With dry, potentially fire-prone months ahead, now’s a good time to prepare your home and family for potential wildfires. Since wildfires are unexpected and can happen anywhere, it’s important to think ahead to make sure you’re ready when conditions align.
How can I help prevent a fire? There’s no denying the severe consequences of our own actions. Humans can help avoid causing wildfires by following simple camping, backyard debris burning, and lawn care guidelines outlined by the U.S. Forest Service’s Smokey Bear, like making sure all campfires are fully out before leaving them unattended, and fully extinguishing matches and cigarettes before discarding.
What can I do to help make sure my property doesn’t become fuel for a wildfire?
· The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends:
o Relocating firewood and vehicles, trimming tree branches and shrubs, removing dead trees and leaves, and cleaning your roof and gutters of anything that could burn.
o Storing outdoor furniture and decorations away from porches and decks.
o Screening off areas under decks to avoid build up of potentially flammable materials.
· Close all windows, doors and animal entrances, and seal any vent or other opening so embers can’t enter your home.
· Keep your lawn hydrated and well groomed.
· Choose fire-resistant plants, such as most deciduous trees and shrubs, which have higher moisture content.
· If you have vinyl gutters, consider replacing them with nonflammable, metal options.
· Shut off natural gas, propane or fuel supplies.
· Fill pools, garbage cans and other large outdoor vessels with water.
What can I do to better prepare for a wildfire?
· Create and practice an emergency evacuation plan with your family that includes where to meet outside the fire hazard area, and learn multiple evacuation routes in different directions.
o Not all places, like hotels or shelters, accept pets, so plan to keep your pets safe.
o Develop a communications plan with your family and friends to keep in touch throughout the disaster.
o Build or restock emergency kits for your home and car.
§ Consider including N95 respirator masks to filter out ash and other harmful particles in the air.
· Always keep your vehicle’s gas tank half full, and fill it if an evacuation seems likely.
· If you don’t have a car, plan with family, friends, neighbors or contact your local government for options.
· Take a home inventory of your belongings, including photos and/or video, or consider downloading a free home inventory app.
· Review your homeowner’s policy to update your home’s replacement value and potential coverage options.
What can I do to stay safe during a wildfire?
· Stay tuned to local news and weather or social media for safety messages and instructions.
o If instructed to evacuate, do so immediately.
· Listen and watch for air quality reports and health warnings, since smoke can irritate lungs and eyes, and make chronic heart and lung diseases worse.
o Wear your N95 masks.
· If trapped, call 911 and turn on your lights to make you easier to find.
o Keep in mind that emergency responders could be delayed or unable to reach you.
· If not instructed to evacuate, stay in your clean room or safe location where smoke levels are lower.
What can I do to be safe after a wildfire?
· Stay tuned to local news and weather or social media for updates.
· Proceed with caution before using or drinking water.
· Throw away any food that may be unsafe to eat, smells or looks unusual, or was in a refrigerator during a power outage.
· Avoid potential hot pockets on the ground, ash, embers or charred trees, which can burn you or cause another fire.
o Keep an eye on pets outside to avoid danger.
· Text to communicate, and only call in case of emergencies, since phone systems can be overwhelmed after an emergency.
· Document any damage to your property with photo and/or video and call your insurance agent as soon as possible.
There’s no such thing as being overprepared when it comes to wildfires. The more steps you take now, the better off you’ll be if a wildfire burns toward your home.