Wildfire Emergency Preparation
Sadly, more and more wildfires burn across the western part of the United States every year. With a severe drought predicted for the summer months, preparing for a potential wildfire is smart and should be a part of your emergency preparedness plan.
It may be interesting to note that humans cause nearly 85% of wildfires. They can include campfires that have been left unattended, burning debris, or fireworks.
Talking to your children about the importance of fire safety outdoors can be invaluable. Parents can be held liable for their children starting fires by playing with matches, fireworks, or campfires in undesignated areas.
How to prepare yourself and your home for a wildfire will take a few steps:
- Preparing your home before an evacuation
- Preparing a 72-hour kit and go-bag
- Make a list of essential items to take
- Prepping your house before you leave
- Knowing several evacuation escape routes
- Having a family plan
FIRST – Preparing your home before an evacuation
You can help protect your home before a threat with a few common-sense precautions:
- Keep your yard clear of leaves and debris
- Remove dead vegetation
- Keep yard and lawn hydrated and maintained. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire. If you have brown vegetation, cut it down to reduce fire intensity.
- Store firewood away from home
- Use fire resistant building materials
INSURANCE AND DOCUMENTATION
Another important item to review is your home insurance. Check with your insurance agent to make sure you have the proper coverage.
Take a video and pictures of your home, property, and valuables to help with any insurance claims. You will want to store this data in a cloud of off site hard drive.
SECOND – Emergency 72-hour kits and Go-Bags
Have your 72-hour kit and go-bag ready for an evacuation.
Remember, a 72-hour kit is designed around evacuating an area on foot. You will literally be carrying the 72-hour kit on your back.
A go-bag is prepared with the idea that you will have a vehicle available to evacuate.
72-hour kits are made up of the bare minimum, but a go-bag will have extra supplies and clothing.
Think of a go-bag as if you were going on a weekend outing. You would have extra clothing, toiletries, medications, etc.
You may have to stay at a hotel or relative’s home for a few days before being allowed back into your home. Worst case scenario is that your house is damaged, and what you have with you is literally what you will have until you get a chance to replace your belongings.
THIRD – MAKE A LIST OF ESSENTIAL ITEMS TO TAKE
You will have items that you wish to take with you that will not be in your emergency kits.
You may also have limited time and space for items you wish to save from possible destruction. Make a list when you are in a calm state of mind and post it in a prominent place.
Some items might include:
- Your computer
- Hard drives
- Photo albums
- Important papers
- Credit cards and cash
- Medical devices
- Cell phone and chargers
- Animals/pets with collar, leash, kennel, and food
- You may have a fireproof safe with valuables such as jewelry and important documents. Use your best judgment if you want to take these items with you.
Ask yourself some important questions:
Will you take more than one vehicle?
Do you have enough car space for what you want to take?
FOURTH – PREPPING YOUR HOUSE BEFORE YOU LEAVE
If a wildfire is threatening your home and you likely will have to evacuate:
- Place your emergency kits and valuables in your car
- Shut off your gas supply. It’s standard practice by emergency response to shut off the gas supply to prevent feeding a fire. Doing so yourself reduces risks to your home.
- Shut off gas at the meter. Turn the handwheel clockwise to close any valves.
- Turn off pilot lights.
- Shut off fans and unplug electronics.
- Remove propane cylinders away from houses or structures.
- If you have a large propane tank, close the supply valve on the tank.
- Don’t leave on sprinklers. It could reduce water pressure for firefighters and cause potential flooding.
- Leave outside lights on to help firefighters see your home.
- Keep doors unlocked for firefighter to have easy access.
FIFTH – Emergency Family Plan AND ESCAPE ROUTES
Make sure each family member understands what plan you have in place.
Each member should know where supplies are located and what steps to take.
Younger children or teenagers that are ever home without parents should know what they are to do in case of an emergency.
Ask yourself these questions:
- How will your children evacuate?
- Should they go to a neighbor’s house? If so, who?
- If they can drive, should they gather all the emergency kits or just their own?
- Where will you meet?
- Is there a relative or family friend in another area that would be a good meeting place?
- Where do you go?
How many escape routes do you have?
Keep your gas tank in your vehicle at least half full.
Be ready to check on your neighbors and willing to help them evacuate if necessary.
Make sure your emergency kits are located in an accessible place for easy access.
Keep a face mask/bandana, goggles, and flashlight in the front pocket of your go-bag if you experience smokey conditions.
Keep your animals close at the first sign of a potential evacuation.