During the recent devastating wildfires that destroyed thousands of acres of land and displaced even more families, a common thread connecting the survivors was “if I had known this was going to happen I would have done….”
Keeping this in mind, here are some actions to consider when confronted with a major catastrophe involving fire.
If response officials have given the order to evacuate, do so immediately. Ensure your home is locked and choose a route that takes you away from the fire hazard; this can be done by watching for changes in the speed and direction of the fire and smoke. Also, inform friends and family members that you will be leaving and maintain a means of contact so they can stay informed of your situation while en route to a designated safe haven.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends the following precautionary measures in the event of a wildfire.
• Arrange temporary housing at a friend’s or relative’s home outside the threatened area in case you need to evacuate
• If within the range-of-fire, wear protective clothing such as sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen long pants, long-sleeved shirt, heavy-duty gloves and a handkerchief to minimize smoke inhalation
• Close all entryways, inside and outside, to reduce radiated heat and to minimize drafts
• Shut off natural gas, propane or fuel oil supplies at the source to reduce the chance of ignition
• Time permitting, fill any pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs or other large containers with water
• Place lawn sprinklers to saturate the roof and near above-ground fuel tanks with water
• Disconnect automatic garage door openers so doors can be opened by hand if the power goes out
• Place valuable papers, mementos and anything “you can’t live without” inside the car for a quick departure
• Turn on outside lights and leave a light on in every room to make the house more visible through heavy smoke.
Southern California residents, have taken steps to reduce their wildfire risk. Using proven principles for wildfire safety, a total of 61 communities have participated for several years in the national Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program. This program, emphasizes community involvement and helps residents learn how to do their part to keep their homes and property safer from wildfires.
Look around and see how much of this you can accomplish and ensure all family members are aware of what needs to be done and make plans to execute as best as possible. This fire season is going to be a long one, so let us get through it safely by being involved and prepared.
Always keep in mind that if you see a wildfire, immediately dial 9-1-1; do not assume that someone else has already called. Describe the location of the fire, speak slowly and clearly and answer the dispatcher’s questions.
For more information on how to prepare for fire-related disasters, visit the following informative websites:
- FEMA at www.fema.gov
- United States Fire Administration at http://www.usfa.fema.gov.
- Firewise communities at http://www.firewise.org/
- National Fire Protection Agency at http://www.nfpa.org