Only Seconds to React

Having Your Fire Extinguisher Ready

Fire is neither good nor bad, it just is. When the right combination of fuel, oxygen, and an ignition source combine there will be fire. It can be a lifesaving asset providing light, cooking, and heat – or can be property and life destroying.

Though fire safety has many aspects* today we’re going to discuss fire extinguishers. As preppers, we build in redundancies. If the power goes out, we start up the generator and cook over propane; if those fail, we light lanterns and cook over a small fire. Most of us aren’t use to having an open flame around on a regular basis and accidents can happen. To mitigate those times, get out the fire extinguisher and place it within arms reach of the fire. No one means to knock over the kerosene lantern, but suddenly the counter is engulfed with flame and you have seconds to make decision.

In that situation, if the fire is small and not spreading, grab the extinguisher. Start with your back to the exit, making sure the fire does not block your escape route. Stand about six feet away from the fire. Then, as fire departments teach, use the PASS word:

  • Pull the pin to unlock the fire extinguisher
  • Aim at the base (bottom) of the fire
  • Squeeze the lever to discharge the agent
  • Sweep the spray from left to right until the flames are totally extinguished

A typical fire extinguisher contains ten seconds of extinguishing power. You cannot use fire extinguishers more than once, they must be replaced or refilled if used.

For home use there are typically two categories: a less expensive, plastic top, disposable type and a metal top, rechargeable type. Professionals recommend the rechargeable ones; they initially cost more, but are far more reliable, can be serviced, and have a longer shelf-life.

There are no laws regarding home fire extinguisher inspections, however it is recommended that twice a year you inspect your extinguisher. You should check:

  • the pressure gauge arrow to be sure it’s full (it should be in the green area straight up on the gauge).
  • the hose and nozzle for cracks, tears or blockage.
  • the pin and tamper seal to ensure they are intact.
  • that the handle-locking device is in place.
  • for dents, leaks, rust, chemical deposits and/or other signs of abuse or wear.

At the end of your inspection turn the extinguisher upside down and hit the bottom sharply with your hand, then shake it well. This will prevent the dry chemical powder from settling or packing down in the cylinder, making it ineffective.

Most rechargeable dry chemical fire extinguishers, if properly handled and maintained, have a lifespan of 5 – 15 years. If your extinguisher is 5 years old bring it in to a local service center and have it inspected (costs about $20). If your extinguisher is over 12 years old, it needs to be hydrostatically tested and recharged by a qualified service technician (they’ll probably just swap you for one that’s been recently tested).

Remember fire doesn’t care, so you need to.

(Friday: What I Did This Week To Prep)

*Dr. Bones, of the Doom & Bloom Show, recently wrote posts on Smoke Inhalation and Natural Burn Treatments. Both of these topics are huge fire safety aspects; these posts  contain good information and are definitely worth reading.

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Product Review: Emberlit Stove

In an emergency situation where hypothermia is a risk, my plan–using our BOB–is to quickly make a small fire, heat water, and get warm beverages into people. In our BOBs we have a good fire starting kit, containing: multiple ignition sources, multiple forms of fire starters, and dry kindling. We have a small cook kit, and carry instant coffee and hot chocolate. Having an efficient way to make a fire on a cold night can mean the difference between life and death – hypothermia can set in within a few hours at 40 degrees in a damp climate (i.e. most nights here in Western Washington). I didn’t have a camp stove in our kit, mostly to avoid the extra weight and bulk, and not wanting to carry extra fuel; I felt that our fire starting kit would be good enough to do the job. When I saw the Emberlit Stove it made me reconsider my feeling of ‘good enough’. I realized if being able to quickly and easily make a fire was one of my top survival priorities (and it is) that I needed a stove.

I looked at the Emberlit Stove some more and watched their video. I liked the apparent quality and strength, while balancing a relatively lightweight (11.3 oz) and very compact size. I ordered two from TSP Gear Shop, one for each of our primary BOBs.

our 2 stoves - left: assembled, right: unassembled

When the stove arrived I was immediately impressed by how small and simplistic it is. Unassembled it measures about four inches by five inches and stacks up less than a quarter-inch tall. It felt heavier than I had expected, but I think that’s because it’s so densely packed. It’s made of stamped, stainless steel sheet metal. It consists of three identical sides, a bottom, and a front piece; a total of five separate tabbed and slotted pieces.

