Wildfire Season and How to Prepare For It - San Francisco VA Health Care System
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Wildfire Season and How to Prepare For It

Wildfires can occur anywhere and can quickly destroy our homes

It’s wildfire season. Here are some tips and good practices for preparing yourself and your family in the event of a wildfire. Being prepared for wildfires is the best way to stay safe!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

As those of us who live in California know too well, wildfires may occur anywhere and can quickly destroy our homes, businesses, and our natural resources. When a wildfire strikes, we need to take swift action. Before a wildfire strikes, we need to prepare. Here are some tips from www.ready.gov:

Before a wildfire strikes, take action to make your home and business area more resistant to catching fire and burning. Reduce the amount of material that can burn easily, clear away debris, and use fire-resistant materials for landscaping and construction. Review your homeowners or renters insurance policy to make sure you have enough coverage for your property and personal belongings.

Stay informed by monitoring weather reports provided by your local news radio and TV stations.

When a wildfire threatens your area, plan to protect yourself and your family by evacuating early to avoid being trapped. Be familiar with your community’s evacuation routes. Keep the car fueled and in good condition, and stow some emergency supplies plus a change of clothes. If there is smoke, do drive carefully as visibility may be reduced. Keep your headlights on and watch for other vehicles and fleeing animals.

If you expect to go to a shelter after evacuating, download the American Red Cross Shelter Finder app at www.redcross.org/mobile-apps/shelter-finder-app. This app displays a map of all open American Red Cross shelters and provides the capacity and the current population of each shelter. You can also text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area. It’s a good idea to call and ask if the shelter can accommodate pets. Shelters will accept service animals.

Practice how you will communicate with family members. Keep important numbers written down, not just in your phone. It’s often faster to text than to call. It can be easier to reach people outside of your local area during an emergency, so choose a contact for all family members to call, or use social media. Visit www.ready.gov/make-a-plan for instructions on developing a Household Communications Plan.

You should practice your first aid skills and emergency response actions through training classes. You can visit www.redcross.org/take-a-class to find out about first aid classes in your area. Download the American Red Cross First Aid App at www.redcross.org/mobile-apps/first-aid-app. Visit www.fema.gov/ community-emergency-response-teams to learn more about your local emergency response program.

Do make an emergency supply kit so you can grab it quickly if you need to evacuate. For a complete list of supplies for your emergency supply kit, visit www.ready.gov/ build-a-kit. When making your kit, consider family and pets, prescriptions and medical equipment, important documents, personal needs (clothes, food, water, first aid kits, cash, phones, chargers), and priceless items that can’t be replaced. For full evacuation procedures and precautions, visit www.ready.gov.

If you have evacuated, only return to your home after local fire or law enforcement authorities say it is safe. Photograph damage to your property and contact your insurance agent.

If you aren’t able to leave before the fire reaches your immediate area and you are trapped in your home, call 9-1-1. Turn on the lights to increase the visibility of heavy smoke. Keep doors, windows, vents and screens closed, and unlock your doors. Fill sinks and tubs with water. Stay inside, away from walls and windows.

If you would like more information, the following resources may be helpful:

Fire Adapted Community

Home Builders’ Guide to Construction in Wildfire Zones, Technical Fact Sheet Series

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

NFPA’s Firewise Communities Program

National Interagency Fire Center

National Weather Service Fire Weather

U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service

Preparing for emergencies is something your whole family can do together. Complete your plan, practice it and discuss it. Practice it at night, too. Being prepared for wildfires is one of the smartest things you can do to help keep you and your loved ones safe.

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