Rain, Rain, Go Away Thursday, Apr 18 2013 

We can always talk about the weather in the Midwest. It fluctuates and can be extreme. Currently we are experiencing record breaking rainfalls. Much of the Chicago area is experiencing at least some flooding, and there are areas completely underwater.

Flood water is potentially contaminated with raw sewage and toxic substances, so it is best to avoid contact if possible. If you must work in it, the EPA suggests frequent hand washing with disinfecting soap, especially before drinking and eating. Also, be sure your vaccinations are up to date.

Other suggestions include:

  • Do not allow children to play in flood waters.
  • Keep generator exhaust way from doors and windows because it is toxic.
  • Do not use water from flooded household wells until it is tested safe to use.
  • Do not use the sewage system from home septic systems after a flood until the water in the soil absorption field is lower than the water level around the house.
  • Never drive through flooded areas.
  • Do not enter flooded basements if the power is on.
  • After the flood, remove standing water and get areas dry within 24-48 hours to avoid mold.
  • Boil drinking water for at least 3 minutes.
  • Toss unrefrigerated perishable food.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Candle Safety Thursday, Nov 29 2012 

When I was a child, my family lived across the street from Our Lady of Angels Church in Chicago. The Our Lady of Angels School stood on the opposite side of the church. On December 1, 1958 a small fire quickly accelerated into a massive torch consuming the old building and claiming 92 children and 3 nuns.

I was only four years old but the memories are vividly etched in my brain – the thick black smoke, fire engines and flashing lights through the late afternoon and evening, and most of all, the street filled with body bags.

Two years later I attended first grade in the new Our Lady of the Angels school along with upper classmates physically and emotionally scarred from the fire. Their hand-me-down coats and books reeked with smoke. Those students and a neighborhood of tearful parents were a constant reminder of what the fire stole and what it left behind.

Massive changes were made in fire safety as a result of the loss of so many young lives. Sprinkler systems, fire doors, and regular fire drills became mandatory in public buildings.

Fire safety laws also were mandated for new home construction. But once homeowners settle into their living quarters, these precautions are often forgotten. More than 40 home fires are reported every day due to candles alone, and many of these fires result in death. Most of them are caused by candles placed too close to other objects or left unattended.

Candles add an atmosphere of festivity around the holidays. This also is a time our homes are more crowded with people and decorations. We are busy and easily can forget our lit candles. Here are a few safety tips from the U.S. Fire Administration to keep in mind:

  • Avoid using lighted candles all together. Instead, consider battery operated flameless candles.
  • Use sturdy metal, glass or ceramic holders.
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn.
  • Keep out of reach of children.
  • Never use near medical oxygen.
  • Use a flashlight, never a candle, for emergency lighting. Have flashlights and batteries on hand at all times.
  • Never put candles on a Christmas tree.
  • Extinguish candles before going to bed.

Also, be sure to have a sufficient number of working smoke alarms.

Should a fire occur, escape first, and then call for help. Have a fire escape plan and practice frequently with your family. Designate a meeting place. Make sure everyone knows two ways to escape from every room. Crawl low under smoke, keep your mouth covered, and never return to a burning building for any reason.

The Our Lady of the Angels fire instilled a tremendous level of respect for fire in me. I realize that I forget my lit candles so, most often, I use large candles in jars and place them on my flat, electric stove top or in the unlit fireplace.

Please weigh the ambiance created by candles against the dangers. The season cannot be festive if it isn’t safe.

©2012, Mary K. Doyle

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