|Katrina Poitras, Disaster Services Director|
Well, 2011 has started off at a fast pace with 12 fires, 5 floods and 6 gas leak cases opened and that’s just since January 1st! So you could imagine that Hurricane’s War room has been a very busy place to say the least!
Last week's blog featured some of the disasters that dealt with pets. This week I would like to share a disaster that was caused by an unattended recalled portable heater that was being used to heat a family and their home.
On January 5th, around 2:00am the Disaster Action Team (DAT) received a call to respond to a house fire in Central Fresno. When we arrived the firefighters were still on the scene finishing the cleanup and making sure the fire remained extinguished. As we started to help this family of 8 get back on the road to recovery, we talked with them and their tragic story began to unfold.
The fire had started in the living room of the house, where a portable heater had been plugged into a power strip. It had been mistakenly left on when the family had retired for the evening. Mom woke up around midnight to the smell of smoke and an orange glow coming from outside her doorway. She yelled at her son to get the rest of the family out of the house as she called 911.
By the time the fire department had arrived the fire had already enveloped the living room and the downstairs bedroom. The family had gotten out safely but not without major damage to the house. The portable heater was what started the fire; the heater had been plugged into a power strip that was already overloaded. And with the house being a very old house the circuit breakers just couldn’t take the continuous drain of power on the wiring thus sparking the area to catch fire.
This family, like most families that rent did not have renters insurance. Therefore making their recovery process even longer.
Fire Tips from a Hurricane:
- Select a space heater with a guard around the heating area to keep children, pets and clothing away from the heat source.
- Keep all flammable liquids away from the heater.
- Place the heater at least three feet away from bedding, furniture, curtains, or anything else that could fall on the heater and cause a fire.
- Never leave the heater unattended.
- Look for a heater that has been tested and certified by a Nationally recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriter's Laboratory. This way you can be sure that specific safety standards have been met.
- If you use a heater that burns kerosene, LP, natural gas or wood, make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector installed on every floor of your house.
- When purchasing natural gas or LP heaters, look for a model with an oxygen depletion sensor feature. These sensors will automatically shut the heater down when it detects the air is low on oxygen.
- If you are a renter, REMEMBER Owner insurance will only cover the structure you are living in NOT your belongings!
- Check with any insurance agent and ask them about getting renters insurance.
You can’t put a price tag on you or your family’s peace of mind. So until we chat again, Be Safe, Be Prepared, Be Red Cross Ready!
To learn more about our Disaster Services, Join the Disaster Action Team, or to donate to your local Chapter visit us online at www.arccentralvalley.org or call (559) 455-1000.