Wildfires are growing in frequency and in strength. Whether you live near a forest, in a rural area or just in a hot, dry climate, you face the potential dangers of a wildfire. But honestly, wildfires can occur anywhere. And due to our changing climate - they’ve only been exacerbated.
Wildfires are known for being unplanned; sometimes they’re unauthorized human-caused fires and in some cases they spark from extreme weather conditions. They cause damage to homes, infrastructure and agriculture. An average of 1.2 million acres of US woodland burns every year.
But it’s not all doom and gloom! That is, if you’re prepared. To navigate a wildfire, it’s crucial to plan ahead. Protecting yourself and your loved ones starts with being prepared. By arming yourself with the right knowledge and tools, you’ll have a greater sense of security. And that’s something to be empowered by!
Here are some tips for before, during, and after fires to help keep you prepared and safe.
Wildfire Preparedness Checklist
Before the Fire
With Your Family
✔ Know your evacuation routes, transportation and a place to stay with family or friends outside of the evacuation zone;
✔ Set a family emergency communications plan: set up a family meeting spot and teach your family what to do when they hear a smoke alarm;
✔ Ensure everyone knows how to call 911;
✔ Teach your family about fire prevention and safety;
✔ Build an emergency preparedness kit or get one ready-made with JUDY;
✔ Ensure that all household members know at least two ways to escape from every room in your home.
✔ Store supplies so you can quickly grab and go in case of evacuation; and,
✔ Practice your home escape plan at least twice a year.
With Your Home
✔ Install the right number of smoke alarms, test them once a month and replace the batteries once a year;
✔ Store important documents and personal priceless items in a safe place, easily accessible;
✔ Form a fire resistant zone at least 30 feet from your home. Gather and clear items around the house that are potentially flammable, including: dead vegetation, leaves and debris;
✔ Store flammable or combustible materials in safety containers away from the home;
✔ Move your BBQ propane tank away from the house; and,
✔ Build any future repairs out of fire-resistant materials.
During the Fire
While it’s most important to prioritize the physical safety of you and your loved ones, if there is time before you evacuate, you can also take some small actions to help the firefighters. But if you are asked to evacuate, leave immediately.
✔ Stay alert and aware for evacuation instructions from EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, your local law and fire officials;
✔ If you see a fire approaching or if you’re trapped, call 911;
✔ Close all windows, doors and vents inside your home;
✔ Move flammable furniture, especially outdoor furniture into the centre of the home away from windows and doors;
✔ To make your house more visible in smoke, turn on outside lights and leave a light on in every room;
✔ Wear N95 masks to protect your lungs from harmful particles;
✔ Stop, drop and roll if you or your family’s clothes catch on fire;
✔ Always stay with your family and pets and keep your disaster safety kit on hand; and,
✔ Remain calm and evacuate immediately: drive at regular speeds with windows rolled up and headlights on.
After the Fire
✔ Continue to check in with news updates for information about the fire;
✔ Return home only when authorities deem it’s safe;
✔ Have a professional examine your home to make sure it’s ready and safe;
✔ Send text messages/social media to reach out to family and friends;
✔ Proceed with caution: maintain a “fire watch” and check your home and surrounding areas for small, lingering embers;
✔ Do not drink, prepare food or wash with water until officials deem the water source safe; and,
✔ Photograph any damages for your personal records and contact your insurance agency.
Are You Ready if a Fire Strikes?
This is what readiness looks like! If you plan ahead and set yourself up to protect, then you’re on the path to being ready for the unpredictable.
If you have additional questions, send them our way!