If a wildfire hit your community today, would you be prepared?
Prevention is the best medicine, but preparedness is just as important. When you’re burning up with a fever, there’s nothing you can do to avoid it, but it helps to be stocked up on Tylenol. In wildfire territories, it’s much the same: you can do everything in your power to prevent a fire, but eventually if one does hit, you’ll want to be prepared.
National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day — which lands on May 5 in 2018 — was created with this in mind, and there’s no better time to consider a few ways to protect yourself and your community. Here are just a few ways you and your family can mark the occasion this year.
1. Make a Wildfire Plan
If you live somewhere that’s regularly hit by wildfires, there are probably local protocols for what to do in the event of a fire. The first step in wildfire preparedness is making yourself familiar with these protocols for your region. Sign up for any email or text emergency alerts your community offers, research the evacuation routes, and seek out available literature on local emergency plans to keep in an accessible spot in your home.
Make a personal preparedness plan specifically for your family, too. Every year you should review the plan and make sure everybody’s clear on what to do and where to go in the event of a wildfire — why not use Wildfire Community Preparedness Day as the annual date to review this plan with your family? Be sure to get and/or restock your emergency preparedness kit as part of your annual check. Your kit should include a flashlight, cash, batteries, first aid supplies, a few snacks, and some water.
2. Take Steps to Protect Your Home
Protecting your home from wildfires not only protects your property — it can also help prevent fires from spreading to your neighbors and beyond.
There are several ways to protect your home from fire, but some of the most important actions include:
- maintaining your roof, vents, and gutters so they aren’t fire traps
- keeping firewood and fuel at least 15 feet away from your home
- choosing fire-resistant building materials and decor
On Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, take a moment to assess your property and make sure you’ve done everything you can reduce the risk of wildfire — if there’s something on the list you haven’t done, now is a good time to tackle it. You may also want to invest in home protection equipment to protect your property if you are hit by wildfire.
3. Get Your Garden in Shape
A fun way to mark Wildfire Community Preparedness Day is by tending to your garden. Yes, you can beautify your property without putting it at risk! In fact, a bit of careful gardening can help protect your property.
Plant low-risk trees and other vegetation that’s appropriate for your climate. While no plants are truly fire-proof, there are some low-resin, high-moisture varieties that make for safer choices. Try sticking with hardwoods like maple or cherry over flammable conifers like pine; opt for currant, sumac, and shrub apples for any hedging; and plant rockrose or aloe for smaller ignition-resistant decor.
Even if your plants are fire resistant, make sure to maintain at least 20 feet between your trees. Remove any small trees growing between larger ones, and ensure that none of the canopies are touching. It’s also a good idea to prune trees 6 to 10 feet off the ground. All of these measures serve to reduce the risk that a wildfire would spread from tree to tree on your property, and possibly all the way to your house.
4. Educate Yourself & Raise Awareness
Once you’ve got a wildfire preparedness plan in effect, a property that’s well protected against wildfires, and some striking but safe landscaping, what else can you do? Continue educating yourself on wildfire safety in your region, and spread the information around your community!
Wildfire Community Preparedness Day is a great opportunity to participate in educational initiatives. There are plenty of government recommendations and community projects out there related to wildfire safety; this year, take some time on May 5 to get involved — it could even be as small as posting on social media to spread awareness. The more informed you and your community are, the safer you’ll all be in the event of a wildfire in the area.
For more expert tips on wildfire preparedness and safety measures, stay tuned to the National Fire Fighter blog.