As the past few years have shown us, wildfires can be a devastating force against communities, homes, and local infrastructure. Being prepared for a wildfire, especially if you live in a densely wooded area, or an area prone to larger scale fires has become immensely important. This brief guide will give you information on what supplies you should have, when to stay or evacuate, and how to make the right decision at the right time and keep you and your family safe and secure.
Sheltering at Home
In certain situations, it may be safer to stay at home during a wildfire. This is typically when the fire is not directly threatening your home, or when evacuation routes are blocked. However, sheltering at home during a wildfire is not without its risks, and it requires careful preparation.
Firstly, ensure your home is as fire-resistant as possible. Clear your property of flammable materials, install fire-resistant shutters, and consider a fire-resistant roof. Inside, close all windows and doors to prevent embers from entering. Turn off gas, propane, and air conditioning to avoid explosions or drawing smoke into the house.
In terms of supplies, you should have:
- A well-stocked first aid kit, including burn treatment supplies.
- Enough food and water for all household members for at least three days.
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio for updates.
- Fire extinguishers and knowledge of how to use them.
- N95 respirator masks to protect against smoke inhalation.
- Wet towels and duct tape to seal door cracks and vents against smoke.
Remember, even if you’re sheltering at home, you should be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
When to Evacuate
Evacuation is necessary when local authorities issue an evacuation order, or when the fire is directly threatening your home. Ignoring an evacuation order puts both your life and the lives of first responders at risk.
Before evacuation, prepare your home by moving flammable furniture to the center of the room away from windows and doors, shutting all windows and doors, and leaving your lights on so your home is visible through the smoke.
For evacuation, you should have a pre-packed emergency kit that includes:
- Three days’ worth of non-perishable food and water for each person.
- A change of clothes and sturdy shoes.
- Essential medications and first aid supplies.
- Important documents (birth certificates, passports, etc.).
- Cash and credit cards.
- Pet supplies if necessary.
Consider sentimental items like family photos and heirlooms, but remember that nothing is as important as your life and the lives of your loved ones.
How to be Prepared for Either Case
Preparation is key when it comes to wildfires. Here are some steps to ensure you’re ready for either sheltering at home or evacuation.
- Keep digital and physical copies of important documents (birth certificates, social security cards, deeds, etc.) in a fireproof safe or safety deposit box. Consider keeping copies with a trusted friend or family member outside your immediate area.
- Have a family communication plan. Designate a meeting place and an out-of-area contact person in case local phone lines are down.
- Keep emergency supplies at work and in your car in case a fire occurs while you’re away from home.
- Know your community’s emergency response plan and evacuation routes. Keep a map in your car.
- If you have pets or livestock, have a plan for their evacuation as well.
In terms of where to go, seek out designated evacuation centers, friends’ or family’s homes outside the fire zone, or hotels/motels. For help, contact local disaster relief services like the Red Cross, or local government agencies.
Remember, the key to surviving a wildfire, or any disaster, is preparation. Stay informed, stay prepared, and stay safe.