Today I want to investigate an issue I have wondered about since I first found out about Tiny Houses, and that would be the issue of Safety. I plan to pose the question regarding safety to some of those who know first hand about the reality of towing the tiny. I plan to cover the following safety areas: Towing, Theft, Fire, Break-ins, Carbon Monoxide, Roll-offs and Storm damage, to name a few. This will most likely be done in installments, with this post as the first. There are some posts out there that are comprehensive and therefore I am including a section at the end, that will provide click throughs to links out side of my blog that already include adequate information regarding some aspect of safety. I try to never waste my time by re-inventing the wheel.
In my neighborhood, a tiny dwelling with all the windows might be a red light to attract break-ins. As a fifty year old single lady, this could be a big problem. So I got to thinking about how to handle this issue, and I hit on an idea I have not seen anywhere- shutters or bars. To me, shutters would be a low cost and attractive way to sleep at night with peace of mind. They would be aesthetically pleasing as well as a safety feature. I would have one next to the front door, as well as the first floor windows. These could be accessible from inside with an internal locking device that I could pull in from inside. I would want for the loft window, however, to be completely free to open, because if a fire broke out, the exit would need to be a quick one, (more about fire safety later in this article). So right off the bat, I want to recommend for those building a tiny, PLEASE include some type of protection against break-ins.
As far as fire is concerned, I want to see every tiny home equipped with fire alarms and extinguishers. This is not so far fetched as you may feel at first, as we recently read about a tiny home in Alaska catching fire from a malfunctioning stove. You can read about this at Tiny House Blog, by clicking here: http://tinyhouseblog.com/stick-built/christmas-fire-in-our-tiny-cabin/
Luckily, this lady was not home when the fire occurred but the house was destroyed and I had to think about what could have happened if she had been asleep. Smoke inhalation occurs fairly fast, so let all use some common sense when we are living in these tiny structures. Other fire dangers are from any type of electrical wiring or tiny woodstoves. This can occur when cleaning and a “clinker” is dropped or other types of accidents. Of course if you smoke, (and I certainly HOPE you do NOT), there is always the danger of falling asleep while smoking and catching fire that way. This is a very common thing to happen to smokers, so maybe a strict, outdoor only, smoking policy would be a great way to stay safe.
As I mentioned above, I would want to see fully open-able windows for any tiny house with a loft. Also recommended would be to have a rope ladder if your regular loft ladder did not operate in such a way that you could lower it and escape from the window in case of a fire.
In addition to a fire alarm, would be a carbon monoxide alarm. These devices detect carbon monoxide, which cannot be detected by smell alone. When I lived in my tiny log cabin in the mountains of NC that I have written about elsewhere on this blog, I incorrectly installed a woodstove into the fireplace. Luckily, I went out of town that weekend, because me, my four year old, the cat and the dog all developed symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning! The symptoms are, a cherry red complexion caused by the fact that carbon monoxide molecules bind to your hemoglobin, thus preventing the binding of oxygen, and you are suffocated from the inside out. Also common effects are headaches, nausea, diarrhea confusion and flu like symptoms. I am actually a respiratory therapist by training, and it can be difficult to treat carbon monoxide poisoning quickly with O2 therapies.
I consider this important because, not only is carbon monoxide a by product of ANY material combusted rapidly at high heat in an unventilated system, I understand that carbon monoxide output is possible from the use of an on demand hot water heater. I have seen them installed both inside and outside the tiny home, with various problems, (such as freezing if they are un-insulated). For this reason, I consider a “work box” a better solution. I have seen many examples of the tiny being outfitted on the “business end” with a door behind which all of the electrical boxes, propane tanks and other necessities would ideally be situated. Also, as we are discussing safety, I would take care to place these items behind a lock to prevent theft or sabotage. Don’t laugh. It happens, but that is another story for another day!
In the next installment: Towing- can it be done safely?
As promised, here are some links to issues that are adequately covered on other sites:
Drew Odom wrote a fantastic piece covering everything you need to know about securing the tiny during a wind storm or tornado. You can find it here: http://www.tinyrevolution.us/2011/05/21/how-to-anchor-down-your-tiny-house/
A good article about the safety of PEX that is used to replace PVC pipes in many tiny homes can be found here: http://www.small-house-building.com/plumbing/how-safe-is-pex
Tiny Green Cabin Homes has a built in safety feature found here: http://www.tinygreencabins.com/Blog/?m=201103
I also found an article at Tiny Home Builders here in Florida that echoes some of what I just said: http://tinyhomebuilders.com/Blog/category/safety/
© Annie Blair and Tiny House Wisdom. WordPress. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.