Hurricane Preparedness Week is May 15-21

Sunday May 15th marks the start of Hurricane Preparedness Week.  During this nationwide observance, households across the country are advised to assess their hurricane risk and develop an evacuation plan, even if the potential is low. Depending on the strength of a hurricane when it makes landfall, it may still be powerful enough to travel hundreds–or possibly over a thousand–miles inland.

During the first days after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, power was out in many areas of New York and New Jersey. If families got separated and had no planned meeting location, in some cases they were apart for days or weeks until power and resources made it possible for them to connect again. Families, friends, and roommates are advised to have a pre-determined meet-up location in case they are unable to reach each other by normal communication post-event.

Several websites allow for check-in and searching for others; however, these obviously require internet and electricity:

In advance of a storm, households should prepare emergency supplies and go-kits since there is usually little time to gather needed supplies during evacuations. The Ready.gov site has several timeline recommendations as well as a supply kit check list.

Take the time to plan and prepare.

Wildfire Awareness Week

wildfire awareness week

As everyone prepares for the approaching summer, firefighters are preparing in their own way. This first week of May marks ‘Wildfire Awareness Week’ in California, when fire departments remind homeowners of the dangers of wildfires, and also bring on thousands of seasonal firefighting employees as part of their preparation for wildfire season. Firefighters in California begin inspecting homes for adherence to defensible space regulations, while thoroughly inspecting their fire equipment, and conducting daily readiness drills at fire stations, helitack bases, and air tanker bases.

The winter El Niño event brought much needed moisture to the Bay area and northern California, but had little effect on the Southern California drought index, leaving fire researchers calling for another high potential fire season in 2016. In the latest fire season outlook (released May 1), a few western states are also bracing for highly active and well-above-normal fire season conditions due to climate factors and fuel moisture conditions.

This week marks the annual occasion for fire departments statewide to remind citizens, before fire season has fully kicked in, that everyone can do their part to prevent wildfire ignitions and help make homes and neighborhoods safer.  Outreach programs such as these also educate homeowners on the concept of “defensible space”, the idea that creating and maintaining 100 feet of intelligent brush clearance greatly increases a home’s chance of surviving a wildfire.

For information on how to prepare your home please see http://www.readyforwildfire.org/.

RedZone attends risk management RIMS Conference!

RedZone joined over 400 other exhibitors from around the globe at the RIMS Conference on risk management in San Diego on April 10th – 13th. Attendees were able to learn about RZRisk and RZAlert products and how these tools could benefit their companies. RedZone CEO Clark Woodward and VP of Business Development Michael Flannery represented RedZone’s Headquarters from Boulder, CO, accompanied by Intel Analysts from the RedZone Intelligence Center in San Diego, CA.

RedZone Team at RIMS 2016.

RedZone Team at RIMS 2016.

Exhibitors and attendees came from diverse backgrounds such as Property/Casualty Claims Services, Risk/Loss Control/Safety Services, Workers’ Compensation, Physical and Mental Health Services and Providers, and Human Resource Solutions. Additionally, several attendees were from the educational fields and product delivery services — risk assessments, analysis, and mitigation are necessary for all industries in some capacity. Several visitors to the RedZone booth discussed their need for monitoring the safety of employees during natural disasters as well as non-naturally occurring crisis situations.

If you’re attending the conference, stop by booth #3501 to speak with the RedZone Team about your needs.

Michael discusses RedZone's capabilities with an attendee.

Michael discusses RedZone’s capabilities with an attendee.

Up next: Look for RedZone’s Michael Flannery as he visits San Antonio, TX, for the PLRB Claims Conference, April 17th – 20th.

The First Professional Fire Department in the United States

On April 1, 1853, Cincinnati, Ohio, established the first professional and fully paid fire department in the United States as a result of a devastating fire that occurred in 1852 at Eagle Ironworks. Interestingly, Miles Greenwood, who owned Eagle Ironworks, served as the department’s first Chief. The business losses he suffered as a result of the 1852 fire prompted him to seek new and better ways to fight fires several months prior to his appointment as Cincinnati’s first Fire Chief.

