The fast-moving wildfires in Colorado on Thursday that forced tens of thousands of people to flee and destroyed hundreds of homes were a sobering reminder that wildfires are becoming a year-round phenomenon in the American West.
It’s never too early to plan for a potential evacuation, even if you’re not in an area immediately affected by smoke or flames. Experts say wildfires can spread very quickly, move erratically and travel long distances — especially when driven by winds, as were Thursday’s fires.
Here are some suggestions for preparing for such an emergency.
before the fire
make a plan. Families should identify a meeting point in the event of separation and map at least two evacuation routes.
Prepare an emergency kit. Think beyond a flashlight, batteries, food, and water. Cal Fire, the California fire agency, a state that records thousands of wildfires annually, recommends a three-day supply of non-perishable food and three gallons of water per person. Also pack your changing clothes, prescription medications, and extra glasses or contact lenses. If you have pets, don’t forget pet food and medicine.
Keep important documents together. Gather birth certificates, title deeds, insurance records, and other important papers. In addition to being difficult to replace, certain documents may be required for filing claims after a fire.
When the fire approaches
Prepare your home. If you have time, move flammable items such as wood piles, brush cabinets, and propane at least 30 feet from your home. Close all windows and doors, but leave them open as soon as the space is cleared, so the firefighters can enter. Turn on outside lights so firefighters can see the house through the smoke. Turn off the gas at the meter, then turn off the air conditioning.
fuel. Keep the family car full of gas to avoid any delays.
Go to the automated teller machine. Cash is key after emergencies. Keep your credit cards on hand, too.
Listen to the local media. There is no better source for information on evacuation orders, roads and shelters, said Brandi Richard, the State Department’s public affairs official. Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Monitoring their websites is really important, because as things come up, they share it on social media.”
Once you decide to evacuate
You do not need to wait for the order. This is especially true in densely populated areas where there may be traffic jams.
Pack a “travel bag”. Make sure you have the essentials, especially if you don’t have access to your emergency supply kit. Denver Office of Emergency Management It is suggested that you pack the following: medicine, important documents, clothes, cash, blanket, face masks, hand sanitizer water and snacks.
Get your electronic devices. Cell phones, personal computers, spare hard drives, and chargers should all be in the vehicle, along with an emergency kit, personal documents, family mementos, cash, and credit cards.
Don’t forget the pets. They will be afraid.
Be smart in the car. Close your windows and use recirculated air conditioning. Tune in to your local radio to learn more about safe methods.