How Our Homes Can Improve Disaster Resilience with Louie Delaware
“You need to be prepared for all sorts of scenarios as to what comes into play.” -Louie Delaware
Homes are meant to be safe havens. They’re the places we retreat to in times of need and they help us avoid the brunt of a disaster.
The structure and design of our home says a lot about how resilient it is when a disaster strikes. Of course, our goal should not only be to make our homes resilient, but also as livable as it can be. After all, it is where we build our memories and our future.
In this episode, Jennifer interviews Louie Delaware, the Founder of Living in Place LLC. Living in place is the leader in professional building, designing, and medical education. Their mission is to connect people and improve their quality of life by providing the highest quality of accessible, healthy, and safe building standards.
Join in as Jennifer and Louie discuss how we can weave resiliency into designing a house for people with disability, how to make it more livable and safer without sacrificing style, what modifications can we make to reduce the peripheral damage of our home due to smoke exposure, how to make an exit plan for emergencies, and why we should prepare in advance for future needs.
- 01:42 Living in Place— Connecting People
- 05:21 Building Homes for the Disabled Population
- 12:31 Resiliency and Home Design
- 17:59 Resilient Home with Style
- 23:16 How to Make Your Home Safer and More Accessible
- 28:10 When Power is an Issue
- 34:06 Making a Plan Out
- 38:33 Anticipating Future Needs
- 44:00 Take Care of Your Future Self
Take care of your future self. Listen in as @JenGrayThompson and @lipinstitute founder, Louie Delaware share how we can build resilience into our own homes to accommodate different situations. #Recover #Rebuild #Reimagine #NorthBay #podcast #wildfire #DisasterRecovery #AfterTheFire #Season4 #HowToDisaster #LivinginPlace #homemodification #renovationtips #resilienthomes #homedesign #homesafety #accessibility
06:29 “What we’re doing in our house is to be able to make it a forever living in place home. We’re looking at it from the standpoint of what really should be done for people from the get go.” -Louie Delaware
18:05 “I’d rather see a home not look like a hospital room or rehab center where everything is just pure stainless steel or white. That’s depressing for a lot of people.” -Louie Delaware
19:22 “The more people adopt something or when there’s a market for it, somebody will fill not only that need but hopes to bring the cost down as well.” -Jennifer Thompson
23:17 “Don’t be in denial. Your physical capabilities, your vision capabilities, your hearing capabilities will diminish over time.” -Louie Delaware
35:27 “You need to be prepared for all sorts of scenarios as to what comes into play.” -Louie Delaware
38:42 “In some cases in life, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” -Louie Delaware
39:49 “You don’t have to wait to be in the stage where you need them to actually implement them.” -Jennifer Thompson
43:56 “We are not all built the same, but there’s always something that we can do.” -Jennifer Thompson
44:01 “It’s a lot easier to do it proactively than reactively.” -Louie Delaware
44:36 “It’s always a good idea whenever you can in this life to take care of your future self.” -Jennifer Thompson
Louie Delaware, CLIPP, LIPA, HATS, BSME, MBA, ACPC, CAPS, President & Founder Living In Place Institute
Being a mechanical engineer involved in R&D, Louie has led many cutting edge projects for a wide variety of medical & technological products, along with being a general contractor who also specialized in making homes safer for everyone, these past efforts has collectively led him to where he is today – being the president and visionary for the Living In Place Institute.
Louie is passionate about helping a wide range of professionals make homes accessible, healthy, and safe, creating in the process beautiful, connected environments that improve lives and promote independence and dignity, for all ages and abilities throughout the world. Louie is a national safety expert for TV news and radio programs, along with many newspapers (including USA Today), where he is known as The Home Safety Guru®.
Louie has been at the forefront creating the principles of the Living In Place Institute takes aging in place and universal design to a new level of understanding and acceptance.
Louie is also a Member of the Editorial Advisory Board for the Kitchen + Bath Business Magazine and was recognized by the Kitchen & Bath Design News magazine as one of
Louie lives outside of picturesque Boulder, Colorado with his wife Judy, a nationally renowned pediatric Occupational Therapist. When he is not skiing or bike riding, he will be out walking or running their three lightning-fast whippet racing dogs. They also have two adult children.
- Website: http://livinginplace.institute
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/livinginplace
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/lipinstitute
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livinginplaceinstitute/
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/louie-delaware-0107a4b5
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn-oOqYsebtno3hjePDjcVQ
Jennifer Gray Thompson: We’re back for another episode of the How to Disaster Podcast where we help you recover, rebuild and reimagine. Today, our guest is Louie Delaware, a Mechanical Engineer and contractor who went on to found the Living In Place Institute. We’re thrilled to bring Louie on to the show, and we’ll find out more about how his experience of construction has led him to reimagine and design and build houses that are safe, healthy and beautiful. They’re also easily accessible and designed to improve dignity for all ages and abilities. We’ll find out more about how the Living In Place Institute works to make communities safer in the context of disaster and recovery in this episode. A big welcome to Louie and to our audience. If you want to find out more about Living In Place Institute, please visit the description part of this episode. And if you want to find out more about After The Fire USA, please visit us at www.afterthefireusa.org. Thank you for joining us.
