8 Tips for Fire Risk Preparedness by Anyck Turgeon
8 Tips for Fire Risk Preparedness
Summary Reference Article (Huff Post):
Three years before this month’s historic wildfires in Texas, the state’s forest service came up with a $20.4 million plan to stop the flames from starting or tamp them out before small blazes grew deadly and destructive. But the plan is still only half-funded – a result of the weak economy, a strained state budget and what one former lawmaker calls a “dereliction of duty” by legislators who almost always prefer to spend money only after a crisis has unfolded. The Forest Service concedes that even the full fire-protection system would not have completely spared Texas from last week’s catastrophic fires — which incinerated more than 1,700 homes, blackened tens of thousands of acres and killed four people — but the plan was designed to limit those types of widespread losses at a fraction of the price.
Analysis by -Anyck Turgeon, Firestorm Expert Council member
As 80 percent of fires were caused by man-made burning of debris, nobody ever expected such extraordinary challenges as experienced this year in Texas. Yet, more than 18,500 wildfires have been fought, 3.6 million acres burned (the equivalent of the entire state of Connecticut being destroyed), about 2,500 structures have been lost and in excess of $200 million has been spent on fighting those wildfires.
For only a small portion of that amount (estimated at 10 percent), complete funding of the proposed fire Texas wildfire preparation plan could have saved families from devastating heartaches, schools from temporary intermission and businesses from permanent closure.
Hidden costs such as loss in productivity, psychological traumas, and ongoing worries are even more challenging to link a monetary value to, as these impacts are long-lasting and often untreated. As individuals must now invest into their own disaster preparedness, here are some preliminary steps and recommendations:
8 Tips for Fire Risk Preparedness
1) Plan and test bi-yearly your own fire escape plan (such as using folding stairs to escape rooms located on the second floor of a building). Remember that evaluating and communicating your plan in advance with family members, neighbors and close friends is key to preparation.
2) Ensure that your fire reduction equipment is handy and up-to-date, such as fire extinguishers and pumps for water redistribution from your pool.
3) Prepare an emergency evacuation needs list, which includes contacts list, money, keys, wallets, glasses or contact lenses, medical resources, battery-operated radio, laptop computers, baby and pet food, clothes, sleeping bag, etc.
4) Ensure that all of your papers are in order including copies of your credit cards, birth certificate/adoption papers, driver’s license, passport, military records, citizenship papers/cards, marriage certificates, divorce decree and child support order, death certificates, vehicle(s) titles, leases and policies, insurance, and financial and tax documents, and important educational certificates and awards, etc.
5) Build an in-vehicle evacuation kit with cell phone, one gallon of water per person and non-perishable food for three days, flashlights, extra batteries, first aid kit, whistle, dust masks, wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, local maps and other goods you need.
6) Complete a full insurance inventory of your belongings with updated pictures with current vs. purchase value on a quarterly basis.
7) Prepare a communication plan that you rehearse with your family and close friends. For instance, in the event that your cell phone does not work and you can’t recall phone numbers, you may want to drop a note on the social media of your choice and reach out via Skype to the list of your preferred prerecorded contacts.
8) Stay informed via local media and internet about orders to evacuate, locations of shelters, road closures, weather warnings, etc. Keep in touch with your neighbors by joining or organizing a neighborhood watch program, introducing yourself and preparing backup plans for children, elderly or other people with special needs.
Under such circumstances as the Texas fires, the Florida hurricanes, the Montreal ice/snow storms or the Pennsylvania floods, losing valuables may be inevitable. Taking a proactive preparation approach may not only save the lives of your loved ones, but on-going preparedness exercises will save you a hundred fold in long-term challenges.
September is National Preparedness Month. Let’s make sure that we are all ready and start today by reviewing the book “Disaster Ready People for a Disaster Ready America.”