Preparing For A Wildfire

Red Cross tips help residents in wildfire-prone areas prepare accordingly

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Wildfire season is in full swing in Arizona. The American Red Cross, a leader in disaster preparedness and response, wants to help Arizonans prepare their homes and families so they can respond accordingly should a wildfire occur in their community. The following preparedness information will help keep Arizonans safe during this wildfire season.

Make a plan

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Firefighters from the Jeff Whitney crew ignited burnouts along the Beeline Highway south of Payson to help contain the Willow Fire.

Planning ahead is the first step to a calmer and more assured response during a wildfire.

1. Talk. Whether you live in wildfire-prone areas or simply visit them for recreation, discuss with your family the dangerous and destructive nature of wildfires and impress upon your family the importance of practicing fire safety. Establish responsibilities for each family member and plan to work together should a wildfire occur. Designate alternatives in case someone is absent.

2. Plan. Choose a place to meet if a wildfire does occur and you are asked to evacuate. This place should be outside of your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate your neighborhood.

3. Learn. Each adult in your household should learn how and when to turn off utilities such as electricity, water and gas if you are asked to evacuate.

4. Check supplies. Review your disaster supplies and replace food and water every six months. (More information on disaster supplies appears in the next section).

5. Tell. Let everyone in the household know where emergency contact information is kept. Make copies for everyone to carry with them. Be sure to include an out-of-town contact. It may be easier to call out of the area if local phone lines are overloaded or are out of service. Keep the information updated.

6. Practice. Practice evacuating your home twice a year. Drive your planned evacuation route and plot alternative routes on a map in case main roads are impassable or gridlocked.

Build a kit

What you have on hand when a wildfire happens can make a big difference. Plan to store enough supplies for everyone in your household for at least three days.

1. Water. Have a least one gallon per person per day.

2. Food. Pack non-perishable, high-protein items, including energy bars, ready-to-eat soup, peanut butter, etc. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water.

3. Flashlight. Include extra batteries.

4. First aid kit.

5. Medications. Don't forget prescription and non-prescription items.

6. Battery-operated radio. Include extra batteries.

7. Tools. Assemble a wrench to turn off gas if necessary, a manual can opener, a screwdriver, hammer, pliers, a knife, duct tape, plastic sheeting and garbage bags and ties.

8. Clothing. Provide a change of clothes for everyone, including sturdy shoes and gloves.

9. Personal items. Remember eyeglasses or contact lenses and solution; copies of important papers, including identification cards, insurance policies, birth certificates, passports, etc.; and comfort items such as toys and books.

10. Sanitary supplies. You'll want toilet paper, towelettes, feminine supplies, personal hygiene items, bleach, etc.

11. Money. Have cash. (ATMs and credit cards won't work if power is out.)

12. Contact information. Carry a current list of family phone numbers and e-mail addresses, including someone out of the area who may be easier to reach if local phone lines are out of service or overloaded.

13. Pet supplies. Include food, water, leash, litter box or plastic bags, tags, any medications and vaccination information.

14. Map. Consider marking an evacuation route on it from your local area.

Include any necessary items for infants, seniors and people with disabilities in your kit. Store your disaster supplies in a sturdy but easy-to-carry container. A large covered trash container, overnight backpack or duffel bag will work.

Keep a smaller version of the kit in your vehicle. If you become stranded or are not able to return home, having some items with you will help you be more comfortable until help arrives.

When wildfire threatens

  • If you are warned that a wildfire is threatening your area, listen to your battery-operated radio for reports and evacuation information. Follow the instructions of local officials.
  • Confine pets to one room so that you can access them immediately if you must evacuate.
  • Back your car into the garage. Shut doors and roll up windows. Leave the key in the ignition. Close garage windows and doors, but leave them unlocked. Disconnect any automatic garage door openers.
  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Wear protective clothing -- sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.
  • Take your Disaster Supplies Kit (described above).
  • Take your pets.
  • Lock your home.
  • Tell someone when you leave and where you are going.
  • Follow the route and directions provided by emergency officials in charge of the evacuation.
  • Register at a Red Cross Reception and Care Center or Shelter.

For more information, contact Lynda Papaioanu at the local Red Cross chapter, (928) 472-7245.

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