Wildfires are extremely devastating events that you can’t fight back without adequate preparation and by learning some wildfire safety tips. Across the US, almost 54,000 wildfires reported per year between 2009-2018, where the average structure damage was 4,000. These statistics clearly show that you have to be prepared for wildfires, yet nobody took any action until the California disasters. It is crucial to appreciate that a wildfire can cause immediate communication, transportation, gas, and power outages. Erosion, landslides, the risks of flood and debris flow are some of the primary physical dangers during a wildfire. However, there are equally devastating aftereffects following the wildfire. Resultant smoke emissions and other airborne pollutants, as well as water pollutants, may cause significant health problems; particularly to the young and the elderly. Below, we have prepared a checklist that you can use before, during and after a forest-borne wildfire.
Table of Contents
Precautions to be taken before the Wildfire
- Follow all local fire codes.
- Create at least 30 feet of empty space between your home and flammable plants and materials.
- If there are trees or tall plants nearby power lines that need to be trimmed, call for professional help; the falling of such trees can cause power outages.
- Prune all branches that are 8-10 feet from the ground; they may cause the fire to spread faster.
- Do not keep firewood close to any buildings.
- Pinecones can explode, and pine needles and other leaves are flammable, so regularly inspect and ensure that roof surfaces and chimneys are clear.
- Use fire-resistant materials if possible and keep your combustible materials in fireproof and labelled containers.
- Make an emergency evacuation plan with your family; practice it regularly.
- Prepare an emergency kit:
- One gallon of water per day per person and each pet; store at least a three day supply of water.
- Food supply for at least three days. Store food that has a long storage time; require little or no cooking, water or refrigeration; are not very salty or spicy (these increase the need for drinking water).
- Keep necessary cooking/eating utensils in a clearly labelled container.
- Propane gas or charcoal camping stove.
- N95 masks for each person to prevent smoke from entering the lungs.
- Copies of important documents:
- Medical records
- Homeowners insurance
- Auto insurance
- Real estate
- Vehicle registration and titles
- Financial records—pay stubs, tax documents, bank statements
- Legal documents—wills, funeral instructions, powers of attorney
- A small amount of cash in small bills.
- Radio, flashlights, batteries, first-aid kit, necessary medication, bandanas, goggles, respirators and a satellite phone. Sattelite phones are great tools for communication in case of disasters and considered as “The Must-Have When Reporting on Disasters” by the NY Times, April 17, 2019.
- Evacuations plans
- Make evacuation plans with family members.
- Include several options with an outside meeting place and contact person.
- Practice regularly.
- Make sure your car has at least a quarter of a tank of gas.
- Take photos of the fire damage to lodge with any insurance claims; keep a camera or cell phone within your car emergency kit
What to do During a Wildfire
- Stay Calm! Turn on your radio and only follow the statements of the local authorities.
- While waiting, turn on all lights in order to detect smoke in your house.
- Close your windows, take down your curtains, move your furniture away from the windows and protect them with non-flammable coverings.
- When requested, evacuate all of your family members and pets. In the case of a wildfire, you can not fight against it: listen to local authorities.
- Before evacuation
- Turn off air conditioning/air circulation systems.
- Turn off all power and electrical appliances.
After the Wildfire
- Keep your family and animals together.
- Turn on the radio. Wait for announcements before attempting to return to your home.
- • Using your phone will cause unnecessary traffic and will not help the authorities. Cell-phone infrastructure can get damaged or destroyed during a natural disaster; use your satellite phone for communication.
- You have to be careful when entering a burned area, flare-ups can occur. So check for hot spots and bring a fire extinguisher or some water.
- Check all over your place for sparks and embers. Notice they can start a fire even after days; peat can fuel the wildfire indefinitely
- Before you go inside, check around for any smells of gas and damaged cables; call for help if such instances arise.
- Enter your home carefully. Take photos of any damage and contact your insurance company as soon as possible.
If you need more information about wildfire safety tips, Ready.gov is a great source for that.