How to Prepare for an Emergency – Wildfires
More and more people are making their homes in woodland settings, rural areas or remote mountain sites. While residents in these areas enjoy the beauty of the environment around them, they also face the very real danger of wildfires.
Droughts and dry conditions throughout various times of the year increase the risk for wildfires. Careless use of fire in highly wooded areas can also dramatically increase the chance of a wildfire, which can then quickly spread across trees and dry brush and threaten homes and businesses that are in vicinity.
Wildfires often begin unnoticed. However, they spread quickly and every second counts! Talk with members of your household about wildfires—how to prevent them and what to do if one occurs.
How to Prepare for a Wildfire
- Post emergency phone numbers by every phone in your home.
- Make sure driveway entrances and your house number or address are clearly marked.
- Identify and maintain an adequate water source outside your home, such as a small pond, cistern, well or swimming pool.
- Set aside household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, ax, hand saw or chain saw, bucket and shovel. You may need to fight small fires before emergency responders arrive.
- Select building materials and plants that resist fire.
- Regularly clean roofs and gutters.
Plan Ahead and Stay Safe
Plan and practice two ways out of your neighborhood in case your primary route is blocked. Select a place for family members to meet outside your neighborhood in case you cannot get home or need to evacuate. Identify someone who is out of the area to contact if local phone lines are not working.
Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice
Listen to local radio and television stations for updated emergency information. Always back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. Confine pets to one room so that you can find them if you need to evacuate quickly. Arrange for temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area.
Listen and watch for air quality reports and health warnings about smoke. Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from getting in. Use the recycle or re-circulate mode on the air conditioner in your home or car. If you do not have air conditioning and it is too hot to stay inside with closed windows, seek shelter elsewhere.
When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns and adds to indoor air pollution, such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves. Do not vacuum because it stirs up particles that are already inside your home. If you have asthma or another lung disease, follow your health care provider’s advice and seek medical care if your symptoms worsen.
Returning Home After a Wildfire
- Do not enter your home until fire officials say it is safe.
- Use caution when entering burned areas as hazards may still exist, including hot spots, which can flare up without warning.
- Avoid damaged or fallen power lines, poles and downed wires.
- Watch for ash pits and mark them for safety—warn family and neighbors to keep clear of the pits also.
- Watch animals closely and keep them under your direct control. Hidden embers and hot spots could burn your pets’ paws or hooves.
- Follow public health guidance on safe cleanup of fire ash and safe use of masks.
- Wet debris down to minimize breathing dust particles.
- Wear leather gloves and heavy soled shoes to protect hands and feet.
- Cleaning products, paint, batteries and damaged fuel containers need to be disposed of properly to avoid risk.