That haze in the air, the subliminal smell that makes you want to barbecue for dinner, the gentle ballad of wailing sirens flying down the road. Yes, Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner! Wait, no…..fire season. I mean FIRE SEASON!
Thanks to record dry conditions, warm temperatures and winds throughout California, it’s that time of year again already! Red Flag Warnings are in effect as wildfires are beginning to crop up throughout the state, providing a not-so-gentle reminder that the time to be wildfire ready is NOW.
So, what have you done to get prepared for what experts are predicting will be a long and busy fire season? We all know the line – get a kit, make a plan, be informed – but have you really thought about it? Would you know what to do in the event that you’re faced with an emergency?
If you’re waiting to see a fire creep up over the hillside and the wind to start blowing your direction, you’re waiting a little too long to get ready. And why wait when preparedness has been made so simple?
When it comes to disasters, every individual is a first responder. The more that every individual prepares in advance, the better equipped we all are to react, respond, and ultimately recover from crisis.
So what can you do to get started? Here is just a small sampling of things you can do to prepare for the wildfire season. And once you get going, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t done it before. You’ll be a pro in no time! And, most importantly, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that you are ready…just in case.
Basic steps to make sure you remain safe:
- Meet with your family or household members.
- Discuss how to prepare and respond to emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live, learn, work and play.
- Identify responsibilities for each member of your household and plan to work together as a team.
- If a family member is in the military, plan how you would respond if they were deployed.
Plan what to do in case you are separated during an emergency:
- Choose two places to meet – ̶ Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, such as a fire; AND ̶outside your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate.
- Choose an out-of-area emergency contact person. It may be easier to text or call long distance if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service. Everyone should have emergency contact information in writing or saved on their cell phones.
- Decide where you would go and what route you would take to get there. You may choose to go to a hotel/motel, stay with friends or relatives in a safe location or go to an evacuation shelter if necessary.
- Practice evacuating your home twice a year. Drive your planned evacuation route and plot alternate routes on your map in case roads are impassable.
- Plan ahead for your pets. Keep a phone list of pet-friendly hotels/motels and animal shelters that are along your evacuation routes.
WILDFIRE SAFETY If a fire is threatening your neighborhood, you should listen to local media for updated fire information and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Other steps include:
- Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
- Confine your pets to one room so you can find them if you need to leave quickly.
- Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors.
- Use the recycle or recirculate mode on your air conditioner in your home or car. If you don’t have air conditioning and it’s too hot to stay inside with closed windows, seek shelter elsewhere.
DOWNLOAD WILDFIRE APP Another thing people should do is download the free Red Cross Wildfire App, available in English or Spanish. The app, found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross, includes features like the “Blaze Tracker” which can be customized to alert someone to fires where they live, travel or have loved ones.
The Wildlfire App also includes:
- “Blaze Warnings” which let users see areas where NOAA has issued warnings that conditions are favorable for potential wildfires.
- “Blaze Alerts” which inform users when a wildfire has begun within 100 miles of any locations monitored.
- “Blaze Path” from Inciweb.org which provides users with a current view of an existing wildfire’s perimeter, how it has spread and the fire’s current location when available.
- One touch “I’m safe” messaging that allows users to broadcast reassurance to family and friends via social media outlets, text or email that they are out of harm’s way.
- Locations of open Red Cross shelters.
- Simple steps and checklists people can use to create a family emergency plan.
- Toolkit with flashlight, strobe light and audible alarm.