Wildfires are prevalent in the US during summer, fall, and winter months when high winds combine with dry periods. In some areas of the US, power providers may try to prevent wildfires by turning off electricity, sometimes for days, as hundreds of thousands of Californians experienced firsthand in early October 2019.
Power outages can occur both before and during a wildfire.
Here are some ways your home, family, and business can be prepared for both.
Plan for Power Outages
Power outages could leave you in the dark for days, or longer. And that's not the worst of it.
For some, losing electricity means losing access to water for drinking, showering, or flushing toilets.
For others, losing electricity can mean losing access to food.
Modern conveniences like automatic garage doors or community gates could leave you feeling trapped without a way to exit your home or community.
Be Prepared for Power Outages
These tips from readyforwildfire.org can help you prepare for a power outage event:
- Learn how to manually open your automatic garage doors or gates - this is extremely important!
- Be familiar with your home's utility boxes (electricity, water, and gas).
- Keep shoes near your bed in case you need to evacuate during the night.
- Build a supply kit
- Always keep the gas tank at least half full in your vehicles.
- Make your safety preparedness plan now and make sure your family knows each step and role they will play during this time.
- Don't forget your pets! Have an action plan ready for pets and their care.
- If you have a power generator, be sure you know the safety guidelines for your model. An improperly installed generator can electrocute you or an electric utility worker.
- Keep your cellphone charged.
- Keep a supply of bottled water.
What's in Your Kit?
A well-stocked supply kit is more than just a First Aid Kit. It should include:
- prescription medications (check the expiration dates)
- battery-operated radio
- flashlights and batteries
- coolers or ice chests
- rechargeable battery packs for your cellphones and an extra charging cable
- non-perishable food and a manual can-opener
If the power goes out, leave refrigerator and freezer doors closed and turn off gas and other combustibles, like propane tanks.
Plan for Wildfires
In some cases, a power outage won't prevent a wildfire: it's part of the disaster itself. If wildfires are headed towards your community, you may be ordered to evacuate.
Which may leave you very little time to get what you need and to prepare your home or business.
Give your home or business a chance at surviving a wildfire with these tips.
Prepare for a Wildfire Evacuation
- Shut all windows and doors, leaving them unlocked.
- Remove flammable window shades, curtains and close metal shutters.
- Remove lightweight curtains.
- Move flammable furniture to the center of the room, away from windows and doors.
- Shut off gas at the meter; turn off pilot lights.
- Leave your lights on so firefighters can see your house under smoky conditions.
- Shut off the air conditioning.
- Gather up flammable items from the exterior of the house and bring them inside or place them in your pool.
- Turn off propane tanks.
- Move propane BBQ appliances away from structures.
- Connect garden hoses to outside water valves or spigots for use by firefighters. Fill water buckets and place them around the house.
- Don’t leave sprinklers on or water running, they can affect critical water pressure.
- Leave exterior lights on so your home is visible to firefighters in the smoke or darkness of night.
- Put your Emergency Supply Kit in your vehicle.
- Back your car into the driveway with vehicle loaded and all doors and windows closed. Carry your car keys with you.
- Have a ladder available and place it at the corner of the house for firefighters to quickly access your roof.
- Seal attic and ground vents with pre-cut plywood or commercial seals.
- Patrol your property and monitor the fire situation. Don't wait for an evacuation order if you feel threatened.
- Check on neighbors and make sure they are preparing to leave.
Locate your children and pets and keep them nearby. Wildfires can spread fast and an evacuation order may leave you with very little time to gather loved ones and things of importance.
Plan Ahead - Fire Season is Here
A little pre-planning is crucial during fire season. Even if you aren't affected by a wildfire, your family, home, or business could be affected by a power outage that lasts hours or days.
Talk to your insurance professional about additional ways you can protect your home from losses from natural disasters.
Plan, prepare, and be ready to go and you may be able to protect the things that matter most.