Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Lessons From A Fire; What I Learned While Stuck on A Balcony

Fire struck the apartment building in which I live. The fire left one family homeless and taught the rest of us valuable lessons. And while stuck on my seventh floor balcony, I had plenty of time to digest a few frugal and life lessons.

Here's what happened: A microwave on a lower floor blew up and created a huge flame. Because he was walking the dog, my husband was already out of the apartment and my children left the apartment, exiting through smoke. But I was in the shower, and by the time, I dressed and attempted to help an older neighbor, I was not able to leave the building. The stairwells were filled with smoke.

It all ended well. No one was injured and my neighbors have found a new home until their burnt out apartment can be repaired in about three months.

Here's what I learned from the fire.

1. Even small doses of time matter: I really did not delay. But in the short time that it took me to dress and inquire about my neighbor, the stairwells were too filled with smoke to exit.

Financial lessons: From paying bills to saving for a vacation/education/retirement: Times flies and time matters. Move quickly, move thoughtfully; but don't panic.

2. Pay attention: While I ran from stairwell to stairwell, all of those lessons from school fire drills came back to me and I was belatedly happy that I had paid a little bit of attention to the instructions. I knew, for example, not to try to exit through the heavy smoke because more people are seriously injured from smoke inhalation than burns.

Financial lesson: Pay attention to details. Listen to instructions. You never know what piece of advice you'll need in an emergency.

3. Find a safe haven: My balcony became my safe room. In the open air, I did not have to worry about smoke fumes and I knew that if the fire spread, I could be reached by a cherry picker.

Financial lesson: Have a good exit strategy and find a save haven for finances.

4. Have a plan. My family needs an emergency plan. My husband was walking the dog when the fire started. I was in the shower and my children left the apartment on their own without shoes. (The firemen helped them down)

And until they saw me on the balcony, everyone was worried. In the future, we'll have some kind of system for emergency evacuations and a meeting place.

(I wasn't alone. Other families were stranded and separated in different parts of the building.)

Financial lesson: Create a plan, a budget, a financial strategy and stick with it.) Drills are also important.

Meanwhile, here are some fire safety tips.


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Patrick said...

Thank goodness everything turned out well in the end! You make a lot of good points for people to prepare for emergencies. Planning and preparation are so important - you never know when somehting like this can happen.

Flexo said...

I'm glad to hear that you and your family are safe and unharmed. What an experience!

Valerie said...

I'm so glad you and you family are ok. I love how you find such practical, finacial advice out of everything! Very neat :D

mapgirl said...

OMG. I am glad you and your family are safe and that had the good sense to check on your neighbor during the crisis.

Like I always say, the best time to plan is when there is no emergency.

At work, your manager is supposed to do a head count to make sure everyone is out. I think that's one of the reasons why I tell people when I'm going to the bathroom even though that's none of their business. It's paranoia.

Sharon Harvey Rosenberg said...

Hey Patrick, Flexo, Valerie & Mapgirl:

Thanks for all of your kind thoughts.

And Mapgirl: You are so right about a head count. I told someone that we need floor captains to knock on doors to make sure everyone is evacuated and accounted for.

There were people calling from balconies to the roof in an effort to check for missing family members.

It was pretty wild. There were also kind area residents who gave ice pops, water and other drinks to people who were on the street for 2.5 hours while the fire was put out.

Anyway, thanks all for your comments