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Preparing Your Home and Family for Wildfire Evacuation

Wildfire events can be swift. They can occur during the day while you are at work or at night while you and your family are sleeping. And there can be very little warning. Wildfires can move at incredible speeds, often generating their own weather. High winds, heat, dense smoke, and flying sparks and embers are all common during a wildfire. And then there is the noise, which in and of itself can be completely unnerving and may cause panic.

On May 21, Jefferson County and West Metro Fire Rescue will hold a voluntary wildfire evacuation exercise in Ken-Caryl Valley and the North Ranch. Your participation will help to prepare your family, neighbors and community for a safe evacuation during a wildfire. If you have to evacuate your house, put life before property — your foremost concern is to get your family out, and after that, your pets.

Before an evacuation order:
Sign up for Code Red with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Code Red will be used to notify Ken-Caryl residents of an evacuation order. If a wildfire is approaching, don’t wait for an evacuation order – initiate your family’s evacuation plan.
If you know that wildfires are burning in the area, monitor local social media and listen to a battery-operated radio for reports and updates.
Make sure your car has a full or near-full tank of gas. Park it in the direction of escape and keep the keys immediately available. Shut (but do not lock) car doors and roll up windows. Disconnect automatic garage doors and gate openers.

Ways you can help firefighters protect your home:
1. Position a ladder against your home in a visible location.
2. Drag your garden hose around your home to a visible position, but leave it turned off.
3. Place tools such as a heavy rake and shovel in a visible location.

All of these quick actions can reduce time firefighters spend preparing to defend your home and provide a safer environment for firefighters to work.

Round up pets and confine them in one room. Make sure identification tags are attached to collars.

If you do not have an emergency kit prepared, assemble the essentials: water; food that won’t spoil; prescription medicine; eyeglasses; diapers, formula, bottles and other supplies for infants; a change of clothing; and blankets.

Have credit cards and cash ready, along with cellphones and chargers. Know where your valuables and important family documents are (insurance policies, bank account and credit card numbers, deeds, passports, birth and marriage certificates). Line up leashes, crates and carriers for your pets.

The Five Ps of Immediate Evacuation – an easy-to-remember priority list:
1. People and Pets – Always First
2. Papers – Important Documents
3. Prescriptions – Pills and Eyeglasses
4. Pictures – Irreplaceable memories
5. Personal Computer – Information on hard drives and disks

Generally, a family forced by wildfire to evacuate will do so together, so the escape route will be the same for all. It is important to establish a meeting place in case all family members are not home when the evacuation takes place.

Children who are home alone should have firm instructions to leave the home at the first threat of danger or know who to contact for safe evacuation assistance. They should report to the prearranged family meeting place and stay there until they hear from you. Should they encounter a threatening situation upon arriving home, their instructions should be to go directly to the meeting place.

Preparing your family, pets and home for a wildfire can reduce wildfire risks and allow your family to safely escape from the path of a wildfire.

This article appeared in the May 18, 2016 issue of Life at Ken-Caryl.

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