New Series: Tiny House Safety

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.

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11 responses to “New Series: Tiny House Safety

  1. Unfortunately, many of the existing tiny house designs do not have a loft window that is nearly large enough for egress. As an architect friend explained to me, the window needs to be big enough for a rescue person wearing full protective gear and oxygen to crawl in and get you. That’s why I’m planning on putting a roof-mounted egress window in my Fencl. It’s not cheap, but having an up-to-code egress is very important to me. Thanks for focusing on safety!

    http://www.fakrousa.com/htmlen/238.php

    • Good point- You cant always know what will happen. They find folks in fires all the time who did not make it and perished inches from a window… I am thinking about that dreadful fire that took the children and parents of a lady up north in a huge fire recently.

      I like that idea of the roof mount egress window. Certainly worth looking into!

      Another thing I was thinking about, making it really needful to have a fire alarm, is that many people sleep right over their kitchens. I am betting there would not be a whole lotta time to get outta there!

      Thanks for the comment!
      -Annie

  2. Great post! I look forward to reading more installments! 🙂

  3. This is great! I read somewhere about the difference between an RV (such as an Airstream) and a THoW (Tiny House on Wheels). It said if you were going to be traveling a lot (which I plan to do) that it would be better to have a manufactured RV because it would be more steady. It said a THoW would be more suited to parking in a stationary location. I’m really hoping that’s not true because I am very much looking forward to building and living in a THoW!

    Another situation that I plan to investigate that possibly could cause issues is that I love windows and would love to have one side pretty much totally glass. I plan to have a deck that would fold up and cover the glass when traveling, at night, and while I’m away. Like I said, I need to investigate that further to see if it would be sturdy and structurally sound, especially with all the traveling I want to do.

    BTW, I’m a single, near mid 50, woman. Most of the time I’m very excited about this project, but every once in a while I wonder if I have lost my mind. I have a 5 year plan and hope that I can hit the road at that time.

    • Hey Ms. Wright!
      Thanks for stopping by. I want to do the same- travel in a THoW. That is basically what I am saying, but have not gotten to the point yet. 1. I want to drive it to various places and stay for a period of time, say seasonally, which I think is do-able. And my second idea is to keep the tiny compact. I think that when height is added and various other things, it becomes less road worthy. 16 ft is the absolute maximum I am willing to attempt. The “centrifugal force” for lack of a better description, of the classic roof line, I think would be an additional bonus.

  4. i love your blog, i have it in my rss reader and always like new things coming up from it.

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  6. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I do not know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

    • And I do not know who you are either, but I appreciate the comment!

      🙂 Cheers back!

      I do confess though that a few weeks ago I felt so lonesome in here, that I may have been guilty of approving spam, just so I would not have to blog alone!

      -TinyHouseWisdom

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