Now more than ever, disaster preparedness is essential if you live in an area at risk for wildfire.
A 2017 wildfire risk analysis found that 4.5 million U.S. homes were identified at either high or extremely high risk of wildfire - with over 2 million in California alone.
With 90% of woodland fires in the United States being caused by people, untold destruction from wildfires has taken place because of downed power lines, burning debris, unattended campfires, carelessly discarded cigarette butts or intentional arson.
The 2018 Camp Fire in California’s Butte County alone took the lives of 88 people and destroyed almost 19K structures, leveling whole neighborhoods with financial losses estimated between 8.5–10.5 billion dollars.
If your home is located in an area that is zoned as a high risk for wildfire, you need to make sure you are as prepared as possible should a disaster strike.
Wildfire Disaster Preparedness Checklist
Planning ahead can help you keep a level head and take care of everything in a timely manner, should disaster strike.
Everyone in your family should know where the water, gas, and electric mains are located and how to turn them off in an emergency.
Should your family have to quickly evacuate in an emergency, be sure everyone knows several different escape routes from both the home and the surrounding neighborhood. Once established, be sure that every member of your family has a complete understanding of how to get safely out of the home.
Establish a location where family members will meet after an emergency evacuation. In the event of a wildfire evacuation you may not be allowed to remain within a high-risk area.
Prior to a disaster, designate an out-of-area friend or family member as an emergency point of contact in the event of an evacuation situation. This one person should be your only point of contact during the moments following the emergency and will reach out to all members of the family who are separated during the disaster and coordinate communication. Having one point of contact is simply easier for everyone involved and frees up overloaded communication systems during an emergency.
Emergency Supply Kit
You’ll first want to gather all the items you’ll need in your emergency supply kit and then store them in airtight plastic bags placed in one or two containers – duffel bag or plastic bin – that are easy to grab and carry.
Include the following basic necessities in your kit:
- Water - one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food - at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
In addition to these basics, you may want to include individual items such as medications, clothing, pillows, bedding, personal hygiene items, and pet supplies.
An emergency supply kit buried under camping gear in the garage isn’t going to do you any good if you have to evacuate quickly. Be sure to keep your kit in a designated area that is easy to access if you need to evacuate during a disaster and that all family members know where it is.
Also, consider keeping an emergency kit in your vehicle in case you are away from home when a wildfire occurs.
In an emergency situation, you may find yourself having to quickly locate important papers or valuables. Preparing a detailed home inventory ahead of time can help you locate these valuable items without wasting precious time.
A thorough home inventory can also be useful for insurance purposes if your home and its contents are destroyed or damaged due to a wildfire or other disaster.
The first step to making your home inventory is creating a checklist. Look through different options that are available to you and pick the list that best suits your needs.
Once you have your checklist in hand, the process is pretty straight forward.
Walk through your home, room by room, and check-off items you own as you go. Don't skip over any small areas or items and supplement with photos and videos whenever possible. Upload these videos and pictures to a cloud-based storage solution.
Use an actual floor plan to create a storage map of items in your home inventory, highlighting valuable items.
Keep all your paperwork in one, easily accessible place so that you only have to mark it in one location on your inventory. Try to get rid of unnecessary multiple items to keep your list streamlined.
Once complete, you'll want to:
- create a digital or cloud-based backup
- update your inventory regularly
- keep an updated copy of inventory offsite
During an emergency, you will now have a clear reference to where important items are located and, if time allows, you can easily grab items that you don’t want to leave behind.
If your home falls victim to a wildfire, your inventory will be a very clear point of reference for your insurance company when you’re filing your claim.
You'll want to keep your most important documents in one easy to grab location.
Documents that you'll want to be able to take with you at a moment's notice include:
- insurance policies
- birth/ marriage certificates
- social security cards
- driver’s license
- financial accounts
- recent tax returns
- medical records
It's important to plan for your four-legged family members should a disaster strike.
Your pets should always wear a collar that includes i.d. tags with updated contact information.
Reach out to your local animal shelters to find out if they provide shelter for pets during an emergency. Also, research ahead of time where your pet might be taken if they are found if they're separated from you during an emergency. Then you know where to look when you're able to reunite when them.
Create a disaster emergency kit for your pet that includes:
- nylon leash
- pet carrier stocked with food and water dishes
- 7-10 days of food
- proof of rabies-vaccination status
- copies of other important medical records
- current photo of your pet (in case you're separated)
- food and treats
- necessary medications
- stress-relief products
- pet first-aid supplies
If your home is at high risk of wildfire, you want to be well-prepared ahead of time in case disaster strikes.
Planning for an emergency or evacuation can not only help you save items that are important to you but – more importantly – it can save lives.