Maybe it’s a wildfire, or maybe it’s some other type of disaster or incident that results in an area wide evacuation — either way you and your entire family should be prepared to evacuate in as little as five or 10 minutes, according to Unit Chief Kelly Keenan of the Amador-El Dorado Unit of Cal Fire.
“Preparing now to leave your home at a moment’s notice will make the process easier when the call comes to evacuate. Having a plan and practicing it with your family could be the difference between surviving with nothing but the clothes on your back or surviving with what is most important to you. Please begin the process now,” Keenan urged.
The first step is to learn how to prepare for an evacuation by visiting the following Websites: Cal Fire’s Ready-Set-Go at readyforwildfire.org, FEMA’s ready.gov and for animal owners hsus.org/ and search “disaster planning.” Step two is to begin now, do not put if off or it will never get done. Start the process by making your emergency supply kits for each member of your family including your pets. Next create your own disaster plan. There are several guides and forms on these Websites that will make the process easy. Once you have created your plan, practice with your family members. Practice this plan during the day when it is light and at night when it is dark. Roads look different in the pitch black of a moonless night versus one with a full moon to light the way.
If an evacuation is pending, have your evacuation kit(s) in your car. Have your car backed into your driveway with your doors and windows closed. Keep your family and pets close by. Dress in appropriate clothing (natural fibers versus manmade fabrics), have goggles and a mask to protect you from the smoke. Alert your family and neighbors. Drink plenty of water and stay tuned to your local television/radio stations for updated news. If you or a family member is disabled or has other access or functional needs, it is critical to create a personal support network. This begins with an evaluation of what needs there are and how those needs can best be met. Check out ready.gov/america/getakit/disabled for detailed information.
Depending on the type of incident that causes an evacuation, if you know that an evacuation is imminent, it is best to leave early; do not wait to be ordered out of your home as in the case of an approaching wildfire. No matter what, the situation will be very stressful but you can make it less hectic by being prepared and leaving early.
“It is always safest to leave your home well ahead of the wildfire. Roads can rapidly become clogged with vehicles (people evacuating and emergency service equipment responding to the fire) and the smoked filled air can cause people to become disoriented and panic,” said Keenan.
Survival tips if you become trapped:
• Stay calm, do not panic. Focus on what you need to do to survive.
• Shelter yourself and your family members away from outside walls.
• Wear long sleeves and long pants made of natural fibers.
• Stay hydrated. Fill sinks and tubs for an emergency water supply.
• Place wet towels under doors to keep embers and smoke out.
• Make sure you can exit your home if it catches fire but remember that it will be four to five times hotter outside than inside your home.
“We have seen many examples of disasters this summer, whether it is the hurricane and floods on the East Coast to wildfires in our own state. Life can turn on a dime. Take steps to prepare yourself now and you will rest easier tonight,” said Keenan.