It’s time to start considering wildfire season and getting ready!
Due to her work schedule our 18 year old daughter remained at home.
Only after 2pm I received a frantic phone call from her saying she could see a large fire burning in the mountains behind our home and she wanted to know what she should do if she needed to evacuate. My first reaction was, how bad is it?
This wildfire, called the Quail Hollow fire, consumed almost 2900 acres and caused the evacuation of 500 houses. At the time, it was the highest priority fire burning in america due to the perfect fire conditions and the dense population it had been threatening.
So now, hundreds of miles apart, we were putting a plan in place. We told our daughter what she needed to do in case our home was at risk and, most of all, that if she had been asked to evacuate, she would do this immediately.
I did have emergency survival kits and items in storage ready for a fast evacuation, but we never discussed the program officially as a household. That was a big mistake. For some reason, I’d always imagined that I’d be the one at home and ready to put our plan into action.
We were not one of the 500 homes evacuated, but I know several who were. In talking to them, they had hardly any time to evacuate because of the swiftness of the fire. It was quite fast moving due to drought conditions and the wind. Many just had time to catch a personal item or two and leave.
Our plan was flawed in a couple ways: (1) I left out a step by not communicating the details of the plan to my family, and (2) it lacked contingency plans for unexpected events. As Robert Burns wrote”Even the best laid plans of mice or men go astray.” Things won’t always happen as we plan and planning for many scenarios is crucial.
You NEED to have a plan. Why?
Emergencies occur without notice, especially wildfires.
Your family may not be in one place, as was the case for us.
So everyone knows what to do in an emergency and where the supplies are.
So you aren’t planning during the emergency – not the best idea.
Where should one begin?
Create a plan
Create or restock your emergency kits
RECOGNIZE WHAT YOUR WILDFIRE RISKS ARE
Depending on where you live your risk of wildfires will vary. Understanding the dangers help you formulate a plan. If you are at risk, then find out
How your Community government plans to Deal with a wildfire situation
How will your local government will communicate with the community,
What are the evacuation routes (sometimes roads are closed down to ease emergency vehicles).
Knowing the inherent dangers can help you minimize a few of the dangers for you, your loved ones and your property.
Keep gutters clear
Eliminate fire prone materials from around your house (i.e. woodpiles)
Landscape properly so that fire likely landscaping is away from significant structures.
This may be the difference between receiving fire damage or not.
CREATE A PLAN
Decide how you will communicate with one another, especially in the event that normal communication lines are unavailable.
Predetermine common meeting places if you are separated. Based on the circumstances, it may be a meeting place outside your home, neighborhood school, church, or a relative or friend’s home in another city.
Collect contact information to your family, friends and other significant or applicable emergency contact numbers. Make sure everybody has a copy of this information.
Have access to a radio or other sorts of communication and know where you need to go to get alarms. Keeping yourself informed can help you exercise your plan.
Contain contingency plans for different scenarios.
When You Have to evacuate
If You’re trapped
Maybe you need to stay put where you are
Your Family are in different locations
Involve your members of your family from the planning
Like I mentioned earlier, wildfires happen quickly and unexpectedly, often leaving you no time to put a bag together. With an emergency survival kit that’s ready and easy to grab is a must have in an emergency evacuation situation. A kit that can provide food, water and supplies for 72 hours is highly recommended. Depending on the magnitude of the emergency it can take emergency support groups a while to get in and supply services, especially if they are not able to immediately access the area.
You can buy an emergency survival kit or create your own 72 hour kit. Here’s a recommended supply list. Feel free to customize according to your own personal needs and your plan of action.
Water and food to last for 72 Hours:
1 Gallon of water per person per day, for washing, cooking and drinking.
(MRE’s, survival food bars or canned food work great in a kit). Items that don’t need cooking are best. If you use freeze-dried foods you will need to increase your water supply.
Emergency water filters and purification supplies. This might not be required but it is going to extend your water that could be extremely important during the warmer temperatures of the wildfire season.
Cooking, Heating, and Lighting supplies:
Cooking: Utensils, Cups and Dishes. Portable cook stove if your food needs cooking. I still recommend food that doesn’t need cooking.
Warmth: Emergency Blanket, Hand Warmers, Sleeping Bag, Tent.
Lighting: Battery or Hand Crank Operated Flashlight (LED Flashlights last longer than traditional bulbs), Glow Sticks.
First Aid Kit and other Special Needs:
Drugs and Prescriptions:
Enough medicine to last enough time till you can get some more, particularly in the event your home is destroyed.
An Emergency Radio rather a hand crank radio is Essential to keep you up to date on the latest information
Two-way radios are particularly helpful for communication
It’s always good to have money available in small denominations
An extra change of clothes including extra layering items if situated in colder weather or gets chilly at night
Important Documents: (not all are a requirement but certainly nice to have)
Your Disaster Plan for each emergency survival kit
Listing of compiled emergency contact information; this can also include potential evacuation routes and predetermined gathering locations
Copy of Identification papers (license, passport)
Too often we neglect the importance of hygiene and sanitation in an emergency.
Soap and Towel
It’s ideal to store emergency survival kits and additional supplies in wheeled plastic containers. This will keep your gear more organized and easier to carry. Always start with the fundamentals of everything you will need and over time add to your kits.
Communicate and Practice the Plan
This is a crucial step as we found out. If your family doesn’t know what the plan is made up of, what their role is or where your supplies are not one of the prior steps matter. Every person needs to understand:
What each person’s responsibilities are
How each person Will work together
Where all of your emergency survival kits are saved
What and how to use all the items in your emergency survival kit
Practice as much of this program as you possibly can, such as contingency plans. Practicing will even show you defects or inconsistencies in your plan.
Assess your risk for wildfire and take the necessary actions to safeguard yourself, your family, your pets, and your property. You will never regret having taken the time to prepare. Discuss the plan during family meetings. You might even want a fire safety week or month for your family during which you build the plan, make or buy the kits, and practice what to do in a wildfire emergency.