If 2020 has taught us one thing, it’s that anything can happen. With the recent natural disasters like the wildfires here in the Pacific Northwest, many have had to leave their homes with little to no notice. Are you and your loved ones prepared to leave if you have to move to safety? Could you leave your house on short notice? Would you be able to grab everything you needed?
Being Prepared: Fire Safety and Evacuation Preparedness
Have you thought about what you would need to gather if you had to leave your house on short notice due to wildfire or other natural disaster? Some things are obvious like medication and clothing, but others are not so obvious. In this post we’ll help you put together a fire safety and evacuation preparedness plan for you or a loved one.
How prepared do you need to be?
The first decision to make is whether you are going to formulate a plan, or actually pull together these items in case of an emergency. This decision is totally up to you or your loved one, and it is based on your specific needs and desired level of preparedness. For example, if you are fully mobile and not reliant on medical devices or medication, a plan might suffice. But if you have medication, limited mobility, are dependent upon home care services, etc. physically preparing for an emergency might better suite your needs.
What would you need for fire safety and evacuation?
To answer the question whether you need a fire safety and evacuation plan, or to physically prepare in case of an emergency, think for a few moments about what you would need, who would you need to notify, and how much time would you need in order to leave your house fully prepared.
Essentials are things you need for everyday life. Medication, medical devices, their chargers and supplies, clothing, and aids for daily living are all things that you would need to gather if you or a loved one had to leave your/their home tomorrow. Either take mental note of where these items are or consider storing them together to make grabbing them in the case of an emergency easier.
Your other option here, is to ask for a refill of your prescriptions to pack in a fire safety and evacuation bag. You’ll want to keep this bag or box somewhere out of the way but still accessible, like a closet. If you don’t have extra aids, or medical devices, consider keeping these items on hand or easily accessible. If you can order extra supplies, chargers, etc. you are able to keep these items packed and ready to go for extra preparedness.
Documentation isn’t something we necessarily think of when preparing to leave our homes. Yes, we think of our photos, memories, and some important documents, but there are some that we should have either in their original form or an authorized copy for emergency preparedness. These documents are things like proof of identity, proof of ownership or occupancy, proof of insurance, and medical information. You’ll need these documents to apply for assistance or aid in case of property loss or damage with organizations like FEMA.
For those who are dependent upon in home caregivers, cleaning help, etc. You’ll want to notify these people that you have evacuated or left your home. You don’t want them to show up calling on you or doing a welfare check and endangering themselves if you have already left for safety. Grab an index card and write down the names and numbers of the organizations you would need to contact either on your own behalf or that of a loved one in case of evacuation.
Also, are there loved ones that you would need to alert that you are no longer in danger or in your home? Write down the names and numbers of any friends or family that you would need to contact in an emergency, even if you have them committed to memory.
Who would you contact if you needed help? If you needed assistance purchasing medicine, food, or shelter? Writing down the names, numbers, or website of your local county or state assistance organizations, the Red Cross, or FEMA is a great step to take. This will help you or an aid worker contact these organizations and file for assistance.
You might consider adding recovery resources to your plan and go bag. Resources like the United Way can help you recover if your home is affected by wildfire.
Create a Plan and Review It with a Loved One or Caregiver
Your plan is only as good as your ability to remember or follow it. Now that you have gathered all of the essentials and stored them in an out of the way but accessible place, it’s time to make your plan. Write it down or type it up so that you can review your plan and make sure nothing is missing. For example, all of the steps so far have dealt with your safety, but what about pets?
Either opt for a template like this one from the Red Cross, and this resource from Ready.Gov, or create your own using guides from organizations like FEMA. Once you develop your plan, review it with anyone who lives in your home. If you live alone, ask a friend to take a look at your plan to help see if there is anything that is missing.
Your plan should include places to stay, whether these include crashing with a loved one, or seeking emergency shelter. If you have pets looking for these places ahead of time is important, as not all shelters are pet friendly and leaving them behind can be deadly.
Store Your Plan Somewhere Safe
Now that you’ve taken the time to compile and review your safety plan, store it somewhere safe. If you’ve pulled together your essentials in case of emergency, this is a great place to store a copy of your plan. Keeping a copy by your phone, desk, or front entrance is another safe practice. This will help you, or a loved one access the plan when you need it. If you’ve already left your home and someone comes to check on you, referring to your plan can help them locate you in case of an emergency.
Talk About Your Plan
People who love you will be glad to hear that you have a wildfire and emergency preparedness plan. They’ll want to know your plan so that they can be confident in your safety. You might even inspire someone else to put together their own plan, which could save their life.