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If you are a returning reader and read the last entry on part I of this post, I hope you have come back because you are seriously considering making some drastic changes to your lives and the lives of others around you. That is what it takes to beat or at least survive a major disaster, DRASTIC CHANGES to the routine!

These next few hazards revolve around children and senior (sometimes disabled) folks who unlike us, at a time of a disaster will not be able to think fast, leaving us with the responsibility to make the environment as safe as possible.

Read Hazards 1 and 2 here

No this is not me

Hazard # 3 – Flammables and Children

Children are naturally attuned to fire and it attracts them just like it attracts moths! This is coming from personal experience because yes, I loved to play with fireworks, so much so, that I almost blew my fingers once or twice. Okay – maybe more than I’m admitting!

I also remember my dad giving me a nice old fashioned whooping when I got caught so the end-result? I was drawn to it more than ever – I just learned not to get caught!

Such is the case with most other children who love to explore the most during the ages of two to seven. Take my daughter for example: She once tried to blow the candle out only she ended up making it fall over while still lit. Pretty scary stuff!

Word of advice if you are a parent – as hard as it will sometime seem, try not to lose your temper and scold the child if you want your child to be able to come and talk to you. You have to make them feel reassured so they don’t feel scared to do so.

Child with Lighter can Start a Fire

Keep your matches and lighters at heights they cannot reach and away from exposed heat. When lighting up candles for mood setting (or power failures if you are a fellow Pakistani), ALWAYS make sure you keep them on high and stable structures and away from any flammables.

Some signs to look out for in case your child is playing with fire:

  • wax on your children’s clothing and play area
  • unnatural wax drops around area where candle was last lit
  • lighters/matches gone missing or turned up in odd places
  • unexplained burns on carpets and other furnishings
  • unexplained burns or blisters on your child or their clothes
  • burnt papers, sticks etc in quiet areas of the house such as the garden
  • unexplained smells of smoke on their clothes or in their hair

In case you ever observe these signs on or around your children, make sure to talk calmly while explaining to them the dangers of fire since they will listen to you more if they see you concerned rather than angry.

As a side note – there are a number of compact fire extinguishers available these days that are designed to be used inside homes and are very easy to operate. Again, if you live in Pakistan like I do, you cannot rely upon a fire fighting crew to reach you in time to fight the fire and save lives. The first few minutes count the most in almost all such disasters which means, the better prepared you are, the better your chances of survival will be.

Another good skill for you, your family and staff to learn is emergency First Aid and CPR, we live in a Country where emergency responders do not get to us within 5 minutes, those five minutes could be the MOST IMPORTANT FIVE MINUTES of your life!

4. Heavy Floor and Wall Mounted Furnishings and Decorations

Most homes and offices I have visited, whether for a hazards analysis or just a social call, one thing that I’ve most commonly found is heavy interior decorative items such as wooden and glass shelves, paintings, glass cupboards (or Almaris), large indoor plant pots and vases, over sized mirrors, consoles, filing cabinets etc.

While all of this looks fantastic, most people do not realize that these are all items that at a time of a disaster (such as an earthquake or bomb blast), these objects will turn into flying weapons. Not only that, they can be extremely dangerous to young children like all of the other hazards listed.

The only options to minimize this or prevent something bad from happening is to either be very cautious while furnishing your home & office (there are safety professionals that could guide you in this area) OR securely bolting everything to the floors and walls. While bolting may sound more extreme, there are ways you can hide this by either covering the nuts and bolts with something attractive or screwing only the rear and top sides so the fronts are visually appealing.

Luckily.. Just a Doll

When coming up with interior decorating ideas, make sure you count in any factors of importance; such as, whether you have employees with special needs (i.e., wheelchairs or limited vision) so you don’t seat them directly under or next to something tall and heavy that could fall over.

Factor in whether there are children in the household who may play in certain areas where heavy objects would affect their safety. If you know your child has one favorite spot to sit to watch television or play with toys, try to move your creative idea(s) a safe distance away so that even if something was to fall, it would fall a safe distance away.

Should a natural or man-made disaster occur, prepare your children and elders by providing a safe and sturdy desk in the home. This way, you can demonstrate how to drop under the desk and cover their heads and necks to protect themselves from tripping or falling hazards!

5. Blocked or Congested Exit Routes

While you have the right to decorate your home and office to your liking and in some cases, over decorate it, you also have the responsibility to ensure that these decorative items do not become a safety hazard to the rest of the occupants! Most places I have surveyed have a few things in common as far as exit routes go; over-sized mirrors, large unsecured consoles with heavy decorative items on top, paintings, coffee tables, chairs, etc.

Like I said in my first post, while this is all nice and good to the eyes, it’s really just accidents waiting to happen!

Have you ever had to run to the bathroom at night when there was a power failure? Did you trip because there was ‘stuff’ along your route? If you live in Pakistan, then chances are you definitely have!

If you’re not from a load-shedding-stricken country, here’s how you do it: First, try re-arranging items to block your path to the toilet. Second, turn off all of the lights so it is pitch black then spin around in a circle real fast for about 10 seconds. Finally, without waiting to regain your balance, make a run to the bathroom – BANG! OUCH! DAMMIT!!

How does it feel to not be able to get to where you need to be without getting KNOCKED DOWN a dozen times? 

At times of disasters such as an earthquake or terrorist bombing, you WILL lose all balance! You WILL lose your bearing and not remember your own home/office and where things are!

It is best to memorize your emergency exit routes, make your family learn and then occasionally practice them so when a real disaster strikes, getting out to safety will come as natural as visiting the tinkle-fairy! If you do not have an Emergency Evacuation Plan for your business, get one started and get your staff on board so they know what to do and how to do it when time comes!

Some of this may sound like it will NEVER happen to you and your family and some of it may sound silly to have your family do, but in my professional and personal opinion? It is better to be SILLY than SORRY! Like this Workplace Safety Commercial (below) states, there are really NO ACCIDENTS – as long as there is PREVENTION!

Stay Well – Stay SAFE!

N Khan

Founder | Chief Consultant

AfterShock – CEM (Crisis & Emergency Management)

Fill out the form below if you would like a home or office hazards analysis (only for Karachi residents at this time) and recommendations on how to fix them.

Coming up Next: Important Steps to Being Better Prepared For A Disaster – Scheduled for 30th April, 2011.