Although fire season is already upon us, it is never too late to double-check to make sure you have done everything possible to look out for the safety of you and your family.
For those that think they are prepared, a quick look at the “top 10” items below might change your mind. All the items listed require little or no money and minimal time to complete, but checking off these tasks could go a long way to reduce your family’s risk to wildfire.
- Have you and your family registered your cell phones with AlertSanDiego, the County’s emergency notification system?
You can register by visiting www.ReadySanDiego.org and click on the cellular phone logo. By registering your cell phone, you will receive a reverse 911 call to alert you to fire updates or evacuation information during an emergency even if you’re not home.
Why is it important to register? Some residents do not have a landline phone and would not receive any emergency notifications unless they registered their cell phone.
Cost: $0. Time Involved: Less than a minute.
- Have you removed fire hazards near your home?
Most residents who live in high fire risk areas have given their home a fighting chance by creating and maintaining a 100-foot-radius of defensible space around their home. However, now is the time to make sure that there are no combustible materials next to your home.
Many homes, even ones with good defensible space, were lost in the 2007 fires because flying embers ignited flames in trash cans and woodpiles next to homes, as well as ignited dead leaves on roofs and in rain gutters.
Cost: $0. Time Involved: Less than an hour.
- Have you checked to make that sure none of your tree branches are touching or are located too close to your roof or home?
Remember to trim and thin plants and trees. While more than 1,700 homes were lost during the 2007 Firestorm, more than 17,000 homes in the path of the wildfire were spared as a result of firefighters’ efforts, but also due to homeowners who used defensible space concepts.
Cost: $0. Time Involved: Less than an hour.
- Have you scheduled a high-fire hazard inspection from your local fire agency?
Consult with your local fire department or district about specific fire codes and the risk to your individual property, as well as your community.
Cost: $0. Time Involved: Approximately 1 hour.
- Have you completed a Family Disaster Plan?
Having a plan can help you and your family remain calm during an emergency.
Cost: $0. Time Involved: 20 minutes.
- Are you ready to evacuate your home in just 15 minutes?
During last year’s wildfires, many residents had only 15 minutes to gather their essential items, pets and family members before the fire reached their area. Conduct an evacuation drill with your family at least twice a year and have items you want to take with you in an evacuation within easy reach.
Cost: $0. Time Involved: 15 minutes.
- Do you have emergency supplies to last you and your family at least 72 hours?
The Office of Emergency Services recommends that people store at least one gallon of water per person for each day as well as non-perishable food. Residents should also have at least a week’s worth of medications on hand. Special items for children should also be included in your kit. For a full list of items, visit www.ReadySanDiego.org.
Cost: Approximately $30. Time Involved: 1 hour.
- Have you removed any outside furniture or other items that could be blown into your home if you have to evacuate?
Several homes were lost last year when patio furniture crashed through a window allowing burning embers inside.
Cost: $0. Time Involved: 10 minutes.
- Do you have a non-cordless phone that does not require electricity to charge and a battery-powered radio?
In the event of a power outage, having a rotary phone or push button phone that doesn’t rely on electricity works best. It should only have a line that plugs into the phone jack and doesn’t require a charge.
Cordless phones will not work if the electricity is off. A battery-powered radio and extra batteries will allow residents to listen in to media reports about an emergency, including information about what the public should do and where they should go.
Cost: Approximately: $40. Time Involved: 30 minutes.
- Do you have a plan for your pet?
Include your pet in your disaster plan. Be sure to have a carrier, leash or way to transport your animal to a kennel or shelter, and include sufficient food and water for your pet in your emergency kit. If you have large animals, practice evacuating with your animals.
Cost: Approximately $15. Time Involved: 30 minutes.
This month, the County of San Diego Office of Emergency Services mailed out more than one million Wildfire Awareness Guides to people living in a high wildfire risk areas. By utilizing the information in the guide, in addition to this information, you could end up saving yourself and the lives of your family, along with your property in the face of another disaster.
To register your cell phone with AlertSanDiego, download a copy of the Wildfire Awareness Guide or our Family Disaster Plan, and to get tips on creating an emergency home kit, visit www.ReadySanDiego.org.
Ron Lane is director of the County of San Diego Office of Emergency Services.