Security & Preparedness August 7, 2019

Safety Tips to Help You Protect Your Family and Property from Wildfires

Clarissa S., Editor

In the U.S., wildfires cause death, injury and property damage every year. Wildfires are unplanned fires that burn in natural areas such as forests, grasslands or prairies. They can turn lives upside down and cause irreparable damage. Protect yourself, your family and your property from wildfires by reading the following facts and safety tips.

Facts about Wildfires

  • In 2018, there were 58,083 wildfires in the U.S. Wildfires burned around 8.8 million acres during this year.
  • Around 90% of wildfires are caused by people (leaving a campfire unattended, burning debris, discarding cigarettes, etc.).
  • Wildfire spreads at speeds of up to 14 miles an hour.
  • Wildfires can last from days to weeks.
  • The Federal Government spends billions of dollars to prevent and suppress wildfires each year.
  • The risk of wildfires increases during periods of drought, dry weather and high winds.
  • Wildfires are most common in the West – Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Colorado, Oregon and California experience the most severe wildfires in the country.

How to Prepare for Wildfires

  • Prepare an emergency kit, especially if you live in an area where wildfires are more likely to occur. Keep a N95 respirator, necessary medication, and food and water in your kit. Think about the needs of the whole family (including pets) when building your kit.
  • Teach your children about fire safety, and keep matches and lighters out of their reach. Teach them that only adults can use these tools. Always use child-proof lighters.
  • Ensure that there are smoke alarms on every level of your home and near any sleeping spaces.
  • Report any hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.
  • Use defensive landscaping to protect your property: The more space between your home and any plants, trees and brush on your property, the safer your home will be.
  • Use fire-resistant materials, such as mulch and rock, when landscaping.
  • Regularly rake your property and keep all leaves, debris and flammable materials at least 30 feet away from your home.
  • Sign up for your community’s warning system to receive emergency alerts.

What to Do During a Wildfire

  • Evacuate your family immediately if told to do so by authorities.
  • Wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and a handkerchief to protect your face.
  • If you are trapped in your home, call 911. Turn on lights to help rescuers find you. Keep your family away from outside walls and keep all the doors in your home closed. Stay calm.
  • Use an N95 mask, if possible to help you breathe safely.
  • If you are outside during a wildfire, stay away from trees, plants, brush and any other vegetation.
  • If you are trapped in your car, do not get out and try to run. Drive very slowly with your headlights on and park away from vegetation.

Staying in a car during a wildfire is very dangerous and should be avoided. If you can't safely exit your car, keep the windows rolled up and close the air vents.

To find a public shelter closest to you, text “SHELTER + your ZIP code” to 43362 (4FEMA) (e.g., shelter 12345). For more information on wildfire safety, refer to Ready.gov's Wildfire Safety Social Media Toolkit.

For more information on various Security & Preparedness products available to purchase for your community, browse the QuickSeries® library of guides, including Wildfire Preparedness.

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