Wildfire Awareness Week – Day 4
Day 4: Preparing Your Family for a Wildfire Evacuation.
Wildfire Awareness Week is a weeklong effort to raise awareness in Montana about wildfire safety. FireSafe Montana, Keep Montana Green, the Governor’s Office of Community Service, the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and Montana Red Cross have teamed up to make sure you and your family are prepared for wildfire season.
“In any fire emergency, personal safety is the highest priority. In the event of a wildfire, public evacuation from harm’s way is the most important way that firefighters and other emergency responders can ensure the safety of those they serve. Evacuation preparedness is also one of the most important ways that citizens can share the responsibility of dealing with wildfire in our communities.” Sean Logan, Chief, Helena Fire Department
On Day 4 of our campaign, we are going to take a closer look at how to prepare for a wildfire evacuation. Wildfires can spread quickly, and you and your family may have to leave at a moment’s notice. Don’t count on having ample time to gather your belongings and evacuate to safety. Have a plan established before wildfire season arrives. Here are a few tips to help you prepare:
Create an evacuation plan with your family or household members & delegate responsibilities:
o Put together an emergency kit to take with you when you evacuate. For a detailed list of what to include in your kit, go to www.redcross.org/prepare.
o Prepare a “vital information kit” (important documents, banking, medical records, credit cards, utility service providers, passwords, passports, etc.)
o Maintain a list of emergency numbers or save the numbers on each cell phone. Register phone numbers with your county’s emergency services Reverse 911 system.
o 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.
o Identify a place to meet outside your home and neighborhood in case you are separated. Establish a list of temporary housing options.
o Plan and practice several evacuation routes from your home.
o Plan ahead for your pets and livestock. Keep a phone list of pet-friendly hotels/motels and animal shelters along your evacuation routes.
o Review your home insurance policy and update as necessary
When a wildfire threatens your immediate area, here are some tips to prepare for evacuation:
- Tune in to local radio and television stations for updated emergency information and air quality reports.
- Limit exposure to smoke and dust, especially true for children, elderly and asthmatics. Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from getting in.
- Close windows and doors, but do not lock. Close curtains, shutters, and blinds.
- Turn on exterior lights.
- Remove flammable items from decks and porches, like cushions on lawn furniture.
- Confine pets to one room so that you can find them if you need to evacuate quickly.
- Open gates for animals that cannot be evacuated.
- Connect a hose to the spigot. Mark any water sources on your property.
- Shut off gas lines
- Leave a ladder for firefighters.
- Put your emergency kit in your car.
- Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape, with windows closed and keys in the ignition. Keep your gas tank full during fire season.
- Use the recycle or re-circulate mode on the air conditioner in your home or car.
- Put your best driver at the wheel. Turn on lights, drive slowly and watch out for emergency vehicles.
- Take a deep breath. Stay calm and think clearly.
A wildfire is a complex event that can quickly transform your neighborhood into a dark and dangerous area. Stressful situations can cause people to panic and rush, making them hazardous to themselves and others. Plan ahead to ensure sufficient time to relocate safely, and in a calm manner.
For more information on how to prepare an evacuation plan, go to the websites listed below.