By Shawna Leader

Who hasn’t been caught in a tight spot?  As stressful as those situations are, knowledge is power, or so the old adage goes. Here, the AS Review has provided you with the knowledge to get yourself out of some sticky situations.

Apartment/House Fire
According to Assistant Fire Chief Andy Day, who has worked with the Bellingham Fire Department  for 24 years, the first thing to do when you realize your residence is on fire is to get out as quickly as possible.  While there may be exceptions (if the fire is especially small and can be put out quickly, for example), if there is any smoke or fast moving flames, get out, Day said.

The next thing to do is meet your roommates at a predetermined place outside of the house, Day said. At the same time, someone should call the fire department. Also, let your neighbors know about the situation and pull the fire alarm if necessary, Day said.

Day emphasized the importance of not re-entering the house once you have left it, even if someone is still inside.

“The best thing to do is to not become a part of the problem,” Day said. “There’s no value in the would-be rescuer being incapacitated.”

Instead, it’s safer to leave that to the firefighters, Day said.

“We’re wearing protective clothing and respiratory protection” when fighting fires and assisting people trapped in fires, he said.

To better protect yourself against fires, Day suggested several safety measures. First, make sure there is at least one smoke alarm on each floor of the residence. Fresh batteries should be kept on hand and changed once a year, he said.

Another safety procedure is to develop an escape plan, Day said.  This involves two things: first, choose a place for you and your roommates to meet in the event of a fire. Secondly, identify two exits out of your room. The obvious one is the door, but the second could be a window, Day said (in that case, Day suggested getting a portable escape ladder).

A final safety measure is to get a sprinkler system installed, Day said.

“Typically, depending on the building, there will be monitored smoke alarms and sprinkler systems,” he said. Day suggested adding a sprinkler system to the criteria used when sizing up a new house or apartment.

For more information, check out firesafety.gov.

Lost in the Wilderness

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Photo by Erik Simkins

The moment you realize you’re lost, the best thing to do is stay where you are, AS Outdoor Center Excursion Coordinator James White said. White cautioned against using advice from television shows about surviving in the wild.
“Those shows are made for entertainment, not real life,” he said.
If you realize you have to spend the night in the woods, find or make shelter, White said. Laying branches over a fallen tree and using leaves and pine branches for cover makes a simple refuge, he said.  The next thing you need to locate is water, but fortunately that is abundant in the Pacific Northwest, White said. As for food, you can survive for a long time without it, but foraging isn’t a bad idea either, White said.
“Foraging for nuts and fruits is a good idea if you know what you’re eating won’t kill you. If you’re not sure, it’s probably best not to eat it,” he said.
Where you choose to set up camp is key, White said.
“If possible make your camp in as open of an area as possible so that you can be seen from the air, make a fire—without lighting the forest on fire—and add leaves and needles to make it smoke and hang brightly colored clothes in the open so you can be seen,” White said.
Preventing this situation from becoming disastrous is possible if you tell someone where you are going, White said.
“The worst thing you can do is not telling anyone where you are before you leave,” he said. “This places you in a situation where you must save yourself and if you’re lost you rarely have the capability to do this. Search and Rescue groups are very good at what they do and you will be found if they have a general idea of where you are. Stay patient and calm and know that people are looking for you.”

You Meet a Cougar
When faced with this 250-pound feline, don’t turn around and run, cautions the Olympic National Park’s tips on cougar safety. This will likely cause the cougar to make chase and you can imagine how that will end. Instead, make yourself as large as possible and maintain eye contact. At the same time, back away slowly.
If the cougar becomes aggressive, the Park’s tips suggest that you remain standing and facing the cougar, throw things and fight back if necessary.
According to the Olympic National Park’s Web site, cougar attacks are rare, but cougars may attack if they feel threatened. If you do encounter a cougar, the Web site requests that you report the incident to the nearest ranger station.
To prevent an encounter with a cougar, the Park’s cougar tips advise to not hike alone, avoid dead animals, carry a walking stick and be aware of your surroundings.

You are About to Graduate

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So it's come to this...photo by Erik Simkins

“It’s no secret…it’s a tough job market out there,” said Tina Loudon, director of Western’s Academic and Career Development Services. But that is no reason to lose hope, she said.
Grads need to be flexible when searching for jobs, she said. She advised considering as broad a range as possible for jobs, locations and employers. Also, being careful with finances by riding the bus or living with other people, for example, helps too, she said.
Whatever job a new graduate may get out of college, it’s important to stay focused on interests and goals, Loudon said.
“You’ve got to make money, that’s fine,” Loudon said. “But you’ve also got to stay connected with your career goals.” She suggested that if you cannot find a job related to your area of study, try to find volunteer work in that area. Also, seeking any job in your desired career area is experience that builds up your resume, she said.
Loudon suggested teaching abroad or joining the Peace Corps, and although Americorps is currently swamped with applications, it is an organization to consider in the future.
Having trouble deciding what to do? Loudon recommended making an appointment with the Career Services Center to discuss options, polish a resume and review interview skills. Another way to decide is to brainstorm all possible options, then prioritize them, Loudon said. Choosing what to do post-college is partly intuitive but also requires some planning, she said.
“A bad market doesn’t mean giving up on what you want to do,” she said. “It means being creative about how you’re going to get there.”
Loudon cautioned against over-relying on the Internet because there’s so much competition. But, the Internet is also a good resource for finding out your options, she said. Loudon recommended the Western Student Employment Center Web site (www.finaid.wwu.edu/studentjobs) and Worksource (fortress.wa.gov/esd/worksource).
On the bright side, if you are graduating this year you will not have to pay the 14 percent increase in tuition, Louden said.