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Wildfire Evacuation Tips: What Can You Do To Make Sure You’re Ready?

Published: February 2018

Some areas may be more prone than others, but wildfires can happen anywhere in the U.S., according to Wildfires can be caused naturally, such as by a lightning strike, or by humans (accidentally or intentionally), and can start in national parks, wilderness areas or even in a residential neighborhood.

It’s important to know ahead of time what to do if there is a wildfire in your area. From having necessary supplies on hand to creating a communication plan, here are some wildfire evacuation tips to help you and your family stay safe.

Smoke cloud in mountain forest.


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What Can You Do to Prepare for a Wildfire?

Being prepared before a wildfire is in the area may save valuable time and help you and your family stay safe. recommends including the following tasks in your preparation:

Plan an Evacuation Route
Have a plan for where to go if you have to evacuate. Know where evacuation shelters are located, and be familiar with a few alternate routes and destinations so you have options depending on where the fire is. Make a plan for pets and farm animals, too.

Develop a Family Communication Plan
Create a network or phone tree for your family that outlines how you will keep contact and, if necessary, reunite if you are separated. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that everyone keep a copy of the plan with them.

Create a Family Emergency Plan
It’s a good idea to determine ahead of time who will help which family members, pack certain items and handle necessary tasks if you ever need to evacuate. If everyone has assigned responsibilities, it may be easier to navigate an evacuation. Consider your family’s specific needs, such as medical restrictions, as well as whether children and pets will need extra help.

Stock an Emergency Kit
Consider putting together an emergency kit you can keep in your car that includes items like food, water, a flashlight, hand-crank radio, first aid kit, dust masks, prescription medications and clothing. You can customize your emergency kit to accommodate your specific needs. Don’t forget to pack items for your pets, too.

Sign Up for Emergency Alerts
In many communities, you can opt to receive a phone call or text from local authorities if there is an emergency situation in your area. You may also receive an alert from the Emergency Alert System via TV, radio or cellphone.

Protect Important Documents
Gather important documents, such as birth certificates and insurance policies, and put them in a fireproof safe. (If time allows, you may want to bring these documents with you when you evacuate.) You may also want to create digital copies of the documents for added peace of mind.

What Should You Do During and After a Wildfire Evacuation?

If there are wildfires in your area, the American Red Cross says it’s time to prepare yourself and your family to evacuate on short notice. Listen to local TV and radio stations for updated emergency information. Replenish your emergency kit, if necessary, and put it in your vehicle. Start making arrangements with friends or relatives you can stay with, or locate the closest shelters.

Consider these tips from for what to do if a wildfire begins in your area:

  • If ordered to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • If you or a family member are trapped, 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 they may still be hazardous and have heat pockets.
  • Wear a respirator certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and wet down any debris to limit dust particles.

While you cannot predict when an emergency will happen, planning ahead and following basic precautions may help you and your family stay safe in the case of a wildfire.

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Our pages are filled with helpful tips and information about the topics that most of us face in our everyday lives. We focus on safety and maintenance issues with regard to your home, auto, apartment, motorcycle, boat, small business, finances and more. Please recognize that a particular tip may not be effective in every circumstance and that taking preventive measures cannot guarantee any outcome. We encourage you to use your own good judgment about what's appropriate for you and your property and always consider safety.
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