How to Prepare for a Wildfire Evacuation
It’s already been a deadly year for California wildfires, but experts say and burn injury lawyers say the worst may be yet to come. The majority of the 100-plus large wildfires actively burning in the U.S. are in the West. Dry weather and extreme heat are contributing to California’s current fires, but upcoming autumn winds in September and October could exacerbate the problem. If you live in an area at risk of wildfires, you need to know how to prepare in the event of an emergency evacuation. The better your preparedness, the faster you can get to safety when it counts the most.
Prep Your Home
Thousands of people lose their homes to wildfires every year. While you can’t always prevent serious property damage in the midst of a raging fire, you can take steps to minimize the damage if there is time. If time does not allow you to take the following steps, leave without them. Your personal safety is more important than your home! If you do have time before evacuating, however, carry out the following steps:
- Shut your windows and doors.
- Remove flammable window treatments.
- Close metal shutters, if you have them.
- Move flammable furniture away from windows and doors, in the center of each room.
- Shut off your gas and turn off your pilot lights.
- Turn off the air conditioning.
- Gather flammable items from your home’s exterior and put them inside or in your swimming pool.
- Turn off any propane tanks and move BBQ supplies away from structures.
- Don’t leave sprinklers on, as this could impact water pressure.
- Patrol your property for signs of fire threats.
Your home is important to you, but it’s not the most important thing in a wildfire. Only ready your home for evacuation if you have plenty of time to do so before evacuating to a safer location. There have been cases in the past involving evacuation notifications coming too late for families. Don’t wait for someone to tell you to leave. Patrol your property on your own and monitor the situation yourself. As soon as you don’t feel safe, prepare to evacuate to the nearest wildfire shelter.
Create an Evacuation Go-Bag
Create an emergency evacuation “go-bag” and keep it fully stocked and ready to go at all times. Your bag should only include the essentials. This can include a first aid kit, your personal documents (such as birth certificates), prescriptions and medical devices, nonperishable food, water, a burn treatment kit, face masks, a change of clothes, flashlight, and a battery-powered radio. Your bag should be light enough to carry with you comfortably and to run with.
If time allows during an evacuation, take other essentials such as valuables that are easy to carry, family photos, irreplaceable items, and personal computer information. Otherwise, leave everything behind but your go bag. Prepare your vehicle for evacuation by loading it up with your go-bag and other things, if there’s time, and backing it into your driveway.
Prep Your Pets
When you first hear of wildfires in your region, locate your pets and keep them close by in case of evacuation. If you have barn animals, arrange for them to stay in safe shelters if you can. Some communities in California offer barn space for fire emergencies. Keep family pets nearby and ready to travel before an evacuation. Make sure they’re ready to go, with all vital food and/or medications, at the earliest mention of evacuation. Move your pets to a safe location early, if possible.
Know Before You Go
Know your evacuation destination in advance, along with a backup destination if your first is unsafe due to the fires. Find out the nearest wildfire shelter to you through statewide safety resources. Prepare to leave your home with your go-bag and pets immediately if your location receives an order to evacuate. Always take these orders seriously and leave right away. Staying prepared 24/7 can help keep your family safe during California’s wildfire season.