How to Prepare for a Wildfire
According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), there have been over 45,000 wildfires in 2020 alone. Sadly, this has placed countless families and homes in harm’s way. Started suddenly by lightning strikes or other accidents, they begin small and spread rapidly. To better protect yourself from a wildfire, it’s essential for you and your entire family to have an emergency plan in place and know what to do should you need to evacuate.
Here is how to prepare for a wildfire to protect your family and home. From building a go bag and disaster supply kit to securing your home and property, if you live in a high-risk fire zone, learn these checklists by heart! Being prepared can help you get out in a timely manner, which can save lives.
The Wildfire Preparedness Checklist
First and foremost, it’s important to memorize and follow these essential preparation rules to keep you and your family safe. Practice them once a year to refresh memories and check equipment.
- Build a Go Bag list and disaster supply kit, keeping it in a rooftop cargo carrier mounted on the car.
- Discuss a family emergency plan to ensure everyone knows what to do in an evacuation.
- Ensure important docs like insurance policies, IDs, etc. are recent. Make digital copies and secure originals in a protective case.
- Mount a dual-sensor smoke alarm on each level of the home. Place them near bedrooms and test monthly, changing batteries once per year.
- Show where the ABC-type fire extinguisher is kept and teach family members how to operate it.
- Keep a ladder–one that’s long enough to reach the roof.
In Case of a Wildfire
If you spot a wildfire, call 911! Never assume someone has spotted it before you. Usually caused by lightning strikes and dry brush and landscape, wildfires spread fast and often unnoticed. Let officials know the fire’s location so they can evacuate the vicinity.
When ordered to evacuate, grab your emergency kit and lock your home. Choose a route to avoid the fire, watching for changes in the direction and speed of fire and smoke. Always tell someone when you leave and where you are headed.
If you are not yet ordered to evacuate, FEMA still advises certain precautions:
- Wear protective clothing like long pants, shirts and gloves made of wool materials and stable shoes. Carry a handkerchief to protect your face, too.
- Collect fire prevention tools like a rake, axe, handsaw/chainsaw, bucket and shovel.
- Close any open areas around the home, such as vents (in the attic, eaves and basement), as well as windows, doors, pet doors and anything else. Also close all interior doors to prevent drafts.
- Take down drapes and curtains that are flammable and close shutters, blinds or other window coverings to reduce radiant heat.
- Leave the fireplace damper open, but close the screen.
- Shut off any fuel sources to the home (natural gas, propane and oil). Oppositely, prepare gas-powered water pumps with maximum fuel.
- Attach hoses to outdoor faucets and pump water into any containers (swimming pools, garbage cans, etc.).
- Mount any sprinklers on the roof and near fuel tanks, leaving water flowing to fully soak the areas.
- Last, find temporary housing. Whether it’s with a friend or relative, stay with someone outside the threatened area.
When you are asked to evacuate, take these steps:
- Aid firefighters by placing a visible ladder against the house.
- Close and disconnect automatic garage door openers to allow manual operation.
- Keep valuable documents, important mementos and pets in the car or garage to leave quickly.
- Relocate flammable furniture toward the center of the home and away from windows.
- Keep exterior lighting and a room light on to be visible through dense smoke.
Wildfires can be created by humans, too. In dry conditions, take extra care when camping or enjoying any other outdoor activities. Follow basic wildfire safety tips, such as never leaving a fire unattended and extinguishing it before bed. Another wildfire safety tip is to use caution when fueling lanterns, avoiding spills. Discard cigarettes and matches, too. Even in your own backyard, take extra care when burning yard waste. Following these extra safety tips allows you to be part of the solution in wildfire management.