While many people follow evacuation orders during wildfires, a significant portion of residents in fire-prone areas choose to “wait and see.” But, experts say this course of action is (for lack of a better term) playing with fire.
Sixty percent of lives lost to wildland fire occur because people chose to “wait and see.” If you’re told to evacuate, it’s crucial that you do so immediately. A lack of preparedness to defend one’s home and a delay in leaving can increase the risk to both public safety and property, says the Society for Risk Analysis.
Follow these steps to ready your family, your property, and your well-being:
Prepare your family:
Gather your loved ones and alert them that you’re preparing to evacuate.
1. Put your emergency kit and valuables into vehicles. Create an emergency kit now, so you’re prepared when or if a wildfire strikes. This kit should hold essential items like important family documents, credit and ATM cards, medications, prescription glasses, driver’s license, passport, computer backup files, an inventory of home contents, photograph of the house and landscape, address book, cell phone and charger, personal toiletries, change of clothing, family photos and videos, and family heirlooms. Revisit your kit periodically and update items if needed.
2. Ready your vehicles. Park your cars facing in the direction of escape, roll up the windows, and leave keys in the ignition. Close the garage door, and leave it unlocked. And if applicable, disconnect the electric garage door opener so that the door can be opened manually in the event of a power outage.
3. Prepare the animals. Put pets in carriers and set aside in a safe, and accessible place—they need to be ready to load into your vehicle. Load horses or other livestock into a trailer and hitch to your car. Contact the Humane Society for assistance if needed.
4. Dress for safety. Have everybody put on socks, closed-toe leather shoes or boots, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt. If possible, grab leather gloves, a bandana, and a hat. Keep a flashlight and portable radio with you at all times—you’ll need to tune into a local radio station to listen for instructions and updates.
5. Contact the neighbors. Check with your neighbors to see if they need assistance, and offer to share transportation. Be sure to notify others when you leave and where you plan to go.
If it’s safe and there’s enough time, prepare your home:
If all vehicles are packed, and everyone is ready to go, you may still have time to do a few things to protect your home.
1. Ready your house. Close all windows and doors. Place removable covers on the attic and basements vents. Remove flammable window treatments, and close metal window blinds. Turn on all outside lights to help firefighters find your house.
2. Prepare emergency water supplies. Place generators near pumps to provide backup power for your well. Connect hoses, and place them where they can be easily found. If you can, make sure all garden hoses are connected to faucets and attach nozzles set on “spray.” Ensure that enclosed water tanks are marked and easily accessible.
3. Clear outdoor living spaces. Move flammable items to enclosed storage areas and cover them securely.
4. Store recreational vehicles. Move recreational cars away from structures and into enclosed storage areas, or cover them securely.
5. Wet it down. Strategically place sprinklers to wet structures and surroundings (like wood shake or shingle roofs) and turn them on.
6. Break up contiguous fuels. Open gates to prevent flames from spreading from a fence to a structure.
Remember, there is nothing you own that’s worth your life. Please evacuate immediately when asked by firefighters and law enforcement officials.
For more information:
Idaho Firewise is a non-profit organization that develops and promotes statewide wildfire education for those who live in or visit Idaho. To learn more about wildfire prevention and protection, visit www.idahofirewise.org.