As many of us will remember, 2020 saw much of California, Oregon, and Washington damaged by the 27 wildfires that roared through various counties in late August. Sadly, those of us living in these states know that “fire season” is a yearly occurrence, and there is a chance we could find ourselves in this situation once again this year. So, now is the time to get prepared! In this post we will look at the ways to prepare yourself for the annual wildfire season, from the small scale to the large scale.
Be Prepared: Wildfire Action Plan
One of the best things you can do in advance of the annual wildfire season is to create a Wildfire Action Plan. This plan will be unique to you and your family’s specific needs, but there are many resources available online to help you get started. The CAL FIRE Wildfire Action Plan Checklist is a great resource to use to design your plan.
First, you’ll want to decide on a meeting location outside of the area of the wildfire in case evacuation from your home becomes necessary. Choose this location well in advance and make sure everyone knows where it is and how to get there. You may want to identify several different routes from your home and community; depending on where the fire is, some may be unavailable.
If you have pets, include them in the evacuation portion of your plan too. Make sure that you have easy access to carriers for smaller pets and a way to transport larger pets such as horses. You will also want to make sure to pack food and water for your pet!
CAL FIRE also recommends designating one family member as the point of contact for everyone in your household. This should be someone who does not live in the affected area and can coordinate communication among everyone. Speak to this person in advance and clarify his/her responsibilities.
Be Prepared: Logistics
There are several things you can do logistically to prepare for a wildfire. One good idea is to have fire extinguishers handy in your home. Make sure each family member knows how to use these correctly and be aware of expiration dates. Replace any extinguishers that have expired.
Assemble Emergency Supply Kits for each member of your household. The American Red Cross recommends the following supplies as
Part of an Emergency Supply Kit:
- Face masks or coverings
- 3-day supply of food and 3 gallons of water per person
- Map with at least 2 possible evacuation routes
- Prescriptions or special medications
- Change of clothing
- Extra eyeglasses or contact lenses if needed
- Extra set of car keys, credit cards, cash, or checks
- First aid kit
- Battery powered radio and extra batteries
- Sanitation supplies
- Copies of important documents such as birth certificates and passports
It is also a good idea to have important belongings in a place they are easy to reach if you have to leave in a hurry. For example, when my family hears of a wildfire in our area, we always pack one box each of “irreplaceable items” such as laptops, yearbooks, photos, etc. that we would not want to lose in the event of a fire. We keep these boxes by the front door and make sure everyone who is home knows what to grab in the event of an immediate evacuation. It is also smart during wildfire season to keep your car gassed up and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Be Prepared: Fire Insurance
A wildfire can be a devastating occurrence both personally and financially. If you live in an area that experiences wildfires on a regular basis, you may want to consider adding fire insurance to your homeowners insurance.
Fire insurance is a type of property insurance that protects you against damage and losses that are caused by a fire. This includes electrical fires, and fires caused by natural disasters. It excludes events such as war or nuclear risks. The insurance will cover the cost of damage to your property as well as personal belongings and expenses for lodging and meals if you must leave your home for an extended period of time due to a fire.
Fire insurance will pay either actual cash value or replacement cost for damage. Replacement cost takes the amount a business must currently spend to replace an asset or item with one of the same or higher value. Actual cash value takes the amount of the replacement cost and subtracts it from the depreciation of damaged property at the time of the loss. This is almost always less than what it would cost to replace the item.
Do keep in mind that in areas where wildfires are particularly common, the cost for this insurance may be higher. You will need to review your coverage carefully for any restrictions.
Be Prepared: An Emergency Fund
It is also a good idea to establish an emergency fund, if you do not have one set up already. An emergency fund is an amount of money set aside to fund your living expenses if you are unable to meet them. Here at Rowling & Associates, we recommend keeping between 3-6 months of your living expenses in this fund. An emergency fund will help you if your home is destroyed in a fire and you are unable to work temporarily due to relocation.
For many of us, “wildfire season” is an unavoidable part of our reality.
But this doesn’t mean you have to suffer! Like anything, proper planning can help minimize the damage. If you live in an area where wildfires are common, take advantage of some of the tips offered in this article!