Wildfire Evacuation Tips: What Can You Do To Make Sure You’re Ready?
Some areas may be more prone than others, but wildfires can happen anywhere in the U.S., according to Ready.gov. Wildfires can be caused by natural phenomena, like lightning, or by humans (accidentally or intentionally), and can start in national parks, wilderness areas or even your backyard. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there were more than 67,000 wildfires that burned over 5.5 million acres in 2016 in the U.S. Those fires resulted in the destruction of 4,312 structures, including 3,000 homes and more than 70 commercial buildings, says the National Fire Protection Association.
Of course, loss of property is secondary compared to the potential for serious injury when evacuation notices are ignored or when residents flee too late. Here are some wildfire evacuation tips to help you prepare.
What Can You Do In Advance to be Ready?
Preparing what supplies you might need and what actions you should take can help you and your family stay safe, says Ready.gov. This preparation may include:
- Planning an evacuation route. Know how to leave your immediate area or region and have a plan for where to go if you have to evacuate. Plan a few alternate routes and destinations so you have options, depending on the specifics of the wildfire. Follow the instructions provided by local officials, and don’t forget to include your pets in you plans.
- Developing a family communication plan. Create a network or phone tree for your family and determine who will help which family members, facilitate communication, take care of children, handle medications, etc., says Ready.gov.
- Creating a family emergency plan. Putting your communication and evacuation plans on paper (or online) can help make sure everyone is on the same page and has the information they need.
- Stocking an emergency kit. Consider putting together an emergency kityou can keep in your car that includes items like food, water, flashlight, hand-crank radio, first aid kit, dust masks, prescription medications, clothing, matches, etc. You can customize your emergency kit based on your specific needs using the suggestions from gov.
What Should You Do During And After a Wildfire Evacuation?
If there are wildfires in your area, prepare yourself and your family to evacuate on short notice. Local TV and radio outlets may issue a fire weather watch, which means fire weather conditions are possible during the next 12 to 72 hours, according to Ready.gov. Consider these tips from Ready.gov for what to do once your local weather service issues a fire weather watch:
- If ordered to evacuate, do it immediately and tell the people on your contact list in your family communication plan.
- If you or a family member suffer burns, cool and cover them, and call 911 immediately.
- Return to your home or apartment only after local authorities report that it is safe to do so.
- Use caution when entering burned areas, as it may still be hazardous.
- Check and re-check your home for smoke and hidden embers.
- When cleaning your home after a wildfire evacuation, Ready.gov suggests to wear a respirator certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and wet down any debris to limit dust particles.
- Discard any food that you think may have been exposed to heat, smoke or soot, and don’t use water that you think might be contaminated for personal tasks like washing hands, dishes, cooking and brushing teeth.
Proper planning and following some simple precautions can help you and your family stay safe during emergency events like wildfires.
Originally published June 2012.