ANCHORAGE, Alaska, June 18, 2020 — Wildfire season has arrived in Alaska. With COVID-19 in mind, the American Red Cross of Alaska is ready to respond to disasters big and small, and encourages Alaskans to review and adjust their emergency plans now.
“Red Cross disaster workers are prepared to respond should disaster strike, with safety protocols in place,” said David Williams, Red Cross of Alaska Regional Disaster Officer Volunteer Partner. “The ongoing pandemic has shifted emergency plans, and it is more important than ever for Alaskans to prepare in advance by taking three simple actions: 1) Get a kit. 2) Make a plan. 3) Be informed.”
The Red Cross has created new protocols to help keep everyone safe as it provides comfort and support to anyone in need after a disaster. The Red Cross follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, and works closely with local health officials to safely provide help and hope when disasters strike. After a disaster, local Red Cross volunteers are providing critical, on the ground relief to their neighbors in need, and are also offering some services virtually, including financial assistance and health and mental health services.
To ensure residents have a safe place to stay if they can’t return home after a disaster, the Red Cross will prioritize the use of individual hotel or dormitory-style rooms. Should a wildfire necessitate a larger-scale emergency shelter in areas where hotels or dormitories are not an option, additional safety precautions have been put in place to allow the Red Cross to more safely open shelters at the request of local officials. Measures include a health screening process for everyone coming into a shelter, provision of masks, additional space between cots, and enhanced use of cleaning and disinfecting practices.
Just as the Red Cross prepares for disasters, it’s also important for Alaskans to prepare. To remain safe in the event of a wildfire during the COVID-19 pandemic, follow these Red Cross guidelines:
GET A KIT Wildfires often force people to leave their homes quickly in order to travel to a safe place outside the affected area. Assemble an emergency supplies kit in an easy-to-carry container that can be transported in the event of an evacuation. Start with this basic supply list:
- Non-perishable food and water
- Personal hygiene items
- Cleaning and disinfectant supplies that can be used on the go (tissues, hand sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol and disinfecting wipes, if possible)
- Face coverings for everyone in the household who can wear one safely. Face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unable to remove it without help.
- Extra medical or infant supplies, if needed
- Pet supplies like a collar, leash, carrier and bowl, if needed
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof container
Some supplies may be hard to obtain, and availability will worsen during a disaster, so it’s important to gather needed supplies now.
MAKE A PLAN If authorities advise a community or neighborhood that it’s time to evacuate, residents must be prepared to leave immediately.
- The safety of a home during wildfire season can be significantly increased with proper brush clearance. Now is the time to clean up yards, create defensible space around homes and recycle debris.
- Update personal and family disaster plans in accordance with COVID-19 guidance from local officials and the CDC.
- Ask trusted friends or relatives outside the area if they have extra space or accommodations during a disaster. Check to see if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or have people in their home at a higher risk for serious illness. If they have symptoms or there are high-risk people in their home, make other arrangements. Check with hotels, motels and campgrounds to see if they are open.
- Plan ahead for household pets. Keep a phone list of pet-friendly hotels/motels and animal shelters that are along evacuation routes. Remember, if it’s not safe to stay home, it’s not safe for pets either.
BE INFORMED Have access to weather alerts and official community notifications, even during a power outage. Always follow the directions of state and local authorities.
- Use the Red Cross interactive map to identify common disasters in Alaska.
- Learn about community response plans for each disaster and determine if these plans have been adapted for COVID-19.
- In light of COVID-19, stay current on advice and restrictions from state and local public health authorities as restrictions may affect available resources and
- Download the Red Cross Emergency App for real-time alerts, open shelters and expert advice on wildfires. The app includes an “I’m Safe” feature that helps people check on loved ones. Users can search “American Red Cross” in app stores or go to redcross.org/apps.
Visit redcross.org/wildfire for more information about what to do before, during and after a wildfire.
About the American Red Cross of Alaska:
In Fiscal Year 2019, the American Red Cross of Alaska responded to 435 disasters by offering food, shelter, relief supplies, comfort, hope and recovery services to 1,096 Alaskans in 50 communities statewide. Our preparedness teams installed 2,171 free smoke alarms and educated 1,409 youth through The Pillowcase Project. Our Training Services department enrolled 19,665 students in first aid/CPR/AED, aquatics and caregiving classes. Our Service to the Armed Forces staff exchanged 1,299 emergency messages for U.S. military service personnel and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. In Fiscal Year 2019, our statewide workforce of 729 volunteers logged 40,735 hours in service to our mission and their fellow Alaskans. For more information, please visit redcross.org/Alaska or visit us on Twitter at @redcrossak.