Wildfires can happen at any time and place. However, their potential to exist is higher during prolonged periods of little to no rainfall.
These natural disasters can occur as a result of lightning, human interference, or because of the effects of dry weather. Their danger cannot be overstated. A wildfire’s unpredictability makes it imperative to work with your family to create a plan of preparation.
To prepare for a wildfire, it is best to have a solid evacuation plan, create an emergency kit that includes N95 masks, and to prepare your home to withstand the disaster.
While these are the primary tasks you and your family need to undertake, there are other actions you can take to increase your chance for survival and mitigate damage. So, take a look at our tips to prepare for a coming wildfire adequately.
Have an Evacuation Plan
In an ideal world, you would have an idea that a wildfire is coming. In some cases, this does happen. However, you need to plan to protect yourself if this is not the case. Again, a wildfire can occur at any time, and it is helpful to begin your preparation strategy with an evacuation plan.
If you are living in an apartment or area run by a Home Owner’s Association, the leaders of these properties may already have an evacuation plan for the community. Be sure to check with management to know the contents of these plans.
If you do not live in an area with an already defined evacuation plan, you need to create one of your own.
So, research the various ways to leave your immediate area. You need to be aware of multiple routes, so you can avoid road closures or regions that may be too dangerous to drive through.
Once you establish an evacuation plan, do a test run. Drive all the routes to get a feel for the area, and to determine if the path is useable.
Also, be sure to have an organized home escape plan for yourself and your family. You all should agree on the following:
- A location for any emergency supplies (so you can quickly grab them upon evacuation)
- A place in your home where everyone will meet in or outside the house to escape
Discuss these plans with your family, and ensure everyone is on board to adhere to them.
Locate A Safe Place
Depending on the proximity to the fire you may have the option to stay inside your home. However, it is crucial to locate a safe place to stay if your home is in the direct path of a wildfire. Here are a few steps you can take to do this:
- Listen to emergency-related radio stations for instructions on where to go for shelter if you need it.
- Talk with family and friends who are outside of the disaster radius to see if you can temporarily stay at their home.
- Locate a Red Cross Shelter that is in an area outside of the wildfire’s path.
Your goal is to have at least three options of where you can go for safety if your home is in danger of being destroyed. Again, wildfires can happen at any time, so locating shelter ahead of time will give you a sense of security since you have already established where you can go.
You need to be aware of what is happening around you. A wildfire can cause power outages, flooding, and general destruction. All of these scenarios will make it challenging to locate up-to-date news alerts.
So, you should invest in a battery-powered radio that can provide you with consistent information about the status of the wildfire.
These fires can change direction and grow in intensity. So, you need to have a way to find out about the latest updates. Before the storm, locate the Emergency Alert System station in your community as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather radio. These stations can provide valuable information as well as evacuation instructions.
It also makes sense to always keep your phone fully charged at all times. While it is highly possible that phone and internet service may be down, you may have a signal to call for help or search for information.
Collect Emergency Supplies
Work with your family to create an emergency kit that you can use in your home or take with you to a shelter. You will likely be unable to make it to a store, or do this in the heat of the moment. So, it pays to prepare this kit ahead of time. You and your family should include the following:
- N95 respirator masks
- Two gallons of water per person per day
- A battery-operated or hand-cranked radio
- Manual can opener
- Non-perishable food items
- Extra keys for your home and car
- A change of clothes and shoes
- First-aid kit
- Vital family documents (birth certificates, IDs, insurance information, passports, banking records)
- Essential family medications
- Toiletries and hygiene items
- Hand sanitizer and bleach
- Tools (hammers, pliers, wrenches, pocket knife)
- Portable USB charger
- Baby items (food, diapers, medications)
- Pet items (food, medicine)
This is not an exhaustive list of everything you may need, but it is a solid start. Sit down with your family and go over these suggestions. See if you need any additional items.
After you have created this kit, be sure to store it in a place that is easy to get to (and that everyone knows about). You will not have a lot of time to get everything you need.
Protect Your Home
While the most important thing is the lives of yourself and your family, no one wants to lose their home. So, it is best to do all you can to protect it. Before the wildfire arrives, strategize to prevent as much damage to your home as possible.
Start with the outside of your home by clearing away any dry vegetation, and remove branches that could be in danger of falling on your home. Also, keep your lawn as short and well-watered as possible.
Monitor your roof, sidings, and external materials for holes and needed repairs. Use fire-resistant building materials and paint to fix these problems. Be sure to remove leaves and debris from gutters, and clear out any soot from chimneys.
Wet any wood on the outside of your home, as this can help to keep flames from catching onto your roof or windows.
Regarding the interior of your home start with checking your garage or basement for any fuel or propane, and remove these items from your home.
Also, implement as many safety features as possible. Ensure that your smoke detector is in good working order, always have fire extinguishers on hand, and install fire-resistant ladders outside of second story windows that are only accessible by adults (only do this if you are in immediate danger of a wildfire).
You should also call your insurance company ahead of time to see what is covered regarding home disasters that are caused by a wildfire.
Safely Store Important Information
Take as much as you can with you, but just in case you forget to add them to your emergency kit, always store important personal documents in fire-resistant containers. Be sure to make copies of everything, and store items in a place where you and your family can easily find them.
If possible, create digital copies of your personal information. Scan documents, and create password-protected digital files. You can go even further by storing your documents on flash drives and putting them in your emergency kit in addition to the paper copies you have.
The last thing you want is to have to replace valuable documents you may have lost. Also, losing these documents in a wildfire can prevent you from receiving the insurance benefits you need. So, do what you can to safely store your personal information, create copies, and digitally save and protect the documentation that you can.
Empower Yourself and Your Family
The more you know, the more you can prevent. Becoming aware of the current state of your home (needed repairs, existing vegetation), local shelters, evacuation plans, essential materials you need to survive, and where to go for news will allow you to lead your family to safety.
Take the lead on planning ahead, but involve your family as much as you can. You want them to be aware of how to survive and successfully navigate a wildfire.
For example, make sure that each member of your family is aware of the “Stop-Drop-and-Roll” process, and understand the importance of N95 masks. These two things can save everyone’s life.
Do what you can to educate yourself and your family. Once you have established your evacuation route and your plan, sit down with your family to ensure they are on the same page. In the event that you become incapacitated or are unable to lead your family to safety, someone can step in to complete the survival plan.
The goal is to live through this and avoid as much damage as possible. Empowering yourself and your family with knowledge can give you the tools you need to prepare for and navigate a wildfire safely.