By Sarah Allen-Sutter
As temperatures rise and fire season approaches, it is essential to prepare yourself and your family for the possibility of a wildfire. Follow the steps below to stay safe and prepared.
BEFORE A WILDFIRE
Sign up for Yolo Alert
This should be your very first step in
preparing for an emergency. After signing up, you will receive text and/or email emergency notifications. You will not receive any spam from the system and signing up is crucial to staying safe and informed. Sign up here: https://www.yolocounty.org/living/emergency-alerts-health-alerts
To sign up via phone, call Yolo Office of Emergency Services at 530-406-4930.
Create a Plan with Your Support Network
Is someone in your household able to drive? If not, you should have a plan for who will help you evacuate in an emergency. Talk with a family member, neighbor, or friend who lives nearby to make sure you have a plan for evacuating in an emergency. Practice your plan with them. Make sure they have a key to your home and know where you keep your emergency supplies and how to use lifesaving equipment or administer medicine.
Know Your Evacuation Routes
You should know your evacuation zone and routes before you need to evacuate. For Yolo County, you can find this information at the following link: https://yolo.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=5458e2e8c8c54e19923da248ac3add0c/
Build an Emergency Supply Kit
You can find a checklist for a basic emergency kit here: https://www.ready.gov/kit
Assemble your household kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers, like backpacks or duffel bags, and have the kits ready to go in your go-bag or car. For a wildfire, store N95 masks in your emergency kit to prevent smoke and ash inhalation.
Cell phones can be an important asset during a disaster, allowing you to place emergency calls and check alerts. It is a good idea to keep extra phone chargers and backup batteries in your emergency supply kit, so you can keep your device charged.
Don’t forget about your pets! Remember to include dog food, extra water, a leash, and anything your pet may need if evacuation becomes necessary.
Watch a video about building your emergency supply kit here: https://youtu.be/H_GGZ3NDJ68
Don’t Forget Your Medication
Keep your medication organized so you can pack it up quickly in an emergency. Where possible, order extra medication and have it stored in a convenient location, ready to grab and go. Keep portable versions of medical equipment that you require, such as portable oxygen, so you have the supplies you need in case of evacuation.
Keep Important Documents Up to Date
Review your insurance policies and personal documents, such as IDs and birth certificates, making sure everything is up to date. Make copies and keep everything in a safe, password-protected space.
Get Your Benefits Electronically
A disaster can prevent you from accessing your mail for several days. Receiving benefits like social security electronically will help protect you financially in the event of a disaster and prevents your checks from being stolen.
Protect Your Home from Fire
Some ways to strengthen your home include using fire-resistant materials when building or renovating, creating a fire-resistant zone that is free of leaves, debris, or flammable materials for at least 30 feet from your home, and ensuring there is a hose outside of your house that can reach any area of your property. These measures are especially important for homes in rural areas.
DURING A WILDFIRE
Pay Attention to Alerts and Follow Instructions
Evacuate immediately if authorities or your local alert system tell you to do so, using your designated evacuation route. To find available public shelters, you can call 2-1-1, download the FEMA Red Cross Emergency app, or check this list of open Red Cross shelters near you. Many shelters do not allow pets, so have a backup plan ready, such as a family or friend’s place (where you may be more comfortable anyway) or a kennel that can temporarily host your pet.
If Trapped During an Emergency…
Call 9-1-1 and give your location. Be aware that emergency response could be delayed or impossible. Turn lights on and use a whistle to help rescuers find you.
Protect Your Lungs
Wear an N-95 mask when conditions are smoky. If there are smoky conditions but no evacuation order, you should still protect yourself from smoke inhalation. Stay inside in a room that is cut off from outside air and use an air filter to keep the air in the room free from smoke. Within your central air conditioning system, use high-efficiency filters that can capture fine particles. If your system takes in outside air, set the system to “recirculate” and close the outdoor intake damper.
Older adults may have more needs when it comes to being prepared for a wildfire, so think about your specific needs in addition to being generally prepared. If you are a caregiver or know someone who may need help in an emergency situation, reach out to them and ensure they have an emergency plan. Though damages caused by wildfires can be devastating, we can minimize health risk and loss of human life if we are prepared and willing to help one another.
More Emergency Preparedness Resources:
For a full list of preparing for a wildfire: https://www.ready.gov/wildfires
For the Commission on Aging and Adult Services disaster training series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_GGZ3NDJ68&list=PLZw-9d94eymqEG7hc5nPdl56QHMUSemRw