The directions to assemble it are simple. The pieces are precisely cut and have very little tolerance. This is very good in quality and stability, but it’s also the cause of my one complaint: it’s a hassle to easily put together. With cold, wet hands and/or in the dark assembly would be very difficult. On the positive side, because of the way it’s designed it would be impossible to put together incorrectly.

Alison with Emberlit Stove

I assembled it and, using a fire starter and small twigs, we easily got a fire going. The front feeder port made it simple to maintain the fire, and the water boiled quickly. The wood burned with almost no smoke and only ash was left behind.

Because I wanted everyone in the family to get familiar with assembling it, and knowing that everything gets easier with practice, we had a Emberlit assembly night. While playing a card game, between hands, we took turns passing it around and each person practiced with it until we all felt proficient at assembling the stove. Sarah, Ryan, and I even tried assembling it blindfolded – that was hard and took a long time, but we were all successful.

Then, to add some stress to the learning process, we had a contest to see who could put it together the fastest. Each person had to sit on the floor, could not set the stove down until it was completed, and was timed. To put times into perspective, when we first got it in the mail Sarah and I, following the directions, each took about three to four minutes to assemble it. When we began timing ourselves it wasn’t long before everyone was able to complete it in less than one minute. Final results at the end of the night: Alison 3rd place with 34.9 seconds, I was 2nd with 27.4 seconds, and Ryan was the hands down winner at 18.5 seconds.

Aside from being a hassle to assemble, which can be mitigated with practice, I love this product. At $37, it’s well made, functions efficiently, is simplistic and would be almost impossible to break. Lastly, I want to mention the stove is made by a member of the TSP community, “By TSP For TSP”. I highly recommend adding the Emberlit Stove to your BOB.

five basic needs: 1) food, 2) water, 3) shelter, 4) security, and 5) energy

(Disclaimer: I have no association with this product or any other dealer or manufacturer. I researched and bought the product to add to my preps and I just wanted to pass along the experience I have had with it.)

When Others Are In The Dark

five basic needs: 1) food, 2) water, 3) shelter, 4) security, and 5) ENERGY

Nothing sends us back a century or two like an electric power outage. So much of what we call civilization lives or dies on the “juice” that we get with the flip of a switch.” (Discovery.com)

Modern energy and technology* is completely taken for granted in our society — until they no longer work. Of course, the world existed for millennia without our modern energy and there’s no doubt that human beings, as a species, can survive. But can we, today’s ultra-specialized, technology-dependent individuals?

What would we do without our cell phones and computers, microwaves and refrigerators, television and internet, central heat and air-conditioning, or simple “flip of a switch” to turn on the light as we walk into a dark room?

The power goes out. For how long? You don’t know. It could be a fallen tree, damaged power pole, lightning strike, ice/snow storm, high winds, or short-circuit from changing a routine part at a minor electrical substation; the list of inevitable ‘disasters’ continues. Since we prepare for the most likely emergencies first–not the Hollywood style mega disasters–let’s talk about what happens when we get sent “back a century or two” with a power failure. Most of us can fake it pretty well if the lights go out for a few hours to a couple of days. But what about after that?

What if it lasts longer? I’m not saying forever in the apocalyptic sense, just a huge storm that knocks out power for a few weeks? Suddenly we’d have to deal with all the disadvantages of not having power, and none of the advantages from “a century or two” ago of knowing how to heat, cook, and just exist on a daily basis without it (hell, the boredom alone would kill many of us).

We understand that to make fire it requires 1) fuel, 2) oxygen, and 3) an ignition source; and have all created it before. These days when most homes don’t even have a wood fireplace; frequently the only time we strike a match or a flick lighter is to light candle (or cigarette). Ironically if we do ‘make’ a fire in our gas fireplace or propane grill, it is literally “the flip of a switch”. But, making a successful wood fire–the key component in basic heat, light, and cooking–is getting to be a lost skill.

As preppers we should strive for far more than to be huddled around a fire to keep warm, turning our latest kill on a spit, and casting furtive glances into the darkness. We know there are systems that fail. We know that we are helpless to prevent them. So when the power fails, what is your plan to keep warm (or cool – though that’s not a big problem up here in Western Washington), cook, stay connected, and provide light?

This will be the last in the series of the ‘five basic needs’ posts. We’ve now established a baseline of those ideas and concepts which we will build on and refer back to.

(Wednesday: Product Review – Emberlit Stove)

*I won’t keep mentioning technology, but assume it’s implied knowing that it can’t exist without modern energy.