From the Fire Chief: Get Ready

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    National Preparedness Month is coming to a close, but in California, we certainly have no shortage of disasters to plan for—wildfires, pandemic, earthquakes, heat waves, power-outages, flash floods, active shooters, and the list goes on.

    Whether natural or human-caused, disasters always challenge us. Having a plan and being prepared can make things just a little bit easier. Following are some things to consider when you are preparing you, your family and place of work.

    As I write this, a brush fire burned 400 acres along both sides of the Golden State (I-5) Freeway closing both north and southbound lanes. Many of our freeways and highways run through our hillsides and mountains. Would you have food, water and supplies in your car if you were stuck during a wildfire, earthquake, flood or other emergency?

    Do you know how your fire department pushes out information in the event of a disaster? Decide how you are going to stay informed and communicate, then determine whether you need to spread the word to gain more followers. You can also sign up for Twitter and text alerts from FEMA and other trusted government agencies.

    Are you prepared to evacuate your pets? Increasingly, our dogs, cats, birds—even pigs and chickens—are considered members of the family. Too many people have ignored evacuation orders because they do not know how to get their pets to safety, and they are not willing to leave them behind. You can argue all day long against this mindset—or you can work ahead of time to prepare. Encourage them to practice getting pets quickly into carriers. Provide lists of supplies they should stock with their personal disaster kit, such as a collapsible water bowl, pet food and extra medicine if pets require it. Community members who own or house large animals, such as horses, should keep addresses of common evacuation sites (such as campgrounds and fairgrounds) and should be educated about the necessity of evacuating them very early (if possible) due to the logistics involved.

    Do you know where to go to get up-to-date information on fire danger or weather-related hazards? The USGS has collected a lot of great resources on their National Preparedness Month page, usgs.gov/news/usgs-hazards-science-be-informed-and-be-prepared. You can view past, current and forecasted hazards along the coasts; the Fire Danger Forecast, which is a dynamic map updated daily; and the latest earthquake activity. 

    Are you properly protecting and preparing your financial documents? Having to evacuate or losing one’s home due to water or fire damage is traumatic, but it can be even more damaging for those who have not taken steps to safeguard important documents such as financial and medical documentation. The Department of Homeland Security offers resources to help community members and provides advice on how to properly store them (ready.gov/financial-preparedness) so they can be retrieved if originals or hard copies are destroyed.

    Do you see a theme here? Being resilient in the face of disaster requires thoughtful planning and preparedness. While it is ultimately each citizen’s responsibility to prepare, we have access to resources and information to help get started. And when you’re prepared, disaster response is much more effective.

    For more resources, including themes, graphics, videos and sample PSAs, visit ready.gov/september.