Being ready for wildfire starts with maintaining an adequate defensible space and by hardening your home by using fire-resistant building materials. Defensible space is the buffer you create by removing dead plants, grass and weeds. This buffer helps to keep the fire away from your home. Hardening your home means using construction materials that can help your home withstand flying embers, finding weak spots in the construction, which can result in your house catching fire. It takes the combination of both defensible space and the hardening of your home to really give your house the best chance of surviving a wildfire.
Before wildfire strikes, it is important that you get set. Prepare yourself and your home for the possibility of having to evacuate. There are three main preparation actions that should be completed and familiar to all members of your household long in advance of a wildfire.
Three steps to getting set:
1. Create a Wildfire Action Plan that includes evacuation planning for your home, family and pets.
Steps to create a wildfire action plan - create an evacuation plan that includes:
• A designated emergency meeting location outside the fire or hazard area. This is critical to determine who has safely evacuated from the affected area.
• Several different escape routes from your home and community. Practice these often so everyone in your family is familiar in case of emergency.
• Have an evacuation plan for pets and large animals such as horses and other livestock.
• A Family Communication Plan that designates an out-of-area friend or relative as a point of contact to act as a single source of communication among family members in case of separation. (It is easier to call or message one person and let them contact others than to try and call everyone when phone, cell, and internet systems can be overloaded or limited during a disaster.)
• Have fire extinguishers on hand and train your family how to use them (check expiration dates regularly).
• Ensure that your family knows where your gas, electric, and water main shut-off controls are located and how to safely shut them down in an emergency.
• Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit for each person, as recommended by the American Red Cross. (See next section for details.)
• Maintain a list of emergency contact numbers posted near your phone and in your emergency supply kit.
• Keep an extra Emergency Supply Kit in your car in case you cannot get to your home because of fire or other emergency.
• Have a portable radio or scanner so you can stay updated on the fire.
• Tell your neighbors about Ready, Set, Go! and your Wildfire Action Plan.
Prepare your family - how to prepare to evacuate from a wildfire
Evacuation plans for families with young children should include helping toddlers understand how to quickly respond in case of fire, and how adults can escape with babies. Prepare ahead of time by practicing your family’s fire escape plan, and what to do to be safe when there is a wildfire nearby.
It is important to talk to toddlers and small children at a level that they understand and that does not frighten. Here are a few resources that offer guides and tips for families with young children about fire safety and preparing for a disaster:
• A Parent’s Guide to Fire Safety for Babies and Toddlers: The U.S. Fire Administration’s information site for parents and caregivers to help prevent fire death of young children. Visit https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/children.html.
• Let’s Get Ready! Planning Together for Emergencies: Sesame Workshop campaign with tips, activities, and other easy tools to help the whole family prepare for emergencies. Visit https://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/toolkits/ready.
• Ready.gov Kids: FEMA’s site for older kids to prepare and plan for a disaster. Includes safety steps, tips, and games to help children learn about and be ready for an emergency. Visit https://smokeybear.com/en/smokey-for-kids.
• Smokey Kids: U.S. Forest Service’s interactive Smokey Bear site with games, information and resources on how to prevent forest fires. Visit https://smokeybear.com/kids/default.asp?js=1.
Preparing Seniors and Disabled Family Members
Seniors and people with disabilities also need special consideration when preparing for a disaster. Below are several resources that help individuals and families with special needs plan and prepare for an event such as a wildfire.
• Special Populations Fire-Safe Checklist: U.S. Fire Administration’s fire safety guide for individuals with special needs to help them protect themselves and their home from fire. Visit https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/disabilities.html.
• Disaster Preparedness for Senior by Seniors: The American Red Cross booklet designed by and for older adults to prepare them for a sudden emergency. Visit https://www.redcross.org/content/dam/redcross/atg/PDF_s/Preparedness___Disaster_Recovery/Disaster_Preparedness/Disaster_Preparedness_for_Srs-English.revised_7-09.pdf#.
• Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities: American Red Cross Disaster Services booklet with information and resources to help people with physical, visual, auditory, or cognitive disabilities design a personal disaster plan. Visit https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/disaster-safety-for-people-with-disabilities.html.
• Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities and Other Vulnerable Populations: Inclusive Preparedness Center website with information and resources for emergency planning. Visit http://inclusionresearch.org/inclusivepreparedness/.
- Assemble an emergency supply kit for each person in your household. (See the checklist of items listed below.)
Emergency Supply Kit Checklist
• Three-day supply of non-perishable food and three gallons of water per person
• Map marked with at least two evacuation routes
• Prescriptions or special medications
• Change of clothing
• Extra eyeglasses or contact lenses
• An extra set of car keys, credit cards, cash or traveler’s checks
• First aid kit
• Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
• Sanitation supplies
• Copies of important documents (birth certificates, passports, etc.)
• Don’t forget pet food and water!
Items to take if time allows:
• Easily carried valuables
• Family photos and other irreplaceable items
• Personal computer information on hard drives and disks
• Chargers for cell phones, laptops, etc.
Always keep a sturdy pair of shoes and a flashlight near your bed and handy in case of a sudden evacuation at night.
- Fill out a Family Communication Plan that includes important evacuation and contact information. Visit this link, https://www.readyforwildfire.org/prepare-for-wildfire/get-set/prepare-your-family/, to find a sample Family Communication Plan.
Give your household the best chance of surviving a wildfire by being ready to go and evacuating early. This includes going through pre-evacuation preparation steps (only if time allows) to increase your home’s defenses, as well as creating a Wildfire Action Plan for your family. Being ready to go also means knowing when to evacuate and what to do if you become trapped. When immediate evacuation is necessary, follow these steps as soon as possible to get ready to GO!
- Review your Evacuation Plan Checklist.
- Ensure your Emergency Supply Kit is in your vehicle.
- Cover up to protect against heat and flying embers. Wear long pants, long sleeve shirt, heavy shoes/boots, cap, dry bandanna for face cover, goggles or glasses. 100% cotton is preferable.
- Locate your pets and take them with you.
Keep these six “Ps” ready in case immediate evacuation is required:
• People and pets
• Papers, phone numbers, and important documents
• Prescriptions, vitamins, and eyeglasses
• Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia
• Personal computer hard drive and disks
• “Plastic” (credit cards, ATM cards) and cash
For more information on emergency supplies and evacuation tips, visit www.readyforwildfire.org and www.ready.gov.