California is known for its devastating natural disasters, such as its wildfire season. This takes place during the summer months, typically July through September. California has several months without rainfall and high temperatures leading to the vegetation completely drying out over time; thus, making the land prone to combustion due to long droughts. Warmer temperatures due to climate change are a key aspect of why wildfires occur so often. Additionally, the Santa Ana winds that conjure up within the Great Basin area of Southern California can cause fires to spread in more urban areas with less vegetation. These winds are especially dangerous for their ability to relocate embers and spread fires quickly. What makes the thought of a wildfire so scary is that any small spark can ignite a dry area. As a California homeowner, you will need to be prepared for wildfire season. This article will include some ways to prepare for the season.
In preparation for dealing with fires, it is important to ensure single-family residential and multi-family buildings implement safety requirements from the local jurisdiction. This includes the following items:
- Fire safety disclosure information on safety and smoke alarm requirements
- Post smoke and carbon monoxide (i.e., CO) detector information in common areas
- File and post Statement of Compliance form for annual testing
- Post building manager contact information for any tenants on the property
For homeowners or building owners with multiple tenants, specific requirements regarding fire safety information must be disclosed to the occupants. For example, the San Francisco Fire Department requires the owner to provide an oral explanation of the fire safety disclosure prior to the tenant occupying the property. A written copy of the disclosure must also be provided to the resident before they occupy the property. At the same time, existing tenants should be provided an updated disclosure on or before January 31st, annually. The statement of compliance must have at least two years of records to disclose to occupants. Many jurisdictions also have safety hotlines that can be reached via text message.
The legalities of fire prevention will not be the only factor in preventing fires and having safe practices. As an owner or tenant, you should understand what you can do to prevent fires. This includes the following items:
- Keeping flammable items at a minimum of three feet from things that heat up, such as space heaters.
- Not allowing any smoking indoors.
- Notify children about the dangers of playing with fire and restricting access from lighters, matches. Also, keep anything that creates fire out of a child’s reach.
- Do not leave portable heaters running in your home while you are not there, and turn them off when resting.
- Practice safe cooking habits
- When cooking on a stovetop, do not leave it unattended. If you need to go, turn off the burners.
- Keep items that can catch fire, such as potholders, towels, plastic, and clothing, away from the stovetop.
- Do not allow pets on cooking surfaces and countertops. They can potentially knock things over onto the burners.
- Be cautious of carbon monoxide.
- A carbon monoxide alarm should be located in centralized areas of the home or building. This includes all stories of the property and outside of living corridors.
- Install smoke alarms on every level of the home or building, including inside each bedroom.
- Practice fire safety with children, and explain what a smoke alarm is and what to do if they hear it going off.
- Check smoke alarms monthly by pushing the test button to ensure they are working effectively.
- The batteries need to be replaced annually for smoke alarms. If the alarm is making a chirping sound, the battery may be low, indicating it should be replaced.
- Smoke alarms should be replaced every ten years. Do not disable smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors.
- Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are not interchangeable. It is important to know the difference between the two and the purposes they serve.
Fire safety is a matter of life and death in many cases, and the requirements of your area need to be met in addition to being aware of in-home prevention measures.
Fire Escape Plan
As a homeowner or tenant, a fire escape plan should be prepared in case of the need to escape an unsuspecting wildfire. The steps to implementing a simple fire escape plan are listed below:
- Ensure that all household members know two ways to escape from each room of the home.
- Make sure that each household member is aware of a meeting place outside of the home and a safe distance away from the structure.
- Practice the escape route biannually at different times of the day. Practice waking up from the smoke alarm, low crawling, and meeting outside. Also, make sure each household member knows how to call 9-1-1.
- Teach the household occupants the stop, drop, and roll method.
Preparing for a fire is much different than dealing with a fire, so these precautionary escape routes should be developed. In the case of a real fire, practice the escape plan, crawl low under the smoke to avoid contact, and go to your meeting place where you can contact an emergency responder. If a fire blocks the doorways or exits, place wet towels under the door, contact the emergency responders, and open the nearest window to the street to wave a brightly colored cloth or flashlight to signal for help. Also, familiarize yourself with construction practices that can help prevent damage during a fire by checking out this article, What are the Latest Trends in Fire-Resistant Construction.
Now that you are prepared…
You may have the expertise to deal with fire prevention and developing an escape plan in case of a fire, but there are professionals that can walk you through the requirements and implement the installation of the proper detectors. Design Everest can work with you to understand the fire plan and the needs of the building. Contact us to get a free quote and consultation today.