Welcome once again, Louie, from Living In Place Institute. Welcome to the podcast.
Louie Delaware: Well, thank you for having me today.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: It’s very exciting to have you today because we haven’t had somebody in your field come on the podcast. And it’s such a critical, a really universal issue that you deal with. Talk to us about Living In Place Institute, what’s your mission and your vision, your goals?
Louie Delaware: Well, our vision is basically to help many different professionals help their clients that may have various challenges to be able to make their homes more accessible, healthy and safe. And at the same time, creating beautiful, functional and connected environments. Connected has two different meanings for us. One is connecting with smart technology like what we’re doing today. But the other is allowing them to connect with friends and family.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: So let’s start at the beginning. How did you get into this place where you wanted to create this institute? What triggered that for you?
Louie Delaware: Oh, it’s interesting question. My background, I’m a Mechanical Engineer. And for many years, I did R&D on the medical device arena developing new products that would either save lives or make the outcome of surgery better for people. After doing that for about 20 plus years, I got tired of how long the development cycle is along with just all the politics that go on in regards to creating kind of really new to the world medical devices. So I went off to do what most good mechanical engineers do, and that’s go off into construction. I became a general contractor, did basement finishes, bath and kitchen remodels and the like. After a while, my clients would be asking me if we could install child proofing devices for them because it’s kind of a complex sort of thing to do that, and you want to only have one chance to do it right. And so I started looking into it, it was an unmet niche out here in Colorado. There’s actually a trade association or child prefers, and I did that for going on about 14 years. Actually printed a book on how to childproof your home. Not just what to, but how to. And along the way, I added other safety features to my mix. One is Radon Mitigation, which is a real problem in many places across the country because Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking. And then I added on senior safety. Because a lot of things you do for child safety, we’ll go over to people who have cognitive challenges on the senior side and then start to be able to expand it from there. And my plan was to write a book on how to basically live in place, then what ended up happening was he started realizing that we could have a really big impact worldwide on helping professionals understand the real things they should be doing for their clients.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: So there’s so many places to go with this. I think what actually would like to start with how does Living In Place Institute, let’s start with people who have disabilities because this is The How To Disaster Podcast. If you have a disability or you’re a senior, the chances of you being in more danger of not being able to escape a natural disaster are actually much higher. So this is something that has been on my mind for years during our 2017 mega fires here in the North Bay of San Francisco. We actually experienced a lot of loss of life due to people who are older who thought they could get out of their garages. But without power, they actually couldn’t physically do what they needed to do in order to get the door app. And so there were many things like that that happened. I know for my heart and many people here, we have been very concerned about how to best serve that population as well as the disabled population. Can you talk about that?
“What we’re doing in our house is to be able to make it a forever living in place home. We’re looking at it from the standpoint of what really should be done for people from the get go.” -Louie Delaware
Louie Delaware: Well, let’s take a little step back in regards to where I’m at. The picture you see behind me, that’s of Lewisville, Colorado. This is an open space area where I used to do a lot of mountain biking. On the 30th of December last year was the marshal wildfire. The grass you see back there, it’s more wettest time of the year last year, and we were very wet in April, May, June. And then the spigot turned off starting July. We had less rain in Colorado than in Boulder County, then Death Valley. That’s how dry it was for the rest of the year. And all of a sudden, something happened. They don’t know exactly what the cause of the fire was. But nonetheless, in the course of six hours, 1,084 homes were destroyed, including mine. And there’s many others that were damaged because of smoke and all that sort of stuff. And some people who’ve gone through the damaged part haven’t even got back into their homes yet. They imagine that it has been going on for nearly eight months now. It’s really disheartening. I really feel for them. So what we’re doing in our house is to be able to make it a forever living place home. And so we’re looking at it from the standpoint of what really should be done for people from the get go.
