Tag Archives: Prepare

  • Washington Wildfire Hits Way Too Close to Home

    Wenatchee, WA. is a city of about 35,000 that’s nicknamed the Apple Capital of the World. It sits between the Columbia Rivera and the Okanongan-Wenatchee National Forest in central Washington.

    Washington Wildfire - NBC News NBC News

    On June 28, a fire started about 7 miles northwest of Wenatchee. Fed by 100-plus degree temperatures and high wind, the fire exploded through bone-dry sagebrush and grass. Within half a day the Washington wildfire grew to almost 4 ½ square miles and blasted into a development on the northwest edge of Wenatchee. Twenty-nine homes burned to the ground that night, according to an official fire report.

    “The wind changed, and the fire came so quick, that people … had five minutes to get out of the house,” said Karen LuBean, who witnessed the devastation from her home in East Wenatchee across the Columbia River. “Some people were only able to get their purse. They grabbed a few legal documents and stuff like that.”

    A Red Cross shelter at a high school reported 155 people checked in Sunday night.

    Embers from the fire jumped at least five blocks to a recycling center and buildings that contained what Karen believed was ammonia and other chemicals. They caught fire, and the resulting fumes forced people indoors for a half-mile radius with instructions to turn off air conditioners and cover doors and windows. A full four miles away, the air stung Karen’s eyes. Three businesses were destroyed.

    Washington Wildfire Firefighter - ABC News ABC News

    At the height of the fire, 336 firefighters were attacking the blaze. Five days later, the fire was 98 percent contained and almost all fire crews were home. Three people were treated for minor injuries, according to the official fire report.

    Karen’s family is well prepared for emergencies. They have 72-hour kits and important documents scanned and stored on the computer. They have an evacuation plan. Even so, she feels she could be more prepared.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests five Ps of wildfire evacuation preparation in its booklet “How to Prepare for a Wildfire.” They are People, Prescriptions, Papers, Personal Needs and Priceless Items.

     

    People

    The best way to protect family members and pets is create an emergency plan. This plan should include evacuation maps and instructions for young children, carriers for pets, plans for people with special needs and utility shut-off directions, according to FEMA’s ready.gov.

    Karen said her family has an evacuation plan but wants to revisit it.

    “We’ve gone over our escape routes in the past but it’s been awhile,” she said.

     

    Prescriptions

    Karen must take thyroid medication, so she said prescription preparedness is “number one.”

    This includes having a supply of medication and copies of prescriptions. It also includes backup medical equipment batteries, glasses and hearing aids, according to FEMA.

     

    Papers

    Karen says most of her legal documents are scanned.

    “If we could just grab the computer and go, we’d be fine.”

    FEMA recommends storing important documents on a cloud-based service or an external hard drive or thumb drive in a fireproof, waterproof box.

    Important documents include government-issued ID papers, prescriptions or warranties for medical equipment, insurance paperwork, rental or mortgage agreements and photos or movies of each room in the house. FEMA provides an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit to help identify records to keep safe. It is available at www.ready.gov/financialpreparedness.

    Karen has adult children living all over the country so after she scanned copies of important papers like birth and marriage certificates, she sent copies to everyone.

     

    Personal Needs

    FEMA says personal needs include clothes, food, water, first aid kit, cash, phones and chargers, and items for children and people with disabilities or other needs.

    Karen already has food, water, clothes, first aid supplies and two types of radios. She is adding masks.

    “I think I need to revisit my 72-hour pack,” Karen said.

    She especially wants to replace food.

    “Unless they’re MREs, they’re not that tasty after a year or two,” she joked.

     

    Priceless Items

    FEMA defines priceless items as pictures, irreplaceable mementos and other valuables. Karen includes photos and family history in her list.

    Washington Wildfire Destruction Reuters

    Last week, Karen got a pointed reminder of the importance of being prepared. The Washington wildfire in Wenatchee exploded from nothing to devastation in 12 hours. Karen said her dentist’s home was barely spared but the home of another acquaintance was destroyed.

    “For a whole city block on both sides, almost every house was just burned to a crisp,” she said.

     

    - Melissa

     

    How do you prepare for wildfires? Let us know in comments!

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Washington, Wenatchee, wildfire, Prepare

  • What Should You Do During a Wildfire?

    |4 COMMENT(S)

    “It was so frightening that I couldn’t even cry.”

    Santa Clarita Fire (AP) Associated Press

    That was one woman’s reaction to the brushfire in Santa Clarita, California earlier this week. As of yesterday afternoon, the fire was 95% contained. Firefighters are currently working to extinguish the remainder of the flames.

    We’re not even into July, and already there have been 2,486 wildfires in California in this year. The report from NBC Los Angeles says that number is “up from 1,654 the state has averaged over the last five years.” So far 8,600 acres have burned.

    Wildfires can happen anywhere. And, more often than not (try 90% more often), these fires are started by humans. Nature plays her part in starting fires, too, such as lightning strikes or super-duper hot weather. Whether it’s intentional (ie. arson), from lack of caution and fire safety (such as while out camping), humans are a big contributor to the roughly 1.2 million acres burned each year in the United States. To put that into contrast, 1.2 million acres burning up is like the entire state of Delaware being torched. Sure, it’s not a huge state, but with a population nearing 1 million people, that's a lot of livelihood. Southern California alone has over 22 million people, and its dry, hot climate makes it extremely prone to wildfires.

    Wildfires are fast. They can travel at speeds of 14 miles an hour (without wind), engulfing everything in its path. 14 miles an hour might not seem fast when you’re driving in your car, but when you're running...that's quite a pace to keep up. 14 miles an hour just got very, very tiring. That’s one reason wildfires are so dangerous. They can catch up to you without much warning.