On March 2, 1852, Greenwood, along with Abel Shawk and Alexander Bonner Latta, began construction of the world’s first practical steam-powered fire engine. Shawk was a locksmith, and Latta was a locomotive builder. Eagle Ironworks manufactured the engines. Earlier inventors had manufactured steam-powered fire engines, but the Cincinnati version proved to be much more practical, as the steam engine could begin pumping water out of a water source in 10 minutes. Earlier engines took significantly longer.

On January 1, 1853 the three men demonstrated their finished engine to the Cincinnati City Council, and the Council members quickly contracted for an engine. The first fire engine was presented to the Cincinnati Fire Department on January 1, 1853, making Cincinnati the first city in the world to use steam fire engines. The engine was named “Uncle Joe Ross” after a City Council member. In 1854, Cincinnati residents raised enough funds to allow the Fire Department to purchase a second steam fire engine named “Citizen’s Gift.” The steam fire engine forever changed firefighting in Cincinnati and by 1863 Cincinnati had replaced all of its hand-engines with steam fire engines.

Cincinnati Fire Department

Cincinnati's First Steam Fire Engine

Cincinnati’s First Steam Fire Engine

History of Women in Firefighting

Women have been firefighters for over 200 years. The first woman firefighter was Molly Williams, who was a slave in New York City and became a member of Oceanus Engine Company #11 in 1815. During the blizzard of 1818, Molly was credited with pulling the pumper to fires through heavy snow and was known to be just as hard working as her male counterparts.

In Pittsburgh in 1820, Marina Betts made history serving as the first women volunteer firefighter for the city. Betts was said to have never missed an alarm during her 10 years of service, and was remembered for pouring buckets of water over male bystanders who refused to help put out fires.

Lillie Hitchcock Coit is also considered to be one of the first female firefighters in America. In 1859, Coit (who was still a teenager at the time) became an honorary member of San Francisco’s Knickerbocker Engine Company No. 5, when she helped the company haul the engine to a fire on Telegraph Hill.

By 1910 all-women volunteer fire companies were running in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Los Angeles, California. During World War II, many women entered the volunteer fire service to take the place of men who had been called into active duty service for the military. Two military fire departments in Illinois were staffed entirely by women for part of the war. In 1942 the first all-female forest firefighting crew in California was created

After the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, fire departments could no longer prevent women from applying for jobs as firefighters. Many women went to work for the departments but were still ostracized by their male colleagues and much of the protective equipment they were issued did not fit properly. Another major hurdle to entrance into firefighting for women was the lack of facilities. The immediate problem of sleeping quarters and bathing areas had to be solved before women could participate fully in firefighting as an occupation and as a culture. Communal showers and open bunk halls were designed for men only. Today, most stations are now designed to accommodate firefighters of both genders. Despite those issues, women continued to make great strides in the firefighting profession that still continues to this day. Presently, over 7,000 women now hold career firefighting and fire officer’s positions in the United States, with thousands more in Canada, Great Britain, and other countries throughout the world.

lillie_hitchcock.jpgLillie Hitchcock Coit, one of the first female firefighters in America.

Source: History of Women in Firefighting

Wildfire 101- Ten Standard Firefighting Orders

The Ten Standard Firefighting Orders are a set of systematically organized rules designed by the USDA Forest Service to reduce danger to personnel and increase firefighting efficiency. The orders were developed from lessons learned in a number of major wildland fires that led to the deaths of trapped firefighters including the Shoshone National Forest Blackwater fire of 1937 and the Helena National Forest Mann Gulch Fire in 1949. 

 

 

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The original Fire Orders were designed as a checklist for firefighting personnel to bear in mind prior to engaging a fire. In the 1980s, the order was changed in an attempt to create an easy-to-remember list, with each order beginning with an initial of “Fire Orders”. After much debate and numerous firefighter fatalities that found most of the Fire Orders were being broken, a decision was made to revert back to the original Fire Orders.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Standard_Firefighting_Orders

Fire Danger Signs: What Do They Really Mean?

Ever been driving along a highway, spotted a Fire Danger Sign, and wondered what it is truly indicating?

Fire Danger is a description of the combination of both constant and variable factors that affect the initiation, spread, and difficulty to control a wildfire in a given area. There are many systems and schemes that attempt to provide accurate and reliable predictions of fire danger, that analyze the fuel, topography, and weather, and integrate their effects into a set of numbers that fire managers can use to determine a rating.