Basically, our estimation is to be able to make a house fully accessible. It costs about 1 to 2% more at the front end, but it can cost substantially more if not impossible to do down the road. Yes, I’m an advocate for ramps. But meantime, I’m not necessarily an advocate for ramps in front of somebody’s home. And the reason for that is it basically is a dead giveaway ministry to somebody who may be nefarious to see, oh, somebody in here may not be able to fend for themselves. So what are we doing at our house? Instead of having steps to go up into it, we’re just having a pathway with it. Some doors, no thresholds on one door. We’ll probably have a very minimal threshold of about a quarter of an inch, that’s our front door. We’re dealing with a unique front door that we can’t necessarily bring down. So let’s totally flush, but now it says it has a very gradual ramp going up and over it. We’re doing many other things in regards to making that home so that it’s appropriate for people of all ages. Because from a living and play standpoint, we don’t necessarily just look at it just for seniors. We look at it from the standpoint of that child that was born maybe with special needs or is on the spectrum. Because those kids, those things will follow them through life. Sometimes, who’s on the spectrum may be able to adapt to it over time.
Others who are really far out onto the spectrum may not, and they can cause harm to themselves and also obviously harm to the house. Then you get into those unfortunate circumstances. Somebody’s doing something a little bit too risky with regards to riding their mountain bike, or on the skis, or whatever else. And they come back home, and the home is woefully ill prepared for them in regards to being able to deal with the toilet or dealing with bathing. Because most times, that’s going to be up on the second floor of a house if you have a two story home. And so how do you get a child or a young adult up the stairs that may have broken their pelvis? Those things happen obviously. That unfortunate circumstance that may end up happening to somebody that has a life changing event, whether it’s a medical condition, or they were involved in an accident, then obviously to the senior population that they start having their capabilities are diminishing over time. So we look at it from our standpoint of being able to do this from the onset so that you’re ready for anything that can happen to you. Or you’re ready to have a friend or relative who may be in a wheelchair or walker, the house to be prepared for them to be able to use the place.
For example, one thing that you know, I always think of the dishwasher door, the best person to close that is a toddler. The reason being that door is so close to the floor right there. Now, if somebody is going to walk, what are they going to do to be able to go down to be able to pull that door up? Because many times, you see people using walkers, their knuckles are white because they’re holding on to that walker for dear life because in essence their life depends on that. So how are they going to lift that door? So we’re putting the dishwasher kind of a foreign concept. We’re raising it up off the floor by about 17 inches So now, it’s easily accessible for everybody. But then taking it from there, where do most dishes go? They go over your head. Now, how does the person who’s in a wheelchair or somebody who has really difficulty, the shoulders or really arthritic, deal with plates going from down low up to here. Instead, we’re putting a drawer next to the dishwasher. So it’s just a simple transfer, lateral transfer. The dishwasher into a drawer that has basically devices in there to keep the plates from moving around. So we’re looking at everything.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I actually hadn’t thought about this before, but that’s just so smart. In my 20s, I worked in restaurants, and never would you see a dishwasher on the floor. It’s always waist high because you’d never have an OSHA situation where you could have a dishwasher person who’s constantly bending over in order to do that kind of repetitive motion work. So it hadn’t really occurred to me before then. But I just think that’s really smart, so thank you for that.
Louie Delaware: And there’s so many other things that we’re doing. A lot of electrical outlets are like 12 inches off the floor. In some cases, you’ll see them in the baseboard molding. And it’s like, okay, how was somebody who may have bad knees, bad hips, bad back, or have vertigo sort of things get down that low to plug it in, and then come back up again. Especially the vertigo person, now the world may be spinning around them. Now, we just basically, say put the outlets at least 24 inches off the floor, convenient for everybody to be able to plug something in especially somebody who’s in a wheelchair without having to try to do that sort of number. Again, these are just common sense things that many people, especially the people who are in the trades don’t ever think about. But once they’re introduced to that, why aren’t all homes done this way?
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I think that one of the things we’re gonna have to do is figure out a way to hide electrical outlets in a way. I think part of the reason that we continue to do it is because they are then hidden behind things. But you’re absolutely correct. When you think about how difficult that would be for somebody with vertigo, or in a wheelchair, or even somebody who just doesn’t get up and down very easily, then they have to call out other people to help them with really simple tasks. And that does not build resilience into their lives. And a big part of what we like to talk about here is the resilience factor, how do you actually do it as opposed to just talk about it? And so I’m really interested in your definition of resiliency and how that informs your own work.
