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Disaster Prep and First Response

How to Prepare and Protect Yourself from Wildfires

Photo: Courtesy of Joanne Francis

As wildfires grow in frequency and devastation, it’s important to you know the steps you can take to keep your home and your community safe.

Wildfires have claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people. And since just 2008 have caused over 40 billion dollars in damage and destroyed more than 35,000 homes and businesses, erasing entire communities in minutes and leaving survivors uncertain of what to do next.

Now wildfires are happening more frequently than ever before, with 4.5 million homes in America at risk. As wildfires become more destructive, more common, and affect more communities, it’s important to plan ahead.

Understanding how wildfires start and spread is the first step in helping prevent them. By reducing or eliminating the ingredients that fuel wildfires, you can help protect your home and yourself from harm. Smokey the Bear is right — you can prevent forest fires.

As many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by people, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. Other human-caused fires result from downed power lines and intentional acts of arson. The remaining 10 percent are started by lightning or lava.

To ensure you’re prepared in the event of a wildfire take these steps now.

1. Create a plan to keep your family safe

Plan ahead for how you will communicate with each other, evacuate, shelter at home, and take care of medical needs in the event of an emergency.

2. Build a disaster supplies kit

You should have enough supplies to meet your family’s basic needs for at least 3 days. A 3-day supply for evacuation and 2-week supply for sheltering at home is even better.

3. Organize and protect your important documents

Gather and organize important documents and records you may need to file for insurance and other resources that become available. Replace any missing documents. Update any titles or ownership papers that do not list the current owner’s name. Safely store important records in fireproof containers and store backup copies outside of your home (in the cloud or at an out-of-town family member’s house).

4. Ensure you’re covered

Have a recent inventory of your home with photos and records to show what you own and estimate the total value, and save your receipts. A good way to get started is to take a video of every room in your home. Review your insurance policies with your agent to determine if you have any coverage gaps you should address, especially when it comes to wildfires.

The damage caused by wildfires can be tragic and is sometimes unavoidable. But by implementing these best practices and sharing them with others, you can fortify your home and make your community more resilient.

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