Dangerous wildfires across the region the past few months mark an early start to wildfire season. May is National Wildfire Awareness Month and the American Red Cross is urging everyone to plan now for dangerous wildfires and potential power outages.
“After back-to-back years of record-breaking wildfires, this year it’s more critical than ever to get ready now,” said Phil Hansen, Executive Director of the American Red Cross Minnesota and Dakotas Region. “Like the home and apartment fires we respond to every day, wildfires are dangerous and can spread quickly, giving you only minutes to evacuate. Protect your loved ones, get ready now.”
FOR WILDFIRES OR HOME FIRES - GETTING READY IS EASY
There are simple steps you can take to be prepared:
- Create an evacuation plan.
Plan what to do in case you are separated from your family during an emergency and if you have to evacuate. Coordinate your plan with your child’s school, your work and your community’s emergency plans. Plan multiple routes to local shelters, register family members with special medical needs as required and make plans for pets. If you already have an emergency plan, talk about it again with family members so everyone knows what to do if an emergency occurs.
- Build an emergency kit
with a gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for an infant if applicable, a multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items, copies of important papers, cell phone chargers, extra cash, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information. Because of the pandemic, include a mask for everyone in your household. If you already have a disaster kit, now is the time make sure the food and water is still okay to consume and that copies of important documents are up to date.
- Be informed.
Find out how local officials will contact you during a wildfire emergency and how you will get important information, such as evacuation orders.
- Download the free Red Cross Emergency app to help keep you and your loved ones safe with real-time alerts, open Red Cross shelter locations and safety advice on wildfires and other emergencies. To download the app, search for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or go to redcross.org/apps.
WILDFIRE SAFETY AND PREVENTION
- Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice and obey all evacuation orders from officials.
- Post emergency phone numbers by every phone in your house and make sure everyone has those numbers in their cell phones.
- Don’t drive your vehicle onto dry grass or brush. Hot components under your vehicle can spark fires.
- Use equipment responsibly. Lawn mowers, chain saws, tractors and trimmers can all spark a wildfire.
- Use caution any time you use fire. Dispose of charcoal briquettes and fireplace ashes properly, never leave any outdoor fire unattended, and make sure that outdoor fires are fully extinguished before leaving the area.
- If residential debris burning is allowed — use caution. After obtaining any necessary permits, ensure that burning is not currently restricted in your area.
- Store combustible or flammable materials in approved safety containers away from the house.
- 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.
COVID-19 SAFETY 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. The Red Cross is still providing the same types of support after disasters as we always have, including making sure people have a safe place to stay, food to eat and resources to help them recover. We’ve put in place additional precautions, in line with CDC recommendations including 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.
About the American Red Cross
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. Our volunteers ensure that the Red Cross fulfills its mission in our region, which serves 7.2 million people in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. For more information, visit redcross.org/mndaks.
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