Louie Delaware: Well, again, the other thing that comes into play is, as one gets older, their balance is not quite the same as it was before. And yes, there are people who insist on using those steps, tools that have no handle on them and they’re not all that wide. They get up and they try reaching for something, and all of a sudden, they’re on the floor. It’s a choice of, let’s use a podium style stepladder. Okay, one that the handle actually comes up to almost like mid abdomen so you can hold on to something while you’re trying to reach that once a year glass that you use for New Year’s Eve. But again, I know that even though they say they won’t use a step ladder, step stool, they do. And so it’s a matter of making that right choice.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: When I was pregnant, I remember I was working at a place. This was 30 years ago. I had to put up decorations or something. And they were like, no, no, don’t do it. So it’s also just for stages of your life when you do need more safety precautions and to think about, your right, all the different things that could possibly happen to you. So I just want to touch base really quickly. I want to first, I’m very sorry for the loss of your home and that sort of trauma. And that’s a lot. And so thank you so much for taking this time. And again, just to back you up. We’ve been working in the marshal fires since 30 days post disaster. We’re very impressed by the community out there. You guys have a very engaged, a very savvy group of people who are working on these issues, but they’re still really tough. It’s still a very long process, and so I just want to make sure that I acknowledged the fact that you did lose your home, but can I ask if it’s okay like, how did that experience actually inform not only your desire to rebuild in a way that you can live in, you can age in place as it were in your case. But also, what would you like people to know who are now embarking on this really already difficult process of becoming homebuilders when most people never intended it to do. How does Living In Place actually help them navigate that moment?
Louie Delaware: Well, at least in Lewisville, many of the people who live there like us. We’re empty nesters. Hey, we really enjoy the community. Enjoy being there, Boulder, and hop skipping and jumping down to Denver, and then all the outdoor amenities that the mountains offered to us. And most of these people are wanting to come back into that environment. But some may be a little bit older. And the circumstance for that is, it’s kind of like how I dealt with my parents. They lived in Colorado, and they were in Illinois. And every time I got a phone call from a number in their area code that I didn’t recognize, I’m thinking immediately that it’s a fireman, police officer. Somebody at the hospital, your dad fell, he’s got a bad contusion, whatever. And so from that standpoint, the adult children of parents sometimes become a little bit more leery. It’s like, mom, maybe you and dad shouldn’t be living in this house because you’re probably gonna do it the same way you had before. And I know full well, I think of it as a debt trap for you. So now at that point, it’s like, okay, how we look at our house after the fire took everything away from us is we now have the opportunity of looking at the house. The house is our oyster, okay. The world’s oyster, the houses. Or at least, we get to be able to do things in a house and be able to show many other people the features that they should be considering using because our house is going to be more or less like a model home until we actually move into it. But there’s gonna be lots of videos, there’s going to be open houses for people to come to walk through the house to be able to experience. We may not have all the necessary features built in, but we’re making the accommodations for those features down the road. For example, our lots are not big enough to have, say, a ranch style home. And so what we’re doing is there will still be two stories up. And once one in the basement, we’re making provisions to the structure, the structural aspect of the home to be able to allow for a future elevator because it’s a lot more difficult to be able to deal with that sort of change having that shaft there after the house is done. We’re basically doing it from the get go. So again, we’re not having to know how we’re going to do the trust, it’s how you deal with the floor joists. Or we’re gonna have to do it in the basement because there’s that concrete there, we’re gonna have to do it there. We’re building that in, even though the elevator may not be in as we move in, it will be there along with many other features that are hidden like doing appropriate blocking behind the walls where we anticipate having things like grab bars, or tilt down devices to be able to get you up. Or a shower seat, tip up shower seat. All those sort of things.
“I’d rather see a home not look like a hospital room or rehab center where everything is just pure stainless steel or white. That’s depressing for a lot of people.” -Louie Delaware
Jennifer Gray Thompson: So one of the things that I saw on your website is not only are you looking for how to sort of build resiliency into the ways that homes are built in order to accommodate a variety of different situations. That can be beautiful. Can you talk about the beauty factor of it?
Louie Delaware: Well, obviously, in some cases, it depends on one’s budget. But nonetheless, it doesn’t. To me, I’d rather see a home not look like a hospital room or rehab center where everything is just pure stainless steel or white. Okay, that’s basically depressing for a lot of people. I came home from where I was after I broke my hip. I had emergency surgery and moved over to rehab to allow me to recover, and then have my home necessarily modified. But all they used were the most inexpensive grab bars that they could get. There are a lot of great looking grab bars today that come in all sorts of different finishes and colors to be able to match your decor in your room. Again, it doesn’t have to be that institutional look that most people don’t want to have.
“The more people adopt something or when there’s a market for it, somebody will fill not only that need but hopes to bring the cost down as well.” -Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Gray Thompson: That’s a really good point. I hadn’t thought about it, that maybe there were attractive grab bars out there to be clear. It just hadn’t really factored into my own thinking. I knew that during the pandemic, a conversation that we had with my in-laws was about aging in place, and how to sort of prepare for that. And really, they were feeling your own vulnerability as you grow older. I think this is one more way to build resilience and to not really sacrifice aesthetics. But again, if you can’t afford it, and we do know that the more people adopt something or a technology when there’s a market for it, somebody will reach in there and fill not only that need. But hopes bring the cost down as well. So I was very curious when you were mentioning about autism, how homes are constructed and what factors go in there to actually build resiliency for perhaps your autistic child, or sibling, or whichever, whoever that person is in your life.