    How are you supposed to prepare for a wildfire? First off, you should plan ahead so you know what to do when one does come. If you don’t, you could end up like this family:

     

     

    As seen in this video, not planning can result in a very scary, dangerous situation. So please, plan ahead!

    You should also do things aside from just putting your plan on paper. Make sure the surrounding area of your home is free of debris and dead grass, trees, and anything else that can be used as fire fodder. Having well-watered grass can slow the approach of fire, too.

    Fire Approaching House (NY Times) New York Times

    Once the fire gets too close and evacuation warnings are issued, strongly consider leaving your home. As per your plan you just made in regards to wildfires, grab your most important documents and belongings, hop in your car, and get out of there. Your own safety is far more important than your possessions.

    That being said, you may have the desire to stick around and defend your home. You can do that, but beware: it was very dangerous, especially if you don’t know exactly what you need to do. Perhaps I’ll write up a “How to Defend Your Home from Invading Forest Fires” blog in the near future, but until you know what to do, it’s better to be safe.

    Now, before we get too carried away in our loathing of these wildfires, there is a bit more information you might want to be made aware of. Although wildfires can be quite dangerous and destructive to us humans, they actually play a very important role in nature. National Geographic teaches us that

    “[Wildfires] return nutrients to the soil by burning dead or decaying matter. They also act as a disinfectant, removing disease-ridden plants and harmful insects from a forest ecosystem. And by burning through thick canopies and brushy undergrowth, wildfires allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, enabling a new generation of seedlings to grow.”

    That’s not to say we should be starting fires all over the place. Au contraire, we should do all we can to avoid igniting wildfires in the first place. After all, Smokey the Bear believes that “only you can prevent wildfires.” And, while natural fires benefit nature, man-made fires do not.

     

    Have you been threatened by a wildfire? What did you do to prepare?

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Planning Tagged With: forest fire, brushfire, California, wildfire, Prepare

  • Hurricanes: Early Arrivers Can Blow the Party

    Do you know why I like to be ready to host a party well before the guests arrive? It’s because there’s always that one person who just has to show-up super early. And, if I’m not ready by the time he shows up, he’ll make sure I’m never ready for the actual party because I’m too busy entertaining him.

    That’s what hurricane season is like. You know it’s coming, but there always seems to be that one storm that just has to be early.

    Well, folks, hurricane season is fast approaching (officially starting on June 1), and the early birds are already starting to arrive.

    Atlantic 2-Day Weather Outlook (5-8-15) Retrieved 5/8/15

    The National Hurricane Center is kind enough to provide us with a Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook of impending storms. This image was retrieved on Friday, May 08, 2015. As you can see, this looks to be quite the sub-tropical storm. Fortunately, this isn’t going to be a full-on hurricane, but it’s still going to whip your hair back and forth with a vengeance.

    This just goes to show that putting off our prep until the last moment can leave us high and dry. Er, windy and soaked? Well, you get the idea.

    trop-recent-may-storms-since-2007And this isn’t the only storm that’s wanted a head-start on the hurricane race. Since 2007, there have been three storms strong enough to be given names arrive before June 1 (only the memorable storms get names). There have been many more May storms before that, too. This particular storm we're talking about has been dubbed Ana - the first named storm of 2015.

    Now that we’re aware of these early party goers and that they can come in weeks before anticipated (which is a whole lot more rude than my hour-early party guest), we know that we’ll have to step up our A-game when it comes to preparing for hurricanes. Don’t wait, start now.

    The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has issued a notice that, among other things, “adequate and advance preparation is one of the most significant ways Texans can help mitigate the unpredictable and dangerous nature of hurricanes.” The DPS also gave warning that hurricanes can cause massive amounts of damage even several hundred miles inland. Talk about a party crasher.

    So before a hurricane shows up, remember to take the following precautions in order to be safe and reduce damage from the storm.

     

    1. Emergency Kit

    No matter what the disaster, I will always tell you to have an emergency kit. You never know what kinds of incidents a hurricane can cause, so it’s best to be prepared. Be sure to have enough food and water to last you three days. Don’t forget flashlights (and batteries!), blankets, and a first aid kit. You’ll want to take care of any cuts and scrapes to avoid any infections. Check out our pre-built emergency kits, or go to ready.gov/build-a-kit for more details on how you can create your own.

     

    1. Secure Your Property

    Bring in any outside furniture, bicycles, or other items that aren’t secured. Cover your windows. The best option to protect your windows are permanent storm shutters. If you don’t have those, the next best option would be to use plywood, pre-cut to fit your window frame. If you have trees or shrubs, make sure they’re well-trimmed. This way they are more wind resistant and have a better chance of remaining where they were planted.

     

    1. Have a Plan

    If you don’t already know your community hurricane evacuation routes, be sure to start learning them. Teach your children these routes, and also help them know where to go to find higher ground.

     

    1. Communication

    You may not be with your family when disaster strikes. This is why it’s important to have a family communications plan. Find someone – a relative or trusted friend – that lives out of state that you can contact and notify that you’re safe. It may be easier to call out-of-town numbers than local ones. Text messages also have a better chance of going through when phone calls can’t. Have your kids memorize your number.

     

    Hurricane

    We can know a hurricane is coming many days before it hits, so we don’t have to be caught off guard when it does arrive. And even though hurricanes can surprise us by showing up early, they have the decency to let us know their intent. Of course, it’s always still best to be prepared even before we are made aware of the oncoming storm. So, don’t be upset when Mother Nature crashes your party early. Be prepared, now, to be a good host when she shows up.

     

     

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    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Emergency Kits, Planning Tagged With: party crasher, Hurricane, Prepare

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