My first experience with the Red Cross…
I stayed at a Red Cross evacuation center overnight just once. It was an warm October night back in 1988. I was in high school so my primary worries concerned girls (one named Michelle at the time), pimples, and sports. This particular night I was given something a little more to worry about. My family was awakened by the sound of a police officer pounding on our front door.
Let me add some context to this police door knock:
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Fremont. My neighborhood bordered a 25 acre gladiolus (or is it gladiola — someone feel free to correct me) field. Earlier in the day the field was sprayed with the pesticide Methyl Bromide and then covered with large tarps. Now if Methyl Bromide sounds like something that does not react well with people you would be correct. Concentrated exposure leads to headaches, dizziness, fainting, apathy, weakness, confusion, speech impairment, visual effects, numbness, twitching — you get the point. It’s banned in this country now.
Back to the story. Evidently hot weather that day caused the Methyl Bromide to heat up and escape the tarps forming a “gas cloud of death” (phrasing my friends and I used after the incident) high in the sky. Many of my neighbors started complaining of sore eyes, nausea, and headaches that evening. Someone was quoted as saying it was like getting hit in the face with mace (I have been maced in the face but that story is for another time). Someone finally put the puzzle pieces together and realized the pesticide had drifted from the field to my neighborhood.
1,400 folks were evacuated from 600 homes that night by the police. We barely had time to grab a change of clothes as we were evacuated. I made sure I got my clothes out as I was not about to be caught outside in my Star Wars pajamas; I was in high school but still loved all things Star Wars. The police officer directed my family to a Red Cross evacuation shelter that was set up at a local elementary school. I was given a warm blanket and cup of hot chocolate by a caring worker. I don’t remember her name or what she looked like but I recall the feeling of safety and caring she radiated. I could hear some subdued crying but by this time I was thinking how cool the whole experience was turning out to be.
I located some of my friends and we hung out and talked all night in the safety and security of that Red Cross shelter. The girl I had a crush on at the time, Michelle was among those I talked with that night.
A week after the incident the owner of the gladiolus (still wondering if it’s gladiola or gladiolas or gladiolus! Seriously feel free to correct me) fields gave all the homes in my neighborhood an apology letter attached to a ….. (wait for it)….. gladiola bouquet. No one appreciated those stupid bouquets.
I want to thank the police officer who knocked on my door in the middle of the night.
I want to thank the Red Cross for providing a shelter for my family and I to be safe in.
Most of all I want to thank a Methyl Bromide “gas cloud of death” for providing the opportunity for me to spend the night talking with the girl I had a crush on.
Funny, I don’t even remember Michelle’s last name anymore. I guess over time the unimportant details drift from our minds. One detail that will never leave me is how helpful the Red Cross was that night.
On a serious note, let me quote from the newswire: “On June 27, 2012 The American Red Cross is providing critical help to thousands of people affected by the raging wildfires in the west and the massive flooding in Florida.” As I write this The Red Cross is sheltering families who were evacuated from their homes. If you have the means please consider giving to this wonderful organization.
An estimated 5,700 residential barbecue and grill fires occur in the United States each year. 3,800 people are injured in these fires. In what may be classified under the category of “Duh,” about half of these types of fire accidents happen between 5pm – 8pm (dinnertime) and in the months of May, June, July, and August (warm weather). Not many grill fires happening in December at 3am. Finally, many of these grill fires happen on patios, terraces, screened in porches, and courtyards.
The solution to improved summer grilling safety is not simply to say, “be safer.” We can (should) change our habits and put specific measures/methods into practice that will generate the improved safety we seek (hopefully).
I know I can personally improve my pre-bbq (say that quickly three times in a row) inspection habits. For example, I should visually inspect the hoses on my gas grill for cracking, brittleness, holes, and leaks before each grilling session. Or when I bring the grill out for the first time at the beginning of the season I should check for propane gas leaks by opening the gas valve and applying a soapy solution at the connection points. Bubbles Bad / No Bubbles Good!
Here are some internet resources that if followed will improve your grilling safety habits:
Fire it Up Safely: Information from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission
Cooking Fire Safety: Information from FEMA.