Louie Delaware: Autism is a tough one to deal with. Because, again, there’s a reason why they call it the spectrum. Some kids that are more in debt, and then there’s other ones that are non speaking and incredibly physical. And so that’s a hard one to build unless you already have that circumstance. When I was doing child proofing, I would end up being called in for kids that were in their teens that were doing things that I would never think an individual would be able to do using their heads. This one child, the teenager was using his head to basically headbutt a wall. And they were at that point like, what do we do? We’re constantly fixing these divots in the walls, he doesn’t seem to have any pain factor. Okay. And so from that standpoint, every child is different. But from a special needs standpoint, their child may not have all their functions. Maybe they only have one arm, or they have cerebral palsy. There’s a lot of things that can come into play to be able to make the transition through their life much easier. Because in some cases, again, child may have cerebral palsy and other sort of really debilitating circumstances that eventually that adult, that parents not going to be able to leave that child out of a wheelchair. Now, you may need to either have a hoyer lift, which is just basically a hydraulics or lift, or a lift that’s overhead on a motorized lift that’s on a track to be able to pick up that child or adult for that matter and have them be able to be taken to a toilet and carefully dropped down, and to be able to get them out to where they may have a lift to take them from from one story to another. But again, these are things that for the grace of God go any of us having those sorts of circumstances that may happen in life.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Your words actually reminded me of a friend of mine who unfortunately lost her son this year. But one of the challenges that she was facing is that she’s pretty tiny. He was six, and he was on the spectrum, a very loving child. He would have a seizure, like she couldn’t actually attend to him in the way she wanted to because he was just so large. Those are things that none of us really like to, I actually, it’s really just my empathy and compassion for a mother who is about 5’2. What can you actually build into your home design that could help somebody like her actually help her son. So that was making me think about it just then. I don’t know what any of those answers are. But I do think it’s important that we acknowledge that a lot of us have circumstances. It’s really pretty common where there are mobility issues, where there are accessibility issues. Sensory issues are really big. If they are on the autism spectrum, that’s often an issue. So things that might be able to be built in and maybe thought about when they are much younger so that they can also age in place, much like a senior. So my next question for you is having experienced a disaster and having lost your home. And now, your home is your oyster. Do you have like top three recommendations of three simple things that people could do as they are rebuilding their homes and their lives to build in more physical resiliency in their rebuilds?
“Don’t be in denial. Your physical capabilities, your vision capabilities, your hearing capabilities will diminish over time.” -Louie Delaware
Louie Delaware: Well, the first is, don’t be in denial. You’re gonna stay this way forever. It’s not going to be that way. Your physical capabilities, your vision capabilities, your hearing capabilities will diminish over time. And so it’s basically thinking of, what do I need to do say from a vision standpoint, someone who’s age 60 needs three times more elimination than they did at 20 to be able to see the same thing. And that’s one of the reasons why you see people bring out their smartphones in restaurants to be able to read menus because it’s printed on parchment paper with fine italic print, and it’s almost impossible to see, but knows to be able to have much brighter lighting in the home with dimmers to be able to allow it to be brought down to an appropriate level now. But with the anticipation that says 10 years down the road, I’m gonna need a lot more light. The other is, again, preparing especially the bathroom area. That’s the room where the most number of falls happen.
Fortunately, people are still thinking that I can use a bathtub or even a shower with a curve. It’s a wet environment. They go in, go out. Something’s bound to happen, and there’s gonna be a bad injury. Along those same lines in bathrooms, we don’t recommend having the door like most bathrooms that swing in. And the reason for that is if somebody stumbles and falls against the door and gets hurt, how are you going to be able to rescue them? You’re gonna have to wait for the first responders to come there and get saw to be able to cut off that door for you to be able to get access to them. In the meantime, they’re writhing in pain, they may be in shock. And so have the door open away from that closed room. Again, simple things. Again, back in the bathroom, preparing for the potential of having grab bars down the road. Don’t necessarily rely on the studs in your bathroom because you may hit something that may be like a crack in the stem. You think the screw is secure, but it’s not. Or if you live in moist areas, like down deep south over time, sometimes, that wood rots just because of moisture that’s there. And so think of having other means of being able to basically mount those grab bars of other devices that you have in the bathroom. So again, it’s thinking in advance.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I love that. We’re gonna take a quick commercial break, and we’ll be right back with more from Louie and from the Living In Place Institute.
