How to Prepare and Evacuate for a Wildfire
No matter where you live, you may be at risk for wildfires. Several steps can be taken to ensure you are prepared for the unexpected circumstance of a fire while safely evacuating your family from your home. One of the simplest ways for minimizing or preventing wildfire damage to your property is known as fire mitigation.
The most effective strategy to improve your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire is by creating defensible space around your property. It is recommended that you create two defensible space zones; a 30 foot and 100 foot zone, within this area you can take steps to reduce potential exposure to flames and radiant heat. Each zone will create a buffer between structures on your property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland surrounding it.
Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum safety zone of 100 feet. If your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not suffice. Contact your local fire department or forestry office for additional information.
Whether you live in a fire zone or live in the city it is important to have defensible space around your home. Along with defensible space it is also important to consider the following to protect your property and home:
Before a wildfire it is crucial to protect your home and prepare for evacuations. If you live in an area under threat by wildfire, pay attention to official channels for evacuation orders. Make sure every member of your family has a bag packed with essential items to last you multiple days away from home. Along with each members disaster supply kit, make sure you have a family emergency plan and a means of transportation standing by.
Once you have each kit packed, maintain them on a yearly basis by replacing expired items and rethinking the necessary contents. Food and cans should be packed and kept in cool, dry places. Keeping emergency kits at home, in your car and at work are all good ideas since you never know where you’ll be when you need to evacuate.
Depending on your evacuation orders, an immediate evacuation of your home may be necessary. If there are evacuations in your area you should monitor local radio and news stations. Be prepared to leave at any time and if asked to evacuate, do so. If you have time prior to evacuating the following four steps will aid in protecting your home and assisting fire fighters in their efforts.
- Keep all doors and windows closed in your home.
- Remove flammable drapes, curtains, awnings or other window coverings.
- Keep lights on to aid visibility in case smoke fills the house.
- If sufficient water is available, turn sprinklers on to wet the roof and any water-proof valuables.
- 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.
The 6 P's
In the event of a quick evacuation, remember the 6 P’s! By having these items prepared ahead of time, you can grab them on a moments notice and evacuate safely.
- People & pets
- Papers, phone numbers, & important documents
- Prescriptions, vitamins, and eye glasses
- Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia
- Personal computer, hard drives, and disks
- “Plastic” (Credit Cards, ATM Cards, and Cash)
Prevention is Key
Every year across the U.S., major wildfires test homeowners and firefighters, some homes survive while many others do not. Those that survive almost always do so because their owners had prepared for the eventuality of fire, which is an inescapable force of nature in fire-prone woodland areas. Another way we think of it as, if it’s predictable, it’s preventable!
The best way to protect your home and family during a wildfire is by adding prevention and preparation into your routine. There is a lot of steps to take to be prepared but they can make the difference between saving your home and potentially your life.