Millions of homes are located in areas where wildfires are extremely likely. Those are very dangerous conditions. As fire safety leaders in your town, it is vital that you share tips for preparing your community for a wildfire. Using that information, people can protect their families and property from the powerful flames of a wildland fire. In this article, you will find much of the sound advice you will need to keep safe the things that matter most. Take careful note of this information. It could very well save lives.
What Is a Wildfire?
A wildfire is an uncontrollable inferno that rages in woodlands, grasslands, forests, or anywhere where combustible vegetation can fuel flames. Wildfires can be the result of natural forces, like lightning. But more often than not, humans are to blame. Whether it is carelessly discarded cigarettes, acts of arson, or unattended campfires, person’s activities in our forests can have a major impact.
When Is Wildfire Season?
Under certain conditions, wildfires can occur at any time. The threat level is higher at certain times of the year depending on where you live. Wildfire season usually starts in July or August in the western region of the United States. In the eastern and southern regions, the season can arrive as early as April. But you should never assume you know for certain when your season begins. They change year to year. The wildfire season is never set in stone. For that reason, make sure you speak with your state and local authorities for their predictions about the risk levels.
Why You Should Follow These Tips
Below is a list of tips designed to help you prepare your community for wildfires. It is vitally important that you plan ahead for these kinds of catastrophes. Being underprepared can lead to serious trouble down the road. Do not be caught off guard. The safety of your community depends on your ability to collect resources, organize peoples’ energies, and distribute information.
Form a Wildfire Preparedness Committee
Every step in preparing a community for a wildfire involves collecting and sharing information with residents. To accomplish this as effectively as possible, it would be wise to form a wildfire preparedness committee. A committed group of active community members can help centralize strategies and communications. They can make a response plan for when wildfires happen and develop a budget for the preparation efforts.
Create a Community Emergency Plan
If you do not already have one, then your community must develop an emergency plan as soon as possible. In the plan, you must include every step the community should engage in during an emergency. The committee may be instrumental in developing the plan.
Some of the primary information to include in the plan may be:
- Emergency phone numbers and other contact information
- Evacuation routes
- Shutoff locations for gas, electric, and water
- Locations of emergency supplies
Conduct an Evacuation Drill
Once you have determined your emergency plan, you must test its efficacy. Wildfire evacuations often require the cooperation of entire cities or neighborhoods. When it comes time for people to flee from a fire, you do not want them to attempt such a feat without any practice. Evacuation drills offer you the chance to make sure there are no blind spots in your planning.
Work with your preparedness committee to decide on how many volunteers you need, as well as which evacuations routes should be used. Some tips for the evacuation drill include:
- Use block captains, designated staff, floor wardens, and other volunteers to help with the drill.
- Advise occupants to leave the building by using the stairwells. People should stay to the right when applicable.
- Assign residents or people with special needs to another person or party who can communicate their location and status.
- Designate meeting areas for different buildings.
- Count occupants and tally everyone known to be missing.
Once you complete the evacuation, you can judge the effectiveness of your work by asking yourself and your team a few questions:
- Were all the residents well-informed about the escape routes, evacuation methods, and meeting areas?
- Did the alarms sound?
- Were there any problems? If so, what were they?
- Was communication effectively executed?
- Were occupants with special needs aware of the actions to take?
- Did you produce an accurate count of all the residents?
Review Insurance Policies
One of the most important tips for preparing your community for a wildfire is to review the relevant insurance policies. Insurance policies differ from person to person. As an individual, you must do your due diligence and check with your insurance agent about your policy. For the community as a whole, encourage everyone else to do the same.
You and the board must know who is covered and who is not. Approach the people in your community who are not covered for wildfire damage. If their property and families are at risk, you must talk to them about the importance of getting that coverage. You can also discuss buying additional coverage for the community at your board meetings.
Help Homeowners Prepare
Aside from ensuring that they have the right insurance, there are other ways you can help local homeowners prepare for wildfires. You should educate homeowners about the risks of wildfires. Share with them copies of the emergency plan. Give them physical copies in case they lose power during the emergency. You may also find it helpful to hold a community meeting before the next wildfire season. During that time, you can answer questions and share best practices. Listed below are some essential tasks for every homeowner who is preparing for a possible wildfire:
- Create a 72-hour emergency kit
- Practice first-aid skills
- Remove dry vegetation and other fire hazards from around the house
- Learn the routes for evacuation
- Participate in community meetings and safety drills
Wildland fires are a serious problem that require serious solutions. By following the advice outlined in this article, you will hopefully have the information you need to protect your community. The Supply Cache is an excellent resource for all things related to wildland fires. If you need them, come take a look at our wildland firefighter backpacks.