And here we are back once again on The How To Disaster Podcast. With us today is Louie who is the founder of the Living In Place Institute. We’re very happy to have Louie on the podcast today because we’re looking at something that we haven’t really looked at in depth here on the podcast, which is how do you build resilience in your home to not only make it more livable, but also safer while you’re living in it. And if you’re doing that, then you also could build in certain ways that you could evacuate sooner ways that accommodate accessibility and different issues. And then especially for seniors. We’ve seen a lot of senior mortality, quite frankly, in the era of mega fires over the past five years. This is a huge concern to us. So I think this is a very important conversation. I appreciate you being on the podcast today, Louie.
Louie Delaware: Thank you.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: So one of the things I did want to talk about is one of our services to other states is that we actually pull all the legislation to share with Oregon and in Colorado. We pulled all the California and Oregon legislation and sent it off to the lawmaker who requested it in Oregon just so they can get an idea of what can be done at the state level. A friend of mine named (inaudible) who lives here in Sonoma Valley. She was very alarmed during the 2017 fires because she was not able to access her garage door. She is super savvy, very connected and knows a lot of people, and she actually worked with State Senator Bill Dodd who is in our district to pass a law statewide that all new construction had to have a backup battery for the garage door. And so I’m hoping that we see that in other states. Have you heard anything about that in the state of Colorado?
Louie Delaware: No, I haven’t. But I do know a similar story that you just mentioned in my neighborhood of 58 homes. There was a widow that was living there. And obviously, in a major catastrophe like a wildfire, they’re going to turn the power off to the entire town as what probably happened with your acquaintance. This happened to her. And with 105 mile an hour winds, you’re not going to be able to run it. And so she went to the garage thinking that she could get out, though she couldn’t. She was lucky enough to be able to get through to 911 because of the cell phone that works. I kept trying to call my wife, my adult kids because I stayed behind to videotape my home, the contents of my home as the fire was encroaching upon it. I don’t recommend doing that. I recommend doing it in advance. But nonetheless, she was able to get through to 911. It took a while for them to get there because the streets were gridlocked. But unless a fire person got to their house, pulled the cord, lifted the door because I don’t think she would have been able to lift the door, either got her out, closed it down behind her and left. But yeah, that means that sort of thing that comes into play. I’m not aware of any legislation with the exception of some smaller fires in Colorado Springs, about eight years or so ago. This is really like the biggest urban wildland sort of event that Colorado has had. So not only is it probably going to be in the front center when our state government comes back together.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I believe that it will be. They were actually really generous in their assessment of being able to just have all this in one place and we’re it’s really important to us that they do like peer to peer. That’s a big part of our model. If you’ve been through it, then just share what you know. It’s all adaptable. It’s not a prescription. We don’t believe in that, but we do think that certain things could really help all communities to build resiliency even in states that don’t feel like they’re vulnerable. We had a lot of wildfires in Oklahoma, a resurgence of wildfires in New Mexico last week, we’ve had wildfires in Kansas. Florida is actually the number two place that is most dangerous for wildfires. And so something to think about. If you’re listening to this podcast but you’re not in what you think of as a traditional wildfire vulnerable area, this is always good especially when we do have issues with the power grid. Because what most people don’t understand is you also lose cell phone service in a disaster. It’s very common in wildfire disasters. They’re not just flooded out, they’re actually often burned down. If you have a landline. Now, keep your landline as long as they will service it because that is really the most resilient thing you can do. Another thing we recommend, which I have in my in-laws, my aunt and uncle-in-law, my mother are all between 73 and 80. And so one of the things that I did last year was I bought two way radios that I knew would work on our geography for 30 miles, and then I distributed them throughout their household so that if something should happen, each of them would have one, two that they would be able to communicate. Because that’s one of the other ways that we not only build resiliency in but it also avoids just a whole host of nightmares. I’m so glad that you brought up videotaping your home. So that’s good. If you can do it, they’re not under duress, that’s even better.
Louie Delaware: I don’t recommend it. So one other thing I want to bring up, you asked about other ways to do resiliency. What we’re doing in our house is we’re going to have a covered patio. And that’s great from staying out of the sunlight and being able to be outside maybe when it’s a light rainstorm. But the real reason why we’re doing that is if there is indeed a fire and we aren’t all that adept. We all know that today, fires spread so much faster than they did in the past because of all the synthetic materials that are used in the home. Even if I was able to get to the elevator and go down, I probably won’t make it out the front door because I will probably be overwhelmed by the basic toxic gasses that are there. So that covered balcony, or excuse me, the covered porch area on the first floor doubles as a balcony on the second floor, so it’s right off of our master bedroom. And so if there’s a fire, we can go out onto that and grab our cell phone to call 911, or to hopefully do it as we’re leaving the landline, as you mentioned. But to be away from that smoke and start telling the fire department, hey, first thing you need to do when you get here is we’re on the back balcony.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: That’s great. Actually, I hear you. I want to make sure that people know that all the advice that we give here on the podcast is the opinion of the person and my opinion. But to make sure you do your own due diligence and that you take a look at Louie’s website, we are linking it below in the descriptions. But really, to think about what possible things in my particular scenario where I live, could I actually build in that resiliency like you’ve done with your covered porches. My only concern with that is we see three story houses go up in three minutes. And so with mega fires burned so much hotter and faster, like you mentioned, than traditional house fires. So when we think of a house fire, it doesn’t burn as hot. You can often keep the foundation, that’s really not true in these mega fires. And so to be prepared, so you only had 30 to 90 seconds to leave your home, what would that look like in your top three things. Including having a plan for your animals, it’s really important. One of the biggest heartaches and biggest points of trauma that we experience in this work is people who have, this is after people losing their lives, of course, but it’s people who have lost their animals. And unfortunately, it’s a very common scenario.
