Wildfire season is upon us and those who live in a rural area with lots of trees know the anxiety that is felt when that familiar plume of smoke is seen close to your home. Hopefully, you have never had to deal with a forced evacuation or even a home being destroyed by wildfire. However, you just never know where the next fire – or any disaster – may strike, so it is advisable, if you haven’t done it yet, to start preparing for wildfire season now in case you have to evacuate your home.
Of course, people living in Oakland may not think about wildfires, but you only have to go back to 1991 to find evidence of the destruction a wildfire can cause. For those who don’t remember, the Oakland Hills Firestorm took place in 1991 and, before it was finally contained, ended up burning nearly 2.5 square miles of mostly residential neighborhoods. The fire also killed 25 people and injured 150 more while also destroying 3,500 homes and apartment buildings and causing 10,000 people to be evacuated. The fire itself started as a small fire on private property that was put out quickly by firefighters. However, some embers from that fire smoldered and eventually caused another, far more disastrous fire to get going. So being prepared for a wildfire in the East Bay Area is as crucial as any other more rural area. Also, preparing for wildfire season is very similar to getting prepared for most disasters, such as earthquakes, and everybody in California should be prepared for that. Most disaster preparedness websites include info that covers preparation for both of these scenarios. Some great information can be found on the Alameda County Office of Emergency Management website.
Now on to our suggested list of necessary preparations…
As was mentioned earlier, disaster preparation can cover a number of different scenarios that include everything from wildfires to earthquakes; however, wildfire preparedness includes getting the outside of your home ready as well. If you live in a rural or unincorporated area, it is possible that you fall under the “Defensible Space Requirement”. As of 2005, most rural California residents were required to clear 100 ft. of defensible space clearance around their homes and other structures located on their property. This meant that weeds needed to be cleared within 100 ft. of the home and overhanging tree limbs that were considered fire hazards needed to be removed as well. This helps keep a wildfire from burning your property and could help save your home. For more information about defensible space, contact your local fire station or go to the CalFire website.
Every household should have an emergency kit. It doesn’t matter whether you are in the city or way out in the woods. That’s because, as we stated earlier, many emergencies require the same preparedness, whether it’s a wildfire or an earthquake. Most agencies suggest that your emergency kit have the following:
- Water: You should plan to have available a gallon of water per person per day.
- Non-Perishable Food: This food should be easy to open and prepare. A small camp stove should also be in your kit.
- Medications: Not everyone thinks about these, but if you don’t have them, that could become a life-threatening situation.
- First Aid Kit: The reason for this is obvious as you may have to bandage a wound or treat a burn and, of course, medical help may not be available.
- Some other useful items include a flashlight, a radio and extra batteries for both. Heck, you could even throw in a pack of cards to keep everyone entertained.
It is suggested that your kit should have a three-day supply of food and water in case of an evacuation and a two-week supply in case you are trapped at home, so it may be best to have two different kits prepared. One final note: Don’t forget about food and water for your pets!
MAKE A PLAN
No matter the emergency, you and your family should all have a discussion about a family disaster plan. This plan should cover where everyone will meet and how they will communicate in case they have been separated.
Meeting Place: As we just noted, you and your family should agree upon two meeting places in case of emergency: One right outside your home (this works well for earthquakes and home fires) and one outside of your neighborhood in case you can’t get home.
The family disaster plan should also include several methods of communication. Don’t assume cell phones will work, though they should be your first method of communication. If cell phones are down, but landlines are still working, the family should all agree on a central person that everyone will call for information. This person should be someone who lives outside the area so they will be available and not affected by the same disaster. Also, a local emergency shelter may have a message board available. Finally, if possible, listen to the radio for the latest information about where to go and what is happening. Some local radio stations may also be willing to broadcast messages from family members.
Some final tips: Make sure your family knows which TV or radio stations will be broadcasting pertinent disaster information because a wildfire can get out of control and grow to enormous size (again, think Oakland Hills Firestorm) quickly and it is better to be informed sooner than later. Also, at least one family member should know some basic first aid as well as CPR. Of course, for more extensive emergency information, go to the Red Cross website.
Now that we have covered some basic information about wildfire and disaster preparedness, we feel we should at least mention some information about water heaters. Though your water heater certainly won’t be top of mind when a wildfire – or any other disaster – strikes, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of a few helpful bits of information.
First, no matter whether it’s an emergency situation or just a leak, every homeowner should know how to shut down their water heater. And while it may not be necessary in the case of a wildfire, it is a good precaution to take. Also, if another disaster such as an earthquake hit, you should definitely know how to shut it off in the case of a gas or water leak. For that information, just go to our Emergency Shutdown Instructions page on our website: (insert link). There you will find written instructions as well as a very helpful video. If you have the time before you have to evacuate, you may decide to shut down your water heater before you leave the home. And if you come home after being evacuated and find your water heater leaking, then it helps to be able to shut it down. And, of course, once things have gotten back to normal and you either need us to take a look at your water heater or need help turning it back on, feel free to give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (510) 839-0414 and one of our water heater experts will be happy to answer any questions you may have and they can even set up an appointment to have one of our technicians come out and take a look at your water heater.