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Public Safety Considerations of the Tiny House Movement

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

In the past few years, public interest in the tiny house movement has gained momentum. More and more people are attracted to new architectural ideas about condensed living spaces.

Outside sheds as living spaces are a new trend, too. Many people are either erecting sheds or converting existing ones into efficiency-style units. While this concept is unusual and interesting, homeowners and public safety officials cannot overlook numerous safety issues.

A Space Heater in a Tiny House Is a Fire Hazard

The tiny house movement has led to creative and intriguing ways to design a dwelling the fraction of the size of a standard home. Designs for tiny houses include space-saving solutions like storage areas under stairwells and homes constructed from non-traditional materials, such as dumpsters and shipping containers.

Fire hazards are a key consideration in the construction of tiny homes. Appropriate ventilation is a must. Space heaters are often used to heat a tiny house until proper heating equipment is installed. Unfortunately, space heaters can cause fires, which could lead to fatalities. So the placement of space heaters needs to be carefully thought out.

In addition, designers of tiny homes must consider issues like carbon monoxide poisoning. If a homeowner wants a woodstove in his tiny home, it should have proper vents and carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide is odorless and deadly, so installing proper safety products can save lives.

Tiny Houses Will Also Require Retraining of First Responders

The advent of the tiny house movement requires first responders to rethink where they need to go when an emergency arises. For instance, emergency medical technicians, paramedics and firefighters looking for an ailing resident after a 911 call should be aware that sheds and other small structures in the backyard are now potential dwelling locations.

These alternate living areas might have been overlooked before tiny houses began appearing. But now, first responders will require new awareness training so they will know in advance that someone needing life-saving assistance might not be in a conventional location.

Emergency Managers and Public Safety Officials Must Stay Current with Trends

As society changes and new trends like tiny houses continually emerge, emergency managers and other public safety officials will need to know how to react to these new public safety hazards. Not only will they be better able to protect their communities, they will also be able to  develop and update emergency management plans.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.