Kansas City, Mo.—This is the time of year for fun outdoor activities like Independence Day celebrations, camping, outdoor grilling and road trips, but before you head out, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reminds you to plan for the dangers associated with heat waves and wildfire threats. Learn and put into practice important summer-survival tips to help protect yourself, your property and the environment.
“To protect our eyes, most of us automatically grab our sunglasses before heading outside during the daytime. Many of the things we can do to protect ourselves from high temperatures and to prevent wildfires are just as easy and make just as much sense,” said Regional Administrator Beth Freeman, of Region VII.
SURVIVING THE HEAT
During an extended period of extreme heat, also known as a heat wave, the body must work extra hard to stay cool. This stresses the body and those who are very young, elderly, overweight or sick are at highest risk for heat-related illnesses. Here are a few quick tips to stay healthy.
- Consider spending the warmest part of the day in air conditioned buildings. Find a cooling off location near you by sending a text message to SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
- Listen to NOAA Weather Radio for critical updates from the National Weather Service.
- Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
- Avoid strenuous outdoor work and play during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.
- Protect face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
- Eat well-balanced, light, and regular meals. Drink plenty of water; even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine and limit intake of alcoholic beverages. Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; are on fluid-restricted diets; or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.
- Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
- Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone.
BEFORE A WILDFIRE
Tips to protect your family
- To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit (www.ready.gov/build-a-kit) and make a family emergency plan (www.ready.gov/make-a-plan). Learn more at www.ready.gov.
- Ask local emergency management officials or the local American Red Cross chapter how you would be warned if a wildfire threatened.
- Meet with other household members to discuss where to go and what to bring if advised to evacuate.
- Plan several escape routes away from your home - by car and by foot.
- Talk to your neighbors about wildfire safety. Plan how the neighborhood could work together after a wildfire. Make a list of your neighbors' skills such as medical or technical. Consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs such as elderly or disabled persons. Make plans to take care of children who may be on their own if parents can't get home.
Tips to protect your home
It is recommended that you create a 30 to 100 foot safety zone around your home. Within this area, you can take steps to reduce potential exposure to flames and radiant heat. Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum safety zone of 100 feet. If your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not suffice. Contact your local fire department or forestry office for additional information.
- Rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs. Clear all flammable vegetation, including any hiding under structures.
- Make sure that fire vehicles can get to your home. Clearly mark all driveway entrances and display your name and address.
- Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
- Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
- Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
- Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
- Show responsible family members how and when to shut off water, gas, and electricity at main switches.
- Remove vines from the walls of the home.\
- Mow grass regularly.
- Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue. Place a screen over the grill - use nonflammable material with mesh no coarser than one-quarter inch.
- Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish at an approved site. Follow local burning regulations.
- Place stove, fireplace and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for 2 days, and then bury the cold ashes in mineral soil.
- Store gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans. Place cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
- Stack firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home. Clear combustible material within 20 feet. Use only wood-burning devices evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- Review your homeowner's insurance policy and also prepare/update a list of your home's contents.
Practice Wildfire Safety
In the U.S., nine out of 10 wildfires are started by people being careless. Take these steps to protect lives, property and the environment from the devastation they cause.
- Contact your local fire department, health department, or forestry office for information on fire laws.
- Report hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.
- Teach children about fire safety. Keep matches out of their reach.
- Post fire emergency telephone numbers.
Follow Local Burning Laws
- Before burning debris in a wooded area, make sure you notify local authorities and obtain a burning permit.
- Use an approved incinerator with a safety lid or covering with holes no larger than ¾ inch.
- Create at least a 10-foot clearing around the incinerator before burning debris.
- Have a fire extinguisher or garden hose on hand when burning debris.
Follow @FEMARegion7 on www.twitter.com/femaregion7 to get important preparedness tips related to heat waves, wildfires and all other types of emergencies.
Additional resources for wildfire prevention and safety can be found online at www.ready.gov/wildfires and http://www.firewise.org/; and additional information about staying healthy during prolonged periods of extreme heat are available at www.ready.gov/heat.
Follow FEMA online at www.twitter.com/fema, www.facebook.com/fema, and www.youtube.com/fema. Also, follow Administrator Craig Fugate's activities at www.twitter.com/craigatfema. The social media links provided are for reference only. FEMA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies or applications.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.