Here in Southern California, we enjoy warm, sunny weather year-round. But from time to time, the balmy weather turns scorching, and fires emerge as a result. September and October have historically been the worst time for fires in California, but experts are now saying that fire season is almost year round.
Knowing that fires can occur at any time, it is important to be sure that you are prepared to respond to a fire-related emergency at a moment’s notice. Preparing your family and home ahead of time can pay dividends in minimizing severe fire damage to your home and keeping your loved ones safe if and when a fire does occur. Preparedness and planning can also make the restoration process easier if your home does experience fire damage. In this article, we’ll share our top tips to keep you, your family, and your home safe in event of a wildfire.
Our top five tips for preparing for San Diego’s wildfire season
Come up with a Wildfire Action Plan
Having a plan for you and your family is so important to maintaining safety and organization in a wildfire emergency.
Your plan should include:
- A Local Meeting Place: Your local meeting place should be completely out of fire danger, but close enough to your home for family members to meet. This could be a neighbor’s house or your cross street.
- Family Communication Plan: Keep important phone numbers written down in your wallet, not just in your phone in case your phone loses power or service.
- An Evacuation Location: An evacuation location should include your area’s evacuation routes and a place you can stay that is as far from the wildfire’s path as you can get.
Build an Emergency Supply Kit
Put together an emergency kit for each member of your family. The kit should include about three days’ supply of all survival essentials (food and water, clothes, prescriptions, important documents, cash, first aid supplies, etc.).
Create a Home Inventory List
Create an inventory list of valuable items in your home before wildfires even become a threat to your community. If you can, take a photo of each item too. Having a list and photos of damaged items will help your insurance company assess the losses and help cover costs. This will significantly lower fire damage costs and make the fire restoration process much easier.
Commit to Tree Health and Removal
Dry brush and dead trees cause wildfires to spread and can make them much harder for firefighters to contain. Make sure to prune trees around your property and take action to remove dead trees and dry brush.
Create Defensible Space
Use the “Lean, Green, and Clean” model to create defensible space on your property. Keep at least 30 ft of well-maintained space around your property, known as Zone 1. Cut back any dry vegetation, remove dead trees, and keep this space clear. Zone 2 is the space 100 ft around your home. In Zone 2, grass should not exceed four inches, and space should be kept between any trees or shrubbery.
Prepare Your Home
If a wildfire is raging and your home is in the direct path, damage may not be avoidable. But by taking the steps below, you can reduce damage to your property and save money on restoration costs.
- When building or remodeling your home, opt for fire-resistant materials. Consider materials such as composition, metal, clay, or tile for your roof. For walls, consider stucco, fiber cement, or treated fire retardant wood. Be sure to extend materials from the foundation to the roof.
- Cover all vent, chimney, and stovepipe openings with metal screens/mesh. Do not use fiberglass or plastic mesh because they can melt and burn. Covering your vents prevents embers from flying in. Covering your chimney and vents prevents embers from flying out and starting a fire.
- Install dual-paned windows with one pane of tempered glass to reduce the chance of breakage in a fire. Install screens in all windows to increase ember resistance and decrease radiant heat exposure.
- Keep your yard and gutters clear of plant debris to reduce flammability, and trim trees and shrubs overhanging the road to ensure emergency vehicles can pass.
- Add a battery backup to the garage door motor so that the garage can easily be operated during a power outage.
- Store all combustible materials and flammable liquids away from ignition sources.
- Ensure that all gates open inward and are wide enough to accommodate emergency equipment.
- Make sure your address is visible from the road.
- Consider having multiple garden hoses long enough to reach all areas of your home and other structures on your property.
- Close your fireplace flue during fire season when your chimney is not being used
Keep your propane tank clear of any combustible material by at least 15 feet
Download Emergency Notification and Preparedness Apps
The sooner you know about a wildfire, the better off you are in protecting yourself, your home, and your family. Below are our top picks for apps that will notify you of any potential disasters in your area, alert you of evacuation orders, and give you resources to get through an emergency.
For those in San Diego County, SD Emergency is a key app to download. The app sends emergency updates for disasters happening in San Diego County and offers resources to help build an emergency plan, such as checklists, supply lists, shelter locations, and more.
FEMA, (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) is a part of the Department of Homeland Security. FEMA’s mobile app brings you real-time emergency alerts concerning all sorts of disasters. In the app, you can select which kinds of disasters you want to be notified about, including wildfires, flooding, severe weather (thunderstorms and tornadoes), tropical weather (hurricanes and typhoons), winter storms (snow, ice, freezing rain), avalanches, fire, extreme temperatures, marine weather, public hazard alerts, and more.
FEMA’s app goes above and beyond most apps and also sends alerts for events like evacuations, civil danger, child abductions, hazardous materials, nuclear power plants, radiological hazards, 911 phone outages, riots, explosions, and more. In addition to alerts, the app helps you prepare for disaster, offering emergency safety tips, reminder alerts for testing smoke alarms, and updating disaster preparedness kits.
First Aid by American RedCross
If you’re far from a hospital and need help in an emergency, the First Aid app is your solution. It provides clear instructions and learning opportunities for acting on common health emergencies like stopping bleeding, treating a broken bone, performing CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, treating heat stroke, etc.
The app also offers learning modules on how to prepare for events like wildfires, earthquakes, drought, flooding, landslides, tsunamis, volcanoes, and more. The Emergency section of the app has detailed information and checklists on what to do before, during, and after everything from an allergy issue or head injury to a heart attack, diabetic emergency, and hypothermia. The app even offers the phone numbers of local hospitals in case you need further assistance.
Offline Survival Manual
While it is a more niche app, Offline Survival Manual is an extremely helpful guide to survival in less populated areas. It provides information on how to make shelter, what kinds of plants to avoid, how to make fire, how to prepare food, basic medicine, etc. This app could be useful if you find yourself in a situation where you have to fend for yourself for a little while. The best part is the app is entirely free and requires no cell service.
After a Wildfire, Certified Restoration Can Help
Stay smart during wildfire season. Fire damage can create long-term issues on your property and should only be dealt with by an expert fire damage restoration technician. Being prepared in the event of a natural disaster will help keep your family safe and save you time and money if restoration is necessary. Certified Restoration is here for you throughout the restoration process and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.