“You need to be prepared for all sorts of scenarios as to what comes into play.” -Louie Delaware
Louie Delaware: Talk with the firefighters, you’ll see older individuals that they’re trying to find their cat, another dog which is already scared, and they end up finding them perished at the front door because they’re calling for them and they’re not coming because they’re just too scared themselves. Another thing that, for people who live on a single level, what we also basically suggest having is if you’re veterans there, you may not want to go out into the house. Because again, that smoke may be so thick, you need to have a secondary door with a pathway, gradual pathway off of your first floor bedroom to be able to then get you away from the house. So again, it’s always like firefighters to always have two ways out of any sleeping room. Because you never know if you touch that door, you touch it, if it’s warm, you don’t want to go. And if you’re someone who doesn’t have all of the physical capabilities of, say that a younger individual of being able to say, go off the window with a fire escape ladder. I’m not about to suggest that to one, my mom was alive in 94 go out this way. I’m not gonna suggest that for her. But again, you need to be prepared for all sorts of scenarios as to what comes into play.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: And also, buy yourself some time. Since all these people are really, we have so many people across the American West who are in the position where you are even there sometimes years ahead, they still haven’t begun the rebuilding process. But to look at things like venting in your home should be fire safe, which means very specific things. In addition to Louie’s website, we highly encourage people to go to the IBHS website, ibhs.org. They’re a nonprofit that does a lot of science based research and how to actually stay safe that can apply to absolutely anybody’s home. So I like the extra layer, though the extra consideration for people who are more vulnerable for a variety of reasons. So I really thank you for your work, Louie. I’m wondering if there’s anything that I haven’t asked about today that you wish that I had asked?
Louie Delaware: Well, I should have smoke alarms, okay. The newer ones that are out there that tie into the Google nest devices, they’ll tie in to the smoke alarms and carbon dioxide alarms have a number of neat features to them. And one first off is they will do a monthly self test. I talk with firefighters how often do you test your own smoke alarms. They sheepishly say, once a year when I change the batteries even though it says to test it monthly. But more so, it’ll tell me which room this event is in because I could program it, it’s going in the basement bedroom, or it’s going into the office or whatever. But then on top of that, it will tie in if you have a Google thermostat. The nest thermostat will end up happening if it senses either a carbon dioxide or smoke event, it will turn that furnace off. As a furnace is going to end up because if it’s still running, that fan is pulling air from inside, returning air through the furnace, and then circulating it through the entire house. So to me, that’s really a wonderful way to be able to minimize peripheral damage as a result of just exposure to smoke. Maybe you can try to keep it contained in one room. Suddenly they’re out of the house, but it’s not putting smoke everywhere. Because we all know that when that smoke gets on the things, it’s really hard to remove.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: It’s almost impossible. I think that that’s one of the things you’ve seen a lot in the marshall fire because it is a suburban grassland fire. It’s very similar in some ways to our fires in the Tubbs fire that went through suburban areas and ate up a lot of homes in a very short period of time. I so appreciate you bringing up the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. I actually bought one from my mom this year that talks to her. It will actually verbally alert her if there is any carbon monoxide or smoke in the house. I think she was a little bit insulted at first, but I was like, hey, yeah, this is just a simple thing that makes your life easier. And just in case you think it’s just chirping because it needs a new battery, it’s going to actually tell you what’s going on. So I appreciate that.
“In some cases in life, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” -Louie Delaware
Louie Delaware: Similar story to that is, like for me, my mom wouldn’t let me get, install a grab bar for my dad. My dad really needed it. And so in some cases in life, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. And then I went to Chicago, came back a few months later and my mom was like, I really liked these grab bars. But the way sometimes you approach that is, mom, we’re not installing this for you, we’re installing this when your friend Sue comes over. We all know Sue we’re using a walker. Imagine the challenge for her to get off onto the toilet back onto a walker. How easy I think that is and teach you what would happen if she felt. Let’s put those grab bars right now.
