We are all adjusting to new schedules and routines due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. One thing many of us have in common is we are spending more time at home which makes it especially important to prepare and protect our homes. As hotter, drier weather of summer approaches, the risk of wildfire increases. While practicing social distancing, FEMA encourages you to make sure your home and your family are prepared for wildfires.
The United States Fire Administration promotes simple ways to prevent a fire from affecting your home and community, including:
- Reduce amount of flammable materials and brush that can burn around your home by removing pine needles, dry leaves or other highly flammable materials.
- Protect your roof: Trim branches that overhang your home and remove any leaves, needles, and sticks from your roof and gutters.
- Move wood piles and small propane tanks away from your (and your neighbor’s) home, 30 feet or more is best.
- Embers from a burning fire can get under an unprotected porch or through vents. To prevent this, install a wire mesh screen with openings no larger than 1/8th inch.
Be prepared in case you need to evacuate:
- Keep important documents in a fireproof safe, on a USB drive, or store password protected documents online.
- Check your home insurance to make sure your policy protects your current home value and includes wildfires.
- Give yourself time and evacuate early if possible. If you can’t leave, designate a room that can be closed off from outside air in case air conditions become hazardous.
- Make your household emergency plan and go-kit. When making plans, don’t forget the needs of pets. Make sure that you know more than one way out of your neighborhood.
- Sign up to receive emergency alerts and notices for your community.
- Ready.gov offers vital safety tips on what to do before, during, and after a wildfire.
Another important thing to consider is buying flood insurance. After a wildfire, flood risk increases due to the inability of charred vegetation and soil to absorb water. Rainstorms after a wildfire lead to increased runoff down slopes and into channels, streams, and rivers. Flooding after fire can be fast, severe, and include mudflows as runoff picks up debris, ash, and sediment from the burn scar. Flood insurance can protect property owners from catastrophic financial impacts of flooding following a wildfire.
Wildfires can develop and spread quickly, leaving little time to get somewhere safe. Know what to do to keep yourself, your family, and your pets safe and take steps now to protect your future.