Preparedness Corner
March 2003
By Paul Vircsik

Hi Neighbors,

ďFIRE, GET OUTĒ.  Could you?  Can you?  Like most of you, I watch the evening news and last night was brought in living color to the largest loss of life due to a fire since Waco.  Cause?  Many contributing factors, but the two biggest were the flammable ceiling covering lit by the pyrotechnics on stage and everyone trying to get out the same way they went in, the front door.  Earlier that week, twenty-one died from being trampled trying to get out of a feared gas attack.  Many inside thought they heard someone yelling fire, others heard terrorist attack.  Cause?  Again many but the two biggest were a security guard who sprayed a fight with pepper spray in an enclosed area and again everyone trying to get out the same way they went in.  This time many of the other exit doors were barred, chained, or locked.

So, if there was a fire or any other emergency, could you get out?  Or could you get away.  Well first of all let me say this as clearly as I can.  EVERY EMERGENCY IS DIFFERENT.  Different causes, different locations, inside, outside, different conditions, all causing the stuff that is going to hurt you to move and kill differently.  It isnít multiplication where anyway, everyway, 2x3x4 equals 24.  If you donít believe me, click on start, programs, accessories, calculator and try it.  Go ahead, Iíll waitÖÖÖÖÖÖÖ

Okay, flame, smoke, heat, and poisonous gases pretty much cover anything that will hurt you in an emergency other than crushing, electrical, and water.  Yes I know there are more, but this is only a one-page event.  Weather having the largest affect on the prior, with geography and fuel second and third.  Think outside the box.  A two-story theatre has geography and fuel and weather just like a hillside does in its special way.  Yes there are more considerations and I direct you to the fire safety manual that I gave out at a seminar several years ago.  If you donít have one, canít find one from your neighbors and I get enough response, it might go back to press.  So with all this information, how are you to handle yourself.

First, education.  And I donít mean formal book stuff for everything you do.  Come on, use some common sense.  The next time you go to a store, look for another exit.  Check it out if you have the time.  Put the knowledge in the back of your head.  Ever been to the dance hall in Trinidad?  This should be a yes since a famous dual party was recently held there.  How many exits?  I stayed near the front, not because of the crowd but thatís where the only exit direction was.  Close your eyes and tell me how many doors exit from the meeting hall we visit at every annual meeting.  See the idea.  Have you ever been somewhere and it just doesnít feel right?  There may be a reason.  LOOK AROUND.  It may not be just the doors.  Where are the fire extinguishers?  Your exit might be created with their use.  Practice this kind of safety always.

If you still feel like youíre in the dark, ask the people who are trained to respond to emergencies.  Ask them what to do and trust what they know.  They arenít there for the money, they enjoy what they do and believe me safety comes first.  Mr. Murphy will come a callen if that third eye isnít open.  Unfortunately the third eye doesnít see everything, because conditions change constantly in emergencies and sometimes they bite.  They bite hard.

Inside or outside, the conditions caused by an emergency are not 100% predictable, they are dynamic so plans can only be fundamental.  Adaptations to the conditions present and forecasted are put into affect so that the effect is least damaging.  To life and property.  A quick for instance.  A chlorine spill has certain characteristics.  Put a burning truck in the mix and the gases produced cannot and I must stress, not, be identified.  Fire brings the same problems.  Different products combine differently when burned producing who knows what in the smoke.  Put a wind on it and it influences a larger area quickly.  And to what concentration makes it lethal.  I donít know, Iím asking.  The authorities on scene might just say close all your windows and stay inside for an hour.  Then again they might say leave and follow these directions.  You donít have to take my word.  Educate yourself.  I will warn you though, donít go off half-cocked and do something before you do, you might wind up as one of the statistics.  And the smoke in the distance might be the dust of those who did.

Last words, education, prevention, active listening.  The answer may be as simple as paying attention.

See you all soon,

Meet the author: Read about Paul Vircsik's background