Top 10 Safety Tips for Barbecue & Grilling: Information from About.com
Please check out these resources. I know my safety habits have improved from implementing the advice provided. My actually grilling skills are still terrible: I have turned burning and overcooking chicken into an art-form! Along with my safety advice, here are links to help improve your mad cooking skills:
Grilling Tips: From Weber
Eight things no one ever teaches you about Grilling: From Esquire Magazine
I have provided tips to improve both your grilling safety skills and cooking skills. I neglected to mention my greatest fear when I grill (here’s where this blog entry title comes into play). My fear is making everyone sick after eating my food. So in conclusion, here is a link to protect you and those you cook for from food-borne illness:
Eating Outdoors, Handling Food Safety: From the FDA
Now it’s off to Costco to buy the incredible steaks I’m planning to grill tonight…
…Oh, before I forget, click here to view more details concerning the Death Star Grill featured in the picture at the top.
As a young boy my family experienced a house fire. Many lessons were learned that night; here is one…
Firefighters can look scary to children.
At least for me, the firefighters looked very scary to my young eyes! The fire happened at the peak of the Star Wars craze of the late 1970′s. Polyester was big but Star Wars was bigger. In my five-year-old-humble-opinion (IM5HO) the firefighters helping fight the flames at my home looked and sounded like Darth Vader. Here is a short YouTube video that illustrates my point called: Fire Safety Day: Firefighters Sound Like Darth Vader .
A fire is a frightening experience to all of us but especially to young children. A child may try and hide from the “scary stranger” who in reality is there to save a life. I offer two recommendations:
1. Have your children visit a fire station. Many fire stations encourage visits from youth groups. The kids will experience first-hand what a fully “geared-up” firefighter looks like.
2. Discuss how firefighters are your children’s friends. Courtesy of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department here is a sample conversation to have with the kids:
“During a fire, the house will become pitch black because of the smoke. When the firefighter arrives to our home he or she will look for you. If you were unable to exit through our family pre-planned escape routes, you will be unable to see very well because of the smoke. Firefighter’s wearing equipment look and sound different. The firefighter will look bigger and make a sound like a big breathing machine. Remember no matter how scared you are DO NOT HIDE FROM A FIREFIGHTER. Firefighters are there to help you. They will lead you out of the fire to a safe place.”
With the proper education and training, firefighters will not appear scary to young children. I know it would have helped the five year old me! That reminds me, I think I will watch Star Wars with my four young children tonight…
This infographic is brought to you by Kauffman Co. out of Houston Texas. It is a fire sprinkler and fire protection service company. The website is here.
I have been an amateur photographer since a very young age; my parents buying me a Kodak Disk Camera was the spark. I prefer authentic real-life images to portrait or staged work. The image shown here is of my four children playing by the water near our home. For me personally it captures the love I feel for my children. Likely the emotional response triggered by the pic is isolated to me but I hope others can “get” what the picture is about.
I won my first photography award in elementary school. Those photography awards have been coming less and less and less often in the years since so I will move this article along now!
Regardless of the form or size of your family. A family of one – a family of eight – or a family outside the norm – we all (hopefully) have and experience love inside this most basic and sacred organizational structure. In my chosen field of work I deal with families that recently suffered a fire in their homes. Often many if not all of their material possessions have been damaged or destroyed.
I remember being in the burned-out home of a family that had taken the situation particularly hard. Lots of crying! I was with an insurance adjuster who calmly told the family, “..things can be always be replaced but people can’t.” He was telling the family to focus on the good news that their family unit was intact and safe. This comment jarred the receivers back into reality and the crying ceased. It may be hard when the initial fire loss hits a home but if only material things are damaged then keep the perspective that it’s a loss and not a tragedy.
The primary goal of firefighters responding to a home fire is to preserve life. They don’t care about what door they break down, what wall gets scraped by a fire-hose, or how much water gets on your favorite area rug until they know the occupants (and firefighters in the structure) are safe. I have seen first-hand the amazing care firefighters can take to preserve a home and the contents once the safety issue is tabled.
Love your family….
Things can be replaced…
In the winter months, the majority of home fires are caused by heating equipment.
Just today an apartment fire near my office was started by combustibles (generic term that could be any number of things – I suspect clothes) placed too close to a baseboard heater. You can read about this incident on the Seattle Fire Department website here. The fire department and Red Cross should be commended for the help and assistance provided on this fire.
Here is a checklist for baseboard heater safety:
1. Check baseboard heaters often and remove objects that have fallen on top or near the heater.
2. Keep all furniture a safe distance from your heaters. Never block the flow of heat.
3. Never permit electrical cords to drape across heaters.
4. Always hire an experienced electrician to do any needed repair work on your baseboard heaters.
Every day we make choices in our lives based on the Risk versus Reward we will earn for doing (or not doing) a particular action. For example, I want to take my family on a day hike in the mountains. I could take them on a high-risk hike with an incredible reward at the end — The problem is we probably won’t be able to complete this hike and earn a lame reward.