Wildfire Preparedness

The Power of Wildfires

Anyone who lives in a fire-prone area knows how quickly wildfires can ruin homes and structures, and can cause injuries or death to people and animals. But, what is the definition of a wildfire? It is an unplanned fire that burns in a natural area such as a forest, grassland, prairie, or land that is densely populated with foliage or brush.

Wildfires

  • Can often be caused by humans or lightning.
  • Can happen anywhere, anytime.
  • Can be increased during periods of little rain and high winds.
  • Can disrupt gas/power, hinder transportation and block communications.
  • Can contribute to flooding.
  • Can cost billions of dollars each year in damages.

How to Stay Safe When Threatened by Wildfires

If You Are Under a Wildfire Warning, Get To Safety Right Away

  • If trapped, call 9-1-1.
  • Listen for emergency information and alerts.
  • Use N95 masks to keep particles out of the air you breathe.

NOTE: Always listen to fire officials. Leave if told to do so. If you are not ordered to evacuate but dangerous or smoky conditions exist, you should consider leaving. If you elect to stay, be sure to remain safely indoors if possible.  It is better to leave for smoke-free environment. Be smart. Don’t wait to be told to leave if danger exists.


Proactive Preparation

  • Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
  • Know your community’s evacuation plans and find several ways to leave the area. Drive the evacuation routes and find shelter locations. Have a plan for pets and livestock.
  • Gather emergency supplies, including N95 respirator masks that filter out particles in the air you breathe. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including and updated asthma action plan and medication. Don’t forget the needs of pets!
  • Designate a room that can be closed off from outside air. Close all doors and windows. Set up a portable air cleaner to keep indoor pollution levels low when smoky conditions exist.
  • Keep important documents in a fireproof, safe place. Create password-protected digital copies.
  • Use fire-resistant materials to build, renovate, or make repairs.
  • Find an outdoor water source with a hose that can reach any area of your property.
  • Create a fire-resistant zone that is free of leaves, debris, or flammable materials for at least 30 feet from your home.
  • Review insurance coverage to make sure it is enough to replace your property.
  • Pay attention to air quality alerts.

How to Prepare for a Wildfire

If your community is surrounded by brush, grassland or forest, follow these instructions to prepare your home and family for potential wildfires:

  • Prepare an emergency kit
  • Check for, and remove, fire hazards in and around your home, such as dried out branches, leaves and debris.
  • Keep a good sprinkler in an accessible location.
  • Learn fire safety techniques and teach them to members of your family.
  • Have fire drills with your family on a regular basis.
  • Maintain first-aid supplies to treat the injured until help arrives.
  • Have an escape plan so that all members of the family know how to get out of the house quickly and safely.
  • Have a emergency plan so family members can contact each other in case they are separated during an evacuation.
  • Make sure all family members are familiar with the technique of “STOP, DROP, AND ROLL” in case of clothes catching on fire.
  • Make sure every floor and all sleeping areas have smoke detectors.
  • Consult with your local fire department about making your home fire-resistant.
  • If you are on a farm/ranch, sheltering livestock may be the wrong thing to do because a wildfire could trap animals inside, causing them to burn alive. Leaving animals unsheltered is preferable, or if time and personal safety permits, evacuation away from the danger zone should be considered.

If you see a fire approaching your home or community, report it immediately by dialing 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. If it is safe and there is time before the fire arrives, you should take the following action:

  • Close all windows and doors in the house.
  • Cover vents, windows, and other openings of the house with duct tape and/or precut pieces of plywood.
  • Park your car, positioned forward out of the driveway. Keep car windows closed and have your valuables packed in your car.
  • Turn off propane or natural gas. Move any propane barbecues into the open, away from structures.
  • Turn on the lights in the house, porch, garage and yard.
Inside the house, move combustible materials such as curtains and furniture away from the windows.
  • Place a ladder to the roof in the front of the house.
  • Put lawn sprinklers on the roof of the house and turn on the water.
  • Move all combustibles away from the house, including firewood and lawn furniture.
  • Evacuate your family and pets to a safe location.
  • Stay tuned to your local radio station for up-to-date information on the fire and possible road closures.

What to take to a shelter if you are evacuated:
For anyone who has ever been through the trauma of evacuation, you know how stressful it can be when packing up to leave for safe shelter. Be sure to include these items in your Safety Evacuation Kit:

  • First and foremost, be sure to pack up medications for the family and for pets.
  • Bring cell phone chargers. Do your best to keep phones charged.
  • Wear and bring comfortable clothing, such as sweats, hoodies or windbreakers, and make sure to wear sturdy shoes.
  • Bring personal items, such as family pictures, favorite books, cell phones, iPads or tablets, and make sure to bring a pillow.
  • Bring water and snack food if possible.
  • Bring cash in small coin or denomination.
  • If possible, bring insurance paperwork, including policy account numbers. At the very least, bring your insurance agent’s contact information.

Safety After the Fire

  • Listen to authorities to find out when it is safe to return, and whether water is safe to drink.
  • Avoid hot ash, charred trees, smoldering debris, and live embers. The ground may contain heat pockets that can burn you or spark another fire. Consider the danger to pets and livestock.
  • Send text messages or use social media to reach out to family and friends. Phone systems are often busy following a disaster. Make calls only in emergencies.
  • Wear a NIOSH certified-respirator and wet debris down to minimize breathing dust particles.
  • Document property damage with photographs. Conduct an inventory and contact your insurance company for assistance.
  • Wildfires dramatically change landscape and ground conditions, which can lead to increased risk of flooding due to heavy rains, flash flooding and mudflows. Flood risk remains significantly higher until vegetation is restored—up to 5 years after a wildfire. Consider purchasing flood insurance to protect the life you’ve built and to assure financial protection from future flooding.

Resources

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Fire

Fire insurance covers a policyholder against fire loss or damage from many sources. Sources include fires brought about by electricity, such as faulty wiring and explosion of gas, as well as those caused by lightning and natural disasters.  Bursting and overflowing of a water tank or pipes may also be covered by the policy.

Earthquake

Earthquake insurance is a form of property insurance that pays the policyholder in the event of an earthquake that causes damage to the property. Most ordinary homeowners insurance policies do not cover earthquake damage.  Most earthquake insurance policies feature a high deductible, which makes this type of insurance useful if the entire home is destroyed, but not useful if the home is merely damaged. Rates depend on location and the probability of an earthquake loss.

Flood

Flood insurance protects property owners from water damage to the structure and contents of their property. Typical hazard insurance policies do not cover flooding, the occupant must purchase a separate policy for protection against flood damage. For properties in high-risk areas, lenders sometimes require mortgaged homeowners to carry flood insurance to protect the structure. It is up to the homeowner whether to purchase additional coverage for the property’s contents, such as furniture and clothing.