and it was not hard to follow or put in place the few steps to ensuring our safety.

Home fire safety is very important, especially if you have children. You need to make a fire plan and tell your children often what you need them to do. This also doesn’t apply just for the summer months. According to the CFA website, fires in winter are common and extremely destructive, as the fire starts within the home, from home heating.

If you have babies, then you need to discuss with your husband who will get each child. My husband decided that he would get my daughter, as her room was located furthest from our room if a fire occurred at night. We then decided that he would get our daughter regardless and I would be in charge of getting my son.

We keep $200 in an envelope on our fridge. If we need to get out quickly, we can grab our envelope and go. Many purses, wallets containing credit cards etc are forgotten when leaving a property quickly. Many exit routes in your home are via the kitchen, so grabbing an envelope with money is just a step on your fire plan. This can be for a night’s accommodation, nappies and toiletries you might need for yourself or for your children, petrol, and food for the night.

When I had to evacuate from our property, I was alone and I had to get the children out myself. They were in bed when I decided to leave the house and I was silly as I should’ve left our house hours ago. By the time I went to leave the house, I couldn’t see our car from the front porch the smoke was that thick. I grabbed my son first and covered his face with a blanket. I strapped him into the car and told him not to move. I then grabbed my daughter and did the same thing. I drove out with my high beams on and very slowly.

Be aware of other cars, people and chaos. You must also have at least two alternative routes out of your home, in case one is blocked off.
One tip that worked for me was having my car keys in the lock of the car door. While I ran around getting the kids, I knew I could find my keys. You can waste precious moments running around trying to remember where you left your keys last.

So as a guide, the following steps can help you in a fire.
- Go through a fire plan with your children. Do a pretend fire evacuation. You might feel a little silly, but we do fire evacuations in hotels, at school or in the workplace, so why not at your home?
- Buy a small fire extinguisher or a fire blanket. You can get a 0.75 kilo home extinguisher with a fire blanket for $74 from Fire Online.
- Decide who will be in charge of getting the family pets.
- Pack a small bag (if it is the summer months) with a change of clothes, toiletries, essentials for the baby and have it at the door ready to go. You could keep your money in this bag.
- Install smoke alarms
- If you have older children arrange to meet at a safe point away from the house – such as the letterbox.
- Remind your children to crawl along the floor to escape the smoke and the heat and check doors with the back of your hand. You should have at least two separate ways of leaving your home.
- Don’t place heaters under 1 metre near curtains, furniture or drying racks of clothes.
- Do not put out kitchen pot fires with water. Cover with a lid or use a fire blanket.
- Pay close attention to your child’s clothes and if they are highly flammable. If you catch on fire, do not run, drop and roll and cover your face with your hands.
- Always keep your garden hose attached to an outside tap.
- Clean your gutters and trim plants and bushes growing near your home.
The CFA have a website www.cfa.vic.gove.au and they have an incident page that is updated every 5 minutes. If you have a fire nearby, leave this page up on your computer and refresh (F5) when you go to check the page. You can also turn on 774AM and they give regular fire warnings and updates.
Two places that sell fire equipment are -
You can also look for first aid equipment and fire safety equipment at your local shopping centre.

When I was leaving the home, I took my children and myself. I didn’t look for belongings. Don’t go back for anything if a fire is bearing down. Your family’s safety is most important. Don’t go running after photo albums and jewellery - just get out.
Photos are the number one thing that people try to save and there are lots of places you can store photos. Keep a back-up on your hard drive on your computer and save them to disks or a memory stick and give the stick to a member of your family.
You can keep 300 photos for free on the photo website – Flickr. www.flickr.com For $23 a year you can keep unlimited photos and videos on the site. I pay the money and it’s a wonderful site and at least I know I have my photos stored someplace safe.
If you have valuables, invest in a fireproof safe that you can carry and put that into your fire plan.
Just remember that they are just things and there isn’t another you. Be safe!

Toni writes her own blog, modern day pioneers.

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