Depending on where you live, it might be that time of year again, fire season. Making sure you are ready and having a fire safety plan are important topics this time of year.
Fire awareness has been fresh on my mind, mainly due to living in California and recently evacuated.
A few years ago, I lived in Sonoma County, where I was evacuated for three weeks. Having a plan was the one thing that gave me peace of mind. Fire season is upon us, so I will be focusing on that, but these ideas could be used for other natural disasters too.
Having a plan on what to do in all emergencies is extremely important. Today we are going to address wildfire safety.
If this happens to you (as it has to me more times than I would like to admit), it’s important to know that you might not have much time to think about what is going on.
I’ve been in situations where I had the time and others where I could grab one or two things while running out the door. It’s pretty scary to be woken up in the middle of the night, smoke filling the room, and you have seconds to get up and out of your house.
You might be wondering what you should do in this situation.
There will be many thoughts racing through your head. First, you will need to realize what is going on around you. Unless you have any training, it will take a few moments to understand what is going on. You will then have more questions, like
- How immediate is the threat (fire smoke, flames in the room)?
- Do you grab a go-bag and get out of the house?
- Do you live with family members that you will need to get, or is it just you?
- Do you have a plan? Where will you meet up with other family members if you get separated?
I hope to get you thinking about some of these questions now. So if the worst happens, you already have a plan. If you want to prepare, even more, getting your home ready for fire season can help buy extra time, when it matters most.
Is Your Home Ready?
There are preventative steps you can take to help prepare your home. As for me, I rent, but this is also important to make sure your landlord, or property manager, is on the correct path.
Some of this might seem like a lot of work, but if you keep this mindset all year round, it will quickly become second nature.
If you go to the CalFire website or even your local fire department, you will see different safety zones around your home. There is the immediate area, five feet from your home, up to 100 yards.
I like to simplify things, so I’m going to say a safe middle ground is up to thirty feet from your residence. If you can go further, that is even better!
- Up to thirty feet from your home:
- Create a safe defensible space around your home. Consider this a buffer zone to help firefighters defend your home.
- It has been recommended to me to not have any shrubs in this area.
- Trim all branches from trees (I have heard ten feet is minimum from your roof)
- Do not keep any fuel within five feet of your home (keep them at least 30 feet from your home to be safe)
- Make sure your roof and gutters are clear of leaves.
- Clear all the dead trees and flammable brush (a perfect example is manzanita bushes and eucalyptus trees)
If you think this is way to difficult to do, I understand. You might live in an area where there are trees everywhere, or have neighbors a few feet from you. But keeping a defensible space around your home is essential.
Just because I find law interesting, in the state of CA, you must have 100 feet of defensible space to the property line around structures to protect residents, first responders, and property (CA Public Resource Code 4291). Think of it more as safety for you and everyone else.
The Best Time To Start Is NOW!
Consider walking around your property and home to take note of what is going on. You can keep the above list as a guide, but you might be surprised by what you see.
- Have you done any yard work recently?
- Are there piled-up leaves, dead trees or branches?
- When was the last time you cleaned out your gutters?
- Have you considered getting screens or another device to prevent gutters from clogging up in the future?
- Is your home easy to identify?
I mention the last one because it’s important to have a reflective address sign. Quick side story, at my old residence, I lived on top of a hill, and our home was set back from the main road. Having a reflective address sign was the only way firefighters could locate our home. Something that was not there before my living there.
Depending on where you live, there are services you can sign up for that can provide important information to you. Two of the ones I use are Nixle and red flag warnings. Also, being in CA, sign up for PSPS so you know when PG&E will turn off your power (yes, getting your power shut off is a pain in the butt, here is my suggestion for a portable power solution).
My Last Suggestions – Have A Plan
To help you prepare for the worst, having to leave your home, check out my how to make a plan for emergencies post, I wrote a while ago. Some takeaways from that include:
- Do not panic. You will be in a stressful time, but that is why we are going over this now. Remember to take a breath (assuming smoke isn’t everywhere) items can always be replaced, your loved ones not so much.
- Having a go-bag that is easy to grab if that is all the time you have. You can put many different things in it but remember to have digital copies of important papers and photos on a USB drive)
- Have a few pre-planned escape routes. Make sure all family members know the ways and where to meet up.
- Consider medications you might need to take for yourself or a family member.
- Speaking of family members, have a plan for your pets too! Are they going with you, dropping them off elsewhere? What about extra food, water, leashes, carriers, and keep a digital copy of their immunizations and licenses on a USB drive.
- Suppose you happen to have some time before you have to get out. Do not forget to grab some food and water.
- When you are getting out of your neighborhood, remember NOT to panic and drive responsibly. People do crazy things when they are panicking, but you are different. You are going to know your plan and drive while watching your surroundings.
Some topics are difficult to discuss, but it’s crucial you do. I hope this has got you thinking about what your plan will be. Just the simple act of having a plan will help put you at ease when the worst happens.
My question for you is this, do you and your family have a plan? If you do, let me know in the comments below.
I am more than happy to help you out if you have any questions or concerns as well. If I don’t have the answer, I will find someone who does.
Stay safe, make a plan, and don’t forget to review the plan with your loved ones.