“You don’t have to wait to be in the stage where you need them to actually implement them.” -Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yeah, I love that. It’s also, one of the things I talked to my in-laws about was like, how do you take care of your future self? My in-laws are really active and healthy. But at some point, they’re going to need more help. And not everybody likes the idea of somebody taking them to go to the bathroom or to bathe. And so if you can, again, build resiliency through these methods, then absolutely do that. And if you can afford to make them more aesthetically pleasing, absolutely do that. You don’t have to wait to be in the stage where you need them to actually implement them. I love that advice, and thank you.
Louie Delaware: As we know, one of the very hot items during the pandemic was the day seats.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I have two, but I’ve had them for years. We’d never had toilet paper. I was like, whatever you always have with your toilet paper issues, we don’t have it.
Louie Delaware: Well, the thing is that for older individuals, especially if they say mom or dad are living with you, they will draw the line to basically say, you’re not helping me with my toileting hygiene. At that point in time, it’s like, okay, I’m going to assist living whereas having something like allows them to be able to continue staying in an environment that may be better for them. In some ways, again, I would not want to have another pandemic happen to these extended facilities, assisted living facilities because it was truly a prison. It was locked out, you couldn’t leave your rooms. So the other thing that I recommend from a resiliency standpoint is induction cooktops. The reason for that is, if you take a pop off of it after about 15 seconds or so, it turns off automatically. Many times, people forget with a gas burner, electric burner. Removing it to turn it off. At the same time, I’m guessing you’ve never done that yourself, Jennifer.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Oh, I just did it the other day. My husband came up to me because I had made his coffee, one of those little European things, and I had left it on. Only thing that happens here is when we do our kitchen remodel, probably two years because we have another thing to do before that. When we lose power here, we don’t lose gas. And so that’s one of the harder things. Once we put in solar with it with a battery backup, I’ll feel more comfortable with an induction top. But it’s a very hard thing if all of your systems are built upon electricity. It’s the right thing to do ecologically. But from a practical standpoint where I live where we have a lot of mega fires, it’s a little harder. Because when we lose power, firstly, we had 1.6 days where we didn’t have power just because of a public safety power shut off which more and more people are going to experience. I hear you on the induction and my husband won’t be mad that you brought that up.
Louie Delaware: At least for the marshall wildfire electricity and gas were turned off right away. And it took days for them to come back because they had to go through and cap all of these leaks that were happening as a result of the open gas lights. Yes, I appreciate where you’re coming from. But at the same time, depending on which level of the International Energy Conservation Code you go with, you may not be able to have gas heating in your home. Yes, there is the provision that if you have gas coming to your house, that you could do a gas tap for a backup generator.
“We are not all built the same, but there’s always something that we can do.” -Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Gray Thompson: That seems fair. We all have to adapt, and that’s fine. I have a backup plan for actually how to build the resiliency in, but I just wanted to mention that for people in the audience who are like, here’s what happened in our situation, I’m glad you brought that up today. My in-laws have one now, and I’m very happy about that. And besides, it’s just better for the record everybody out there, you should see that. And they can be as low as $25. They can just be attached, or they can be $1,000. So there’s really a huge range of what’s available out there. I really want to thank you, Louie, for coming on the podcast today. You sort of filled a gap in our service delivery model of trying to find all the whole 360 view of resiliency, recovery and rebuilding. I appreciate your dedication to your own cause and the mission because it’s so important to remember that we are not all built the same, but there’s always something that we can do.
Louie Delaware: Absolutely. And again, it’s a lot easier to do it proactively than reactively. Because if you had a major injury, they’re not going to let you out of the rehab center into your home as appropriate for your new needs. And as we know right now with labor shortages and material supply issues, you could be stuck in a rehab center for a really long time. And it’s not a place most people like to be at because they’re constantly checking on you, prodding you. It’s not the conducive environment for living in a place.
“It’s a lot easier to do it proactively than reactively.” -Louie Delaware
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yeah, not ideal. It’s always a good idea whenever you can in this life to take care of your future self. Thank you, and thank you for all of you out there. Again, if you have any questions for Louie or about Living In Place Institute, you can visit the description of this podcast. If you want to know more about our work at After The Fire, that’s afterthefireusa.org. And once again, thank you Louie from Living In Place for being on the podcast today and for everything that you’re bringing to this new era of how we do resiliency in the era of mega fires and other climate based disasters. I really want to thank you again for being on the podcast.
“It’s always a good idea whenever you can in this life to take care of your future self.” -Jennifer Thompson
Louie Delaware: My pleasure today. Thank you, Jennifer.