How to Prepare for Wildfire Season

June used to be the official start to wildfire season in the United States. However, according to the USDA, changes to the climate have led the U.S. Forest Service to shift “to the concept of a fire year.”

This is why if you live in an area prone to wildfires, it is best to be prepared at all times. Being prepared for a wildfire means preparing your home, your family members, and your emergency supply kit. Here’s how to get started:

Prepare Your Home

Use the following checklist to make sure your home is ready and as protected as possible before a wildfire affects your area.

  • Choose fire-resistant materials when building, repairing, or renovating your home.
  • Equip yourself with hoses that can run from an adequate water source to every part of your property. Water sources include ponds, cisterns, wells, swimming pools, or hydrants.
  • Keep a ladder on hand that can reach your roof.
  • Clear leaves, debris, and other flammable materials in a 30-foot radius surrounding your home. This includes lawn furniture and toys.
    • Clear your roof, gutters, deck, patios, and sidewalks of leaves, pine needles, and other flammables.
    • Remove all mulch and vegetation within 5 feet of your home and replace them with nonflammable materials.
    • Cut down tree or shrub branches that overhang within 10 feet of your home.
    • Trim ladder fuels—tree limbs that are 10 feet above the ground.
  • Locate a room in your home that can be closed off from outside air. Keep all doors and windows closed and keep an air cleaner inside the room to reduce pollution and smoke.
  • Store flammable items like lawn mowers, oil and gas cans, propane tanks and wood piles at least 30 feet away from your home.
  • Keep your lawn watered and mowed at all times (if you are not experiencing water conservation restrictions).
  • Install 1/8-inch metal mesh screens over vents and under decks to prevent embers from entering your home.
  • Inspect chimneys at least two times per year and clean them at least once per year.
  • If possible, install protective shutters or fire-resistant drapes.

Create a Plan for Your Family

A family emergency plan is an essential tool for all kinds of emergencies—wildfires, house fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. Make sure it includes the following:

  • Escape routes from your home
    • Make sure your children know at least two ways to get out of the home. It is important to review the escape routes often so that young children don’t forget.
  • A meeting place in case members of the family become separated
    • Consider where family members may be at different times of day or days of the week (work, school, clubs, extracurricular activities, place of worship, gyms, etc.)
  • An emergency contact
    • Choose a relative or friend who lives out of state and have family members notify that person to let them know that they are safe. It may be easier to make long-distance phone calls versus local calls due to the emergency. Remember to let that person know that they are your household’s emergency contact.
    • List the emergency contact as ICE (in case of emergency) in every family member’s phone.
  • A plan for family pets
  • An emergency supply kit, “go bag,” or bug out bag

Build Your Emergency Supply Kit

Before wildfire season starts in your area, make sure your family has an emergency supply kit that includes the following:

  • First Aid kit
  • Face masks or coverings
  • Prescription medications
  • Car keys
  • Credit cards, cash
  • 3-day supply of food and water per person
  • Extra clothing for each member of your family
  • Important documents (birth certificates, social security cards, passports, etc.)
  • Pet food
  • Sanitation items
  • Flashlights
  • Map with at least two evacuation routes marked

If you have time to gather extra items in advance, bring along portable valuables, family photos, irreplaceable items, chargers, computers, hard drives, and disks.

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