It's time to start thinking about wildfire season and getting prepared!
On July 3, 2012 our family was headed to Warm River, Idaho, for a family reunion. Due to her work schedule our 18 year old daughter remained at home.
Just after 2pm I received a frantic phone call from her saying she could see a large fire burning in the mountains behind our home and she wanted to know what she should do if she had to evacuate. My first reaction was, how bad could it be? She snapped a picture and sent it to me and yes her alarm was justified.
This wildfire, known as the Quail Hollow fire, consumed almost 2900 acres and caused the evacuation of 500 homes. At the time, it was the highest priority fire burning in the United States due to the perfect fire conditions and the dense population it was threatening.
I am ashamed to say that we had never discussed this as a family. So now, hundreds of miles away, we were putting a plan in place. We told our daughter what she needed to do in the event our home was in danger and, most importantly, that if she was asked to evacuate, she would do so immediately.
We let neighbors know that she was home. I did have emergency survival kits and items in storage ready for a quick evacuation, but we never discussed the plan formally as a family. That was a big mistake. For some reason, I had always imagined that I would be the one at home and able to put our plan into action.
We were not one of the 500 homes evacuated, but I know several who were. In talking to them, they had very little time to evacuate due to the swiftness of the fire. It was very fast moving due to drought conditions and the wind. Many only had time to grab a personal item or two and leave.
Even though we were sure our daughter was safe and far enough away from the fire, we should have been better prepared. We were just plain lucky that day.
Our plan was flawed in a couple ways: (1) I left out a step by not communicating the details of the plan to my family, and (2) it lacked contingency plans for unexpected events. As Robert Burns wrote "Even the best laid plans of mice or men go astray." Things will not always happen as we plan and planning for multiple scenarios is crucial.
So what did I learn from this experience? You NEED to have a plan. Why?
Where should one begin?
RECOGNIZE WHAT YOUR WILDFIRE RISKS ARE
Depending on where you live your risk of wildfires will vary. Understanding the risks help you formulate a plan. If you are at risk, then find out
Maintaining your home:
CREATE A PLAN
Communication is the key to any successful plan.
PURCHASE, CREATE OR RESTOCK YOUR EMERGENCY KITS
Like I mentioned earlier, wildfires happen quickly and unexpectedly, often leaving you no time to put a bag together. Having an emergency survival kit that is ready and easy to grab is a must have in an emergency evacuation situation. A kit that can provide food, water and supplies for 72 hours is highly recommended. Depending on the magnitude of the emergency it can take emergency service groups some time to get in and provide services, especially if they are not able to immediately access the area.
You can purchase an emergency survival kit or create your own 72 hour kit. Here is a recommended supply list. Feel free to customize based on your own personal needs and your plan of action.
Food and Water to last for 72 Hours:
Too often we neglect the importance of hygiene and sanitation in an emergency.
Communicate and Practice the Plan
This is a crucial step as we found out. If your family does not know what the plan consists of, what their part is or where your supplies are none of the previous steps matter. Every person needs to know: