The overall theme of National Preparedness Month this year is “Don’t wait. Communicate. Make your emergency plan today.” The spotlight this week is on wildfire safety. Raging fires continue to burn in the western states and Red Cross workers are helping people impacted by the fires.
The Red Cross has shelters open in California where more than 220 people spent the night after being ordered to evacuate due to the fires. In Utah, four wildfires are burning and the Red Cross is feeding and supporting first responders.
The Red Cross has steps people can follow to stay safe if a wildfire impacts their community.
WILDFIRE SAFETY Remove anything that can catch fire from around your home, garage and outdoor shed, including firewood and propane tanks. If it’s flammable, keep it away from your house, deck or porch. Obey outside burning bans when issued. Other things you can do to be prepared include:
1. Keep your gutters and roofs clean. Remove dead vegetation and shrubbery from your yard. Keep your lawn hydrated.
2. Select building materials and plants that resist fire.
3. Make sure driveway entrances and your house number or address are clearly marked.
4. Set aside items that can be used as fire tools – a rake, axe, hand or chain saw, bucket and shovel.
5. Identify and maintain a good water source outside your home. Examples include a small pond, well or swimming pool.
IF A FIRE OCCURS Listen to your local media for updates on the fire and be ready to leave quickly. Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing your direction of escape. You should also:
1. Keep your pets in one room so you can find them quickly if you have to evacuate.
2. Arrange for a temporary place to stay outside the threatened area.
3. Keep your indoor air clean – close windows and doors to prevent the smoke outside from getting in your home.
4. Use the recycle mode on the air conditioner in your home or car. If you don’t have air conditioning and it’s too hot to be inside, seek shelter somewhere else.
5. If smoke levels are high, don’t use anything that burns and adds to air pollution inside such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves.
AFTER THE FIRE Don’t go home until fire officials say it is safe. Be cautious entering a burned area – hazards could still exist. Avoid damaged or downed power lines, poles and wires. Other things to do include:
1. Keep your animals under your direct control. Hidden embers and hot spots could burn them.
2. Wet down debris to minimize breathing dust particles.
3. Wear leather gloves and shoes with heavy soles.
4. Throw out any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.
Recheck for smoke or sparks throughout your home for several hours after the fire, including in your attic. Wildfire winds can blow burning embers anywhere so check for embers that could cause a fire.
DOWNLOAD EMERGENCY The all-inclusive Emergency app combines more than 35 emergency alerts to help keep the user safe, including information about what to do in case of floods, thunderstorms, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires and more. Users can find it in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.