Wildfire Preparation Tip Sheets
Be Ready for Wildfires*
Wildfires know no season. They may start of their own accord, or be set by an arsonist or careless smoker. Once started, they can move incredibly fast, threatening lives, property and the environment.
Whether you live in an area especially prone to wildfires, or one where they are fairly rare, the potential for near total devastation emphasizes the importance of taking as many precautions as possible. You may not be able to prevent a wildfire, but there are many things you can do to reduce potential damage.Prepare family members:
- Teach your children what to do in the event of a wildfire.
- Have someone take a first aid course to learn how to treat burns.
- Plan an evacuation route and destination.
- Appoint an out-of-town friend or relative to be your "family contact." Let others know who it is. After a disaster, anyone not at home should check-in with the contact person.
- First aid supplies, including sterile gauze pads, scissors, bandages, tweezers, antiseptic spray, latex gloves and a bar of antibacterial soap.
- Prescription and non-prescription medicines, including non-prescription pain relievers, antacid, eye wash, rubbing alcohol, and medicine to induce vomiting in the event of poisoning.
- Battery-operated radio with extra batteries.
- Flashlight and extra batteries.
- Cash or travelers checks.
- Dry clothes and sturdy shoes for each family member.
- Sleeping bags and a tent.
- Toilet paper and other personal hygiene items.
- Special items required for babies or pets.
Prepare ahead of time:
- Identify your main source of water: hydrant, well, cistern, pond, swimming pool. If you do not have an adequate supply, consider a storage tank with a fire-hose connector.
- Keep a garden hose handy that is long enough to reach all areas of the house and all sources of water.
- Install freeze-proof exterior water outlets on at least two sides of your house and near other structures on your property.
- Install one or more additional outlets at least 50 feet from the house.
Pay attention to your chimneys and stove pipes:
- Review your homeowners insurance policy to ensure you have adequate protection and appropriate coverages. A Liberty Mutual representative can assist you.
- Homeowners policies provide coverage for valuables, up to certain limits. For maximum protection, you should have jewelry, silverware, furs and other valuables appraised, then scheduled separately to your policy. You'll get the broadest coverage possible, with no deductible. Ask your Liberty Mutual representative for more information.
- Take an inventory of your personal property. Document this inventory with a videotape or photographs. Store this information and any other important documents in a safe deposit box. Liberty Mutual offers a brochure that will guide you, room-by-room, through an inventory -- call your local Liberty Mutual office for a free copy.
- Inspect them regularly and have them cleaned at least annually.
- Make sure dampers work.
- Equip chimneys and stovepipes with a spark arrester approved by the National Fire Protection Association.
(Ask your local Fire Department for details.)
- Screen openings to floors, roof, attic and crawl spaces to prevent debris from accumulating and sparks from entering. Install half-inch mesh beneath decks, porches and the house itself if it is not on a solid foundation.
- Screen vents and louvers with 1/4" mesh to keep sparks from entering.
- Install smoke detectors and test them monthly. There should be a smoke detector on every floor, especially near bedrooms. Change batteries once a year.
- Similarly, have fire extinguishers on each floor and keep them charged.
- Keep potential fire tools nearby. These include a rake, ax, chain saw or hand saw, bucket and shovel.
Protect the environment:
- Keep gutters free of leaves, pine needles, debris, etc.
- Mow grass and rake grounds regularly.
- Store combustible or flammable materials in approved safety containers away from the house.
- Keep handy a ladder long enough to reach your roof.
When a wildfire warning is issued:
- Don't smoke in woods, dry fields or near dry leaves or grass.
- Don't build fires near trees or bushes.
- Don't leave a fire, even a lit cigarette, unattended. When the fire is completely out, soak ashes with water or bury in dirt.
- Have nearby an extinguisher, sand, dirt or other means to put out the fire.
- Don't use open burning, including burn barrels or outside incinerators, to dispose of trash.
- Be aware that sparks from the exhaust system of your car can start a fire. If you travel over fire-prone ground frequently, you may want to consider a spark arrester.
Be ready to evacuate by car:
- Listen to the radio for reports and evacuation information and instructions.
Remove combustible items from house where possible:
- Back your car into the garage or parking area so that it is facing the direction of escape. Keep the path of escape clear.
- Shut doors and roll up windows.
- Leave key in ignition.
- Close but do not lock garage doors and windows.
- Disconnect automatic garage door openers.
- Confine pets to one room. Have carriers ready if required. Keep in mind, however, that many emergency shelters do not accept pets, so you should develop a contingency plan for your dogs, cats and other household pets.
If you are caught in a wildfire:
- Outside, this includes lawn furniture, umbrellas, tarp coverings and flags.
- Inside, take down flammable drapes and curtains; close venetian blinds or non-combustible window treatments.
- Close doors and windows to prevent drafts.
- Close gas valves and turn off pilot lights.
- Turn a light on in each room for visibility in heavy smoke.
- Place valuables that won't be damaged by water in a pool or pond. Plan to take others with you.
- If hoses and water are available, leave sprinklers on roofs.
After the fire:
- Get to a fire-proof place if at all possible:
- First choice, get into water: swimming pool, pond, river, swamp.
- Second choice, lie flat near rock or concrete: an outcropping, patio, or wall.
- Cover head and upper body with wet clothing or soil.
- Breathe air close to ground through a wet cloth (if possible) to prevent smoke inhalation.
- If you are able to return fairly soon after the fire:
- Watch for hot spots.
- Check the roof immediately and extinguish any sparks or embers.
- Check the attic for hidden sparks.
- Take an inventory of any damaged property or possessions. Do not dispose of any items without the prior approval of your insurance claims adjuster.
- In the event of a loss, call your Liberty Mutual claims office and a representative will assist you.
Note: Homeowners policies and coverages vary by state. A Liberty Mutual representative will gladly explain the coverages provided by your policy and any regulations for the state in which you live.
*Source: Institute for Business and Home Safety, http://www.disastersafety.org/