Preparedness Tips and Projects

Make an evacuation plan

Winter is a great time to improve our preparedness for future wildfires or other emergencies. In one snowy afternoon, you can get started by making a simple evacuation plan. As you develop your plan, involve your children. They’ll feel more in control of their lives, and will do a better job of following the plan when it’s needed.

If you’ve already made an evacuation plan, good for you! But review that plan at least once per year to make sure that all information is current. Here’s what should be in your evacuation plan:

  • Know two (or more) ways out of your neighborhood, so you can travel away from the emergency. If you only have one way out, you may need to decide to leave sooner than people who have more options.
  • Choose a place where your family members will meet if you cannot communicate with each other.
  • Choose one or two out-of-area relatives or friends to be your emergency contact point. When local phone circuits are tied up, you may be able to call long distance.
  • Make a paper list of essential phone numbers. Don’t rely on the contacts stored in your mobile phone – you’ll lose that information as soon as the battery runs down. List all members of your family, your out-of-area contact, and any other numbers you’ll need in an emergency: schools, doctors, insurance agent, etc.
  • List the essential items that you must take with you, and where those items are kept. In the stress of an evacuation, don’t assume you will remember your purse, prescription medications, glasses, or even your evacuation kit.

When you’ve written down your plan, give a copy to each family member and your out-of-area contact. Keep a copy in your home in a place that’s easy to find. An easy to use evacuation planning form is included in “Your Personal Wildland Fire Action Guide” from the Ready, Set, Go! Program. Click here to download a copy and get started today.

Review your insurance needs for home and business

One of the most difficult lessons of our 2013 fire was that many families were under-insured. Some are rebuilding homes smaller than the ones they lost, while others are paying the cost difference to rebuild homes of the same size. The fire also destroyed the assets and records of many home-based businesses, and most of those businesses were completely uninsured.

This winter, start an annual routine of meeting with your insurance agent to review your insurance coverage. Make sure that your homeowner’s insurance will cover the complete cost of rebuilding your current home and replacing its contents. If you own a business, insure against the loss of its assets, as well as the cost of business interruption.

Update your home inventory photos

Soon after your family has unwrapped the Christmas gifts, photograph each new item to add to your household inventory. As you photograph each item, include images of its model number or other identifying information. These details will help you establish its value in the future, if necessary.

Make an emergency kit

Your family can cope with an emergency much easier if you’ve gathered some essential supplies in advance. Your emergency kit – or “go kit” – should provide your family’s basic needs for at least three days.

Making a “go kit” is a great project to keep kids busy while they’re home from school over the holidays. Start by giving them an example list (available from the American Red Cross or Ready.gov). Ask them to suggest what items your family needs, what isn’t necessary, and what your family should add (remember your pets). Include them in the decision about how many kits your family needs, and where they should be kept.

Once you agree on what your family’s kit should include, let the kids gather the items that you already own, and make a list of items you need (watch for items to go on sale). Finally, let them build the kits, and assign them the duty of updating them each year.