How to Prepare for a Wildfire
Are You Prepared for a Wildfire?
Fires are scary. They spread rapidly and are unpredictable; the best thing you can do is get out of their way and evacuate safely. The hardest part is leaving your home and your belongings behind.
But if you know how to prepare for a wildfire, and how to leave your home as protected as possible, you can leave safely and with peace of mind that your home will be intact once you return.
Emergency preparedness can mean the difference between survival and devastation.
Top Tips for You and Your Family
1. Have a Plan
Make sure you and your family have an evacuation plan and that everyone knows what to do in an emergency. That means having an emergency kit ready to go at a moment’s notice. Evacuating during a wildfire requires additional items to your standard emergency kit including goggles that seal around your eyes to protect them from smoke, an N95-rated mask, boots, leather gloves, long sleeves, and pants made of a material that won’t melt or is easily burned.
Other essential items in an emergency survival kit include a flashlight, first aid kit, emergency blanket, extra cash, a hand-crank radio, and a multi-purpose tool. See the American Red Cross’s recommendations for a full emergency supply kit here.
2. Know Where to Go
Make sure you and your family know where to evacuate to. This goes hand-in-hand with having a plan, but a plan doesn’t do much if nobody knows where to go. Listening to local radio stations for real-time updates and evacuation orders will also help you navigate away from danger zones. Following the right social media accounts, like the US Forest Service, NOAA, and your local fire department, can help direct you as well.
Discuss maps and neighborhood meeting spots in case family members or neighbors get separated. It’s also wise to attend community meetings to discuss evacuation routes for when disaster strikes. This is especially true if you live in a wildland urban interface (WUI), areas deemed as high fire risk.
3. Don’t Forget Pets
Make sure to have an emergency bag packed for pets as well. That means having a carrier or leash, important documents, and an emergency supply of food and water ready to go in a moment’s notice.
4. Learn About Wildfires
Education is always beneficial. The more you know about how a fire behaves, the safer you can be when you are facing one.
While a fire can be highly unpredictable, there are still patterns to be aware of like embers igniting before flames, fires moving through treetops and via tree limbs, and which way the wind is blowing.
Wildfire safety starts with knowing about wildfires. Learn more at FireSafeMarin.org
Top Tips for Protecting Your Home
1. Assess Defensible Space
Remove ladder fuels and space vegetation properly to prevent a fire from spreading. The first five feet from your home is critical; it’s recommended to remove all flammable materials and vegetation within this zone. Identify anything flammable that could lead a fire to the home such as a fence extending to the edge of your property or hedgerow and remove or create space if possible.
Move any lawn furniture, building materials, or other flammable items away from the house or inside if time permits. Landscaping should also be well maintained and saturated; pine needles and debris should be raked up and removed, especially near power lines, the base of the home, and near decks. Anywhere an ember has a bed of kindling to nestle into should be addressed.
Filling up a water source like a swimming pool or pond can also provide helpful resources for firefighters. Also, make sure garden hoses are connected to water sources and functioning correctly. Running water can always come in handy when there is fire near!
2. Block Your Vents
Embers can enter your home through the vents, essentially burning the home from the inside out. If you don’t have vent guards in place, at least make sure something is blocking your home’s vents like ⅛” screen or smaller.
Also, make sure there are no flammable materials right near vent entrances. Things like piles of old clothes or drapes in an attic or basement near vents can set fire if embers make their way in.
3. Clean Your Gutters
Being proactive about protecting your home can go a long way. Making sure your gutters are clean of combustible debris and made with durable, noncombustible material is an additional way to help keep your home standing in the event of a wildfire.
Installing gutter guards and gutters made of all metal is the best way to make sure your home doesn’t go up in flames.
4. Install Exterior Fire Sprinklers
Installing exterior fire sprinklers on your roof means that the vulnerable areas around your home will be well saturated, preventing a fire from igniting and spreading.
5. Review Your Home Insurance Policy
Going over your policy before you actually need it is a good idea. It’s better to know what your insurance will cover in the case of damage before you need to file a claim. Plus, if you review coverage beforehand, you may still have time to update before it’s too late.
While you should worry about your loved ones’ safety first and foremost, taking certain precautions to protect your home will give you peace of mind as you evacuate.
The good news is that Ember Defense can help with all of the above home-hardening tips. We will:
- Assess your home for defensible space.
- Retrofit vents with Vulcan Vents.
- Add Valor Gutter Guards.
- Install exterior fire sprinklers.
- Evaluate your home insurance coverage.
It’s time to take precautions into your own hands. Do what you can to keep your home standing. Let Ember Defense help.