May is National Wildfire Awareness Month, a good time to prepare in case one of these dangerous blazes affects your neighborhood. The American Red Cross offers ways to help keep your household safe during a wildfire.
BEFORE A WILDFIRE Have access to alerts and notifications so that you can monitor conditions and receive instructions from local officials, even during a power outage. Keep track of fires near you so you can be ready to evacuate quickly. You may have only minutes to get out. Register to receive any free emergency alerts from your community. Understand your community’s plan to notify individuals with disabilities.
- Purchase a battery-powered radio to receive information from local authorities during a power outage.
- Find an outdoor water source such as a pond, well, even a swimming pool, and have a hose that can reach any area of your property.
- Create a fire-resistant zone free of leaves, debris or flammable materials for at least 30 feet out from your home.
- Regularly clean roofs and gutters.
- Make sure driveway entrances and your house number are clearly marked so fire vehicles can get to your home.
- 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.
- Use fire-resistant materials to build, renovate or make repairs.
- Post emergency phone numbers by every phone in your house and make sure everyone has those numbers in their cell phones.
IF YOU HAVE TO LEAVE YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice and obey all evacuation orders from officials. Follow these steps (if time allows):
- Shut all windows and doors. Remove flammable window shades, curtains and close metal shutters.
- Move flammable furniture to the center of the room, away from windows and doors.
- Shut off gas at the meter; turn off pilot lights. Shut off the air conditioning.
- Gather up flammable items from the exterior of the house and bring them inside (patio furniture, toys, trash cans).
- Turn off propane tanks. Move propane BBQ appliances away from structures.
- Don’t leave sprinklers on or water running, they can affect critical water pressure.
- Back your loaded car into the driveway and keep all doors and windows closed.
- Ensure your emergency supplies kit is in your vehicle.
- Locate your pets and take them with you.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Red Cross has procedures and resources in place to help ensure the safety of those we serve and our workforce, especially when it comes to supporting local communities during a wildfire emergency.
We are still providing the same types of support after disasters as we always have. This includes making sure people have a safe place to stay, food to eat and resources to help them recover, following guidance from FEMA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additional precautions in place include social distancing protocols, masks, health screenings and enhanced cleaning procedures.
Ensuring people have a safe place to stay during a disaster is a critical part of the Red Cross mission, but how we support sheltering efforts may be different in each community, depending on local emergency plans and the scale of the disaster. In some instances, we may open group shelters, while other times hotels may be more appropriate. After a large disaster, the Red Cross will tailor our services to meet the needs of each community. Local volunteers will provide critical, on the ground relief to their neighbors and we’ll offer some services virtually — including health and mental health support.
Responding to disasters is a team effort and no single organization can do it alone —this is particularly true in this current environment.