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Since 1974, five rating levels have been used to describe danger levels in public information releases and fire prevention signing:

Low (Green) – Fire starts are unlikely. Weather and fuel conditions will lead to slow fire spread, low intensity and relatively easy control with light mop-up. Controlled burns can usually be executed with reasonable safety.

Moderate (Blue) – Some wildfires may be expected. Expect moderate flame length and rate of spread. Control is usually not difficult and light to moderate mop-up can be expected. Although controlled burning can be done without creating a hazard, routine caution should be taken.

High (Yellow) – Wildfires are likely. Fires in heavy, continuous fuel such as mature grassland, weed fields and forest litter, will be difficult to control under windy conditions. Control through direct attack may be difficult but possible and mop-up will be required. Outdoor burning should be restricted to early morning and late evening hours.

Very High (Orange) – Fires start easily from all causes and may spread faster than suppression resources can travel. Flame lengths will be long with high intensity, making control very difficult. Both suppression and mop-up will require an extended and very thorough effort. Outdoor burning is not recommended.

Extreme (Red) – Fires will start and spread rapidly. Every fire start has the potential to become large. Expect extreme, erratic fire behavior. NO OUTDOOR BURNING SHOULD TAKE PLACE IN AREAS WITH EXTREME FIRE DANGER.

– See more at: http://www.nps.gov/fire/wildland-fire/learning-center/fire-in-depth/understanding-fire-danger.cfm#sthash.qf9PGgN8.dpuf

Fuel Reduction Practices and Purpose

The practice of hazardous fuel reduction is most often associated with moderating the flammable vegetation around the defensible space of individual homes and communities. But this proactive approach to fighting wildland fire comes in many other forms and, unlike fire-fighting in most areas, is a year-round practice. 

 

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Ridgeline fuel break example on the left and a road brushing/shaded fuel break on the right.

The basic function of a fuel-break is to impose some obstacle to the spread of potential fire, and also to provide access to the fire should one break out. Fuel breaks are designed to change the behavior of a wildfire by reducing the quantity, density, and configuration of potential fuels that the fire encounters when it enters the fuel break. 

Breaks are constructed for a number of purposes:

  • To act as a barrier to control the spread of a fire to a particular area or property.
  • To contain the spread of a fire from a fire source.
  • To break up large fuel areas (i.e. where fire may spread rapidly or be difficult to control, a system of firebreaks is sometimes established to aid in confining the fire to a relatively small area).
  • Reduce a crown fire to a fire burning on the ground. 

Fuel Breaks are most effectively located in the following areas:

  • Along ridges, where fires naturally slow their progress under most conditions.
  • 100 feet to 200 feet around structures, where fires are likely to start.
  • Along roads, power lines, and pipelines, where openings already exist.
  • Around wet areas, rock outcrops, mined areas, and other topographically strategic locations where fire spread may be reduced.
    • Adjacent to areas where fuel reduction treatments, such as thinnings and surface fuel treatments, have already been performed, where fire intensity and spread are already reduced.
    • Connecting to existing fuel breaks, to expand protected areas in a systematic way.

Natural Resources Conservation Service (CA) – Code 383

Smoke Color Can Depict Fuel Type

Smoke is made up of particulates, aerosols and gases, and identifying the characteristics of each in a given smoke plume can be helpful when fighting fires. Reading smoke can tell a firefighter what is currently happening with a fire as well as what might happen in the future. One particularly important factor in predicting fire behavior is the color of the smoke emitted.

 

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Smoke is the biproduct of the fuels it is burning.  The color of the smoke indicates to firefighters the type and density of the fuels involved, all of which gives hints as to what the fire might do next.

White smoke can often mean material is off-gassing moisture and water vapor, meaning the fire is just starting to consume material. White smoke can also indicate light and flashy fuels such as grass or twigs.

Thick, black smoke indicates heavy fuels that are not being fully consumed. At times, black smoke can be an indicator that a manmade material is burning such as tires, vehicles or a structure. As a general rule, the darker the smoke, the more volatile the fire is.

Grey smoke can indicate that the fire is slowing down and running out of materials to burn.