How to Prepare for a Wildfire

Be Prepared for a Wildfire

Wildfires can pose particular dangers to both lives and property because they often begin unnoticed and can spread quickly. According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS)¹, windborne embers present a significant threat from wildfires and are the primary cause of most structural ignitions. Radiant heat and direct flame contact are another wild fire threat that could cause potential damage to your home.If you live in an area prone to wildfires, you can help keep yourself, your family and your property safe by taking the following steps to reduce your risks of danger.

Prepare Your Home for a Wildfire

Home Maintenance

Keep your home well-maintained by regularly cleaning your gutters of materials and debris that could ignite due to windborne embers and tree limbs that may be too close to your home. Insure your smoke alarms are in proper working condition and your fire extinguishers are operational. If you need to evacuate quickly from an level higher than the ground floor, make sure your home is equipped with an escape ladder that is accessible and easily deployed by anyone.

Create Zones

Maintain defensible space zones between structures and natural growth that is free of brush, trees and grass areas to help keep a wildfire away from your property. Move wood piles away from the home. If you live on a hill, extend the zone on the downhill side, since fire can race uphill quickly.

Landscaping

Landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind. Utilize fire-resistant shrubs and trees, install rock, stone, crushed concrete, flower beds and gardens to provide ground cover for bare spaces that may act as firebreaks. Hedging roses, bush honeysuckles, currant, cotoneaster, sumac and shrub apples are examples of fire-resistant shrubs.² While there are no “fire-proof” plants, fire-retardant plant species include:

  • buckwheat
  • oak
  • manzanita
  • yucca
  • catalina cherry
  • rockrose
  • ice plant
  • aloe

Be Prepared

Prepare a survival kit, map out an evacuation plan and create a home inventory of all your belongings. Visit our preparedness timeline to learn more about disaster planning. the following list contains the 10 essentials for a survival kit:

  • Navigation (Map and Compass)
  • Sun Protections (Sunglasses and Sunscreen)
  • Insulation (Extra Clothing)
  • Illumination (Headlamp/Flashlight)
  • First Aid Supplies
  • Fire (Water Proof Matches/ Lighter/ Candle)
  • Repair Kit and Tools
  • Nutrition (Extra Food)
  • Hydration (Extra Water)
  • Emergency Shelter

Fire-Resistant Materials

If you are remodeling your home, think about including fire-resistant materials such as non-combustible roofing, soffits, decking and siding and fire-rated glass or fire shutters for windows. Consider evaluating the design of your roof to see which factors may make your home more susceptible to a wildfire.

As a Wildfire Approaches

  • Monitor Conditions: Tune in to local news channels about wildfires in the area, and follow evacuation instructions given by local officials. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service also publishes large incident maps of fires.
  • Practice Your Plan: Review any emergency plans with your family and insure they understand what is expected of them. Be sure to designate a meeting place and a check-in telephone number if you are separated during evacuation. Lastly, make certain that everyone has emergency numbers stored in their mobile phones.
  • Prepare, if Possible: If you have time, close windows, doors and blinds and shut off utilities. Open the fireplace damper and close fireplace screens.
  • Ready Your Vehicle: Have your car ready to leave at a moment’s notice, with the fuel tank filled and the keys ready at a moments notice. Roll up the windows to keep smoke out.

What to Do During a Wildfire

  • Evacuation Instructions: If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved cotton or wool shirt and pants, and take a wet cotton towel or handkerchief to protect your face.
  • Follow Your Plan: Take your survival kit and choose a route away from fire and smoke. Follow your evacuation plan and be sure everyone knows where to go and what to do.

How to Respond After a Wildfire

  • Await the “All Clear”: Check with fire officials before attempting to re-enter your home. Use caution when entering since fires can re-ignite quickly, even after dying down.
  • Check Grounds: Hot spots may include smoldering stumps and vegetation. Check the roof, exterior areas, attic and throughout the house for sparks and embers.³ Continue to check the house for several days following the fire.
  • Dispose of Damaged Food or Medication: Discard any food or medication that came in contact with smoke or fire.

For more wildfire safety tips, visit the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety® website. Subscribe to the next blog HERE for more information on how to Prepare for a Wildfire.

Sources:
¹ Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, https://www.disastersafety.org/wildfire/

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