In 2017, wildfires ravaged the West Coast. The devastation left people wondering how they could prepare for the next time. Wildfire disaster management plans are the way to do that. Preparation is vital when you want to protect your life and the lives of your family. In order to do that correctly, you have to know how to create a wildfire disaster management plan.
There are several steps that go into being prepared and making a plan. First, you have to find out how at risk you are. Then you have to make an emergency kit that will fit your families needs and situation. Finally, if you must evacuate your home, your plan should outline your steps in an orderly fashion.
The next time you get an alert that there is a wildfire near you, this wildfire disaster management plan will help your family will reach safety.
Are You at Risk of Losing Everything?
Before you plan for a natural disaster, it is always vital that you know your risk. For example, if you live in Florida, you know that you are at risk of hurricane damage. If you live in Kansas, tornadoes would be a concern. Wildfires can happen anywhere at any time. However, they occur more frequently in places like California. And if you live in specific zones, you are at a more significant risk than in other areas.
To find out if you are in danger, check with your local or state authorities. For instance, in California, residents can go to CA.gov and look at the Cal Fire map to find out what zone they live in. California Fire has identified which areas in the state are at a higher risk and formulated a wildfire disaster management plan.
Take a look at the map below:
States keep track of weather conditions and alert the public about risks. The federally controlled Air Now website also tracks air quality across the country. This lets people know if conditions are favorable for wildfires which then allows people to implement their wildfire disaster management plan. All they have to do is enter their zip code, and the websites let them know what the conditions in their area are.
How to Get Ready for an Evacuation
Now on to developing the best wildfire disaster management plan for your own family. This will help you get out quickly if local officials find a wildfire and alert you to the danger.
Before the evacuation alert: Make an emergency supply kit
Emergency supply kits are a significant part of your wildfire disaster management plan. It prepares your family for an extended period away from your home, so make sure you have everything you’ll need to make a temporary home. For example, you will need three days of non-perishable food per person, a battery operated radio, and about three gallons of water per person. Also, keep a map marked with at least three evacuation routes.
As part of your wildfire disaster management kit, you will want to make sure you bring photocopies of your credit cards/debit cards (or, a second set of cards if your bank allows that) along with cash or traveler’s checks. You will also need copies of your essential documents including a copy of your mortgage, social security cards and birth certificates, marriage certificates and financial records. Your kit is not complete without two additional sets of clothing per person. Finally, always keep a flashlight and a sturdy pair of shoes/boots for each person, for peaceful evacuation purposes, especially at night.
For a comprehensive disaster preparation checklist, check out our article here.
Practice makes perfect
It is also essential to practice your wildfire drills with family and any pets. You will want to repeat this with a stopwatch until it takes you five to 10 minutes to get out and on the road to safety. If you do not have time to get away from your house, use a roof access ladder to get on the roof so rescue workers can see you.
When you anticipate the possibility of an evacuation
According to readyforwildfire.org as part of your wildfire disaster management plan, you’ll also want to remove all curtains from your windows and make sure they are tightly sealed but not locked. If you have metal window shutters, close them, too. Then, move all flammable furniture into the middle of a large room. These simple steps might save your home.
How Do Wildfires Form?
Meteorologists have not figured out why and when wildfires are going to happen. However, while they cannot forecast them accurately, there are three conditions that can cause wildfires to start. Firefighters refer to it as the fire triangle: oxygen, a heat source, and fuel.
Wildfires move at speeds between nine and 12.5 miles per hour while torching everything in their path. That may not seem fast, but how long do you think you could run that fast? Wind makes these fires worse, and dry brush feeds them. One of the reasons the West Coast has such a problem is because they have experienced terrible droughts. Also, the Pacific coast is incredibly windy.
In 2017, the fires were especially brutal in California. It seemed that as soon as the fire department put one out, another would spring up. The “Thomas Fire” in Ventura County, California was the biggest and became the largest in California history. The fire scorched 281,893 acres of land, including 2,820 buildings and homes, while killing 15 people. Wind and the dry environment created it. Mudslides, created by the debris from the fire, killed another 17 people in the ensuing weeks.
Having a wildfire disaster management plan could have saved some of those lives.
Wildfire disaster management: how to prevent wildfires
You have probably all heard the Smokey the Bear commercials where he tells you that only you can prevent forest fires. He is not wrong. You absolutely can help, and it is a vital piece of your wildfire disaster management. For instance, you can make sure that you never leave matches, lighters, and fireworks in the reach of children. Kids are naturally curious, and they will mess with everything. In 2017, a teen in Oregon started a massive wildfire after playing with firecrackers.
Additionally, keep burn piles 500 feet away from any forest and 50 feet away from structures. Keep your yard clear of the brush by trimming your bushes regularly and mowing your grass. Do not ever flick your cigarette butts onto the ground. Cigarettes are notorious for starting fires. Also, be sure to remove debris from your gutters and roof.
Furthermore, use common sense when trying to prevent fires as part of your wildfire disaster management plan. For instance, do not throw out smoldering charcoal from the grill or park a hot car on dry grass, etc.
When to call 911
If you do start a fire accidentally, make sure you alert authorities as soon as possible. Do not run away before you call 911, even if you started the fire doing something you were not supposed to be doing. The authorities can contain a small fire a lot easier than they can hold back something like the Thomas Fire.
Get your neighbors involved
Another thing you can do when preparing for a disaster is helping your neighbors get ready. Maybe you have some elderly neighbors in your neighborhood who do not have the means you do. Go to their homes and see if they need your help. If so, you can help them create wildfire disaster management kits for their household.
Do not leave your pets
In addition to creating a wildfire disaster management plan for humans, you need to make sure that you have a wildfire disaster management plan for your pets, During the California wildfires, an obscene number of animals were left behind. Do not be one of those people. Create emergency kits for them with extra food, bottles of water, and medicine if they take it. Make sure you have a place to go that allows you to bring your pets with you. Also, see if your neighbors are doing the same. Leaving animals in a fire to die is the epitome of cruelty. Take steps to prevent that.
Get Started on Your Plan Today
Every day you could make a difference just by following a few simple steps. As listed above, it is very important to take precautions. There is nothing wrong with preparing for the worst. Follow a few simple guidelines like for example, using ashtrays instead of tossing your “butts” out the window and tending your campfires and outdoor grills.
As we all know Smokey’s favorite line: “Only you can prevent forest fires,” and he is 100 percent correct. We can help prevent wildfires across the whole country, so what do you say? Would you like to protect our Earth? What are you waiting for? Let’s try to protect our grasslands and forests because they are truly too beautiful to lose?