May is National Wildfire Awareness Month and the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region is urging everyone to plan now for dangerous wildfires and potential power outages.
“The last two years brought record-breaking wildfires and this year could be as bad or even worse” said Thomas Hill, Regional Disaster Officer for the Red Cross Los Angeles Region. “Wildfires spread extremely fast, giving people minutes or less to evacuate. Protect your home and loved ones by getting ready right now.”
GETTING READY IS EASY
There are simple steps you can take to be prepared:
- Create an evacuation plan. Plan what to do in case you are separated from your family during an emergency and if you have to evacuate. Coordinate your plan with your child’s school, your work and your community’s emergency plans. Plan multiple routes to local shelters, register family members with special medical needs as required and make plans for pets. If you already have an emergency plan, talk about it again with family members so everyone knows what to do if an emergency occurs.
- Build an emergency kit with a gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for an infant if applicable, a multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items, copies of important papers, cell phone chargers, extra cash, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information. Because of the pandemic, include a mask for everyone in your household. If you already have a disaster kit, now is the time to make sure the food and water is still okay to consume and that copies of important documents are up to date.
- Be informed. Find out how local officials will contact you during a wildfire emergency and how you will get important information, such as evacuation orders. Sign up for your community’s emergency notifications.
- Download the free Red Cross Emergency app to help keep you and your loved ones safe with real-time alerts, open Red Cross shelter locations and safety advice on wildfires and other emergencies. To download the app, search for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or go to redcross.org/apps.
WILDFIRE SAFETY AND PREVENTION
- Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice and obey all official evacuation orders.
- Post emergency phone numbers by every phone in your home and make sure everyone adds those numbers in their cell phones.
- Don’t drive your vehicle onto dry grass or brush. Hot components under your vehicle can spark fires.
- Use equipment responsibly: Lawn mowers, chain saws, tractors and trimmers can spark wildfires.
- Be cautious when using fire. Dispose of charcoal briquettes and fireplace ashes properly. Never leave an outdoor fire unattended and fully extinguished outdoor fires before leaving the area.
- If residential debris burning is allowed — use caution. Obtain all necessary permits and ensure burning is permitted in your area.
- Store combustible and flammable materials in approved safety containers away from your home.
- Find an outdoor water source such as a pond, well or even a swimming pool, and have a hose long enough to reach all area of your property.
- Create a fire-resistant zone 30 feet around your home that is free of leaves, debris or flammable materials.
- Regularly clean roofs and gutters.
- Make sure driveway entrances and your house number are clearly marked so fire vehicles can get to your home.
If your home is threatened by a wildfire, position parked vehicles facing the road for a fast departure.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Red Cross has procedures and resources in place to help ensure the safety of those we serve and our workforce, especially when it comes to supporting local communities during a wildfire emergency. The Red Cross is still providing the same types of support after disasters as we always have, including making sure people have a safe place to stay, food to eat and resources to help them recover. We’ve put in place additional precautions, in line with CDC recommendations including social distancing protocols, masks, health screenings and enhanced cleaning procedures.
Ensuring people have a safe place to stay during a disaster is a critical part of the Red Cross mission, but how we support sheltering efforts may be different in each community, depending on local emergency plans and the scale of the disaster. In some instances, we may open group shelters, while other times hotels may be more appropriate.