HOW TO PROTECT YOUR HOME
Step 1: Get Fire Insurance
- The primary dwelling (your house).
- Other structures, such as sheds, swimming pools, pool houses, or detached garages.
- Personal property, or your personal belongings, such as clothes, furniture, jewelry, paintings, and other items that aren’t part of the dwelling. Belongings that have not been valued and are not specifically listed in the policy are typically covered based on a standard value, which may be substantially less than the actual value. It’s worth getting your heirloom jewelry, cherished paintings, and other valuables appraised and making sure they’re listed in your policy.
Loss of use or additional living expenses. This coverage area includes expenses such as a stay in a hotel (and boarding fees for your pets) while your home is repaired or rebuilt, clothing, food, and other typical costs of living. Keep track of your expenses during this time, but keep in mind that your policy may have a ceiling on the amount of coverage provided.
It’s a good idea to take an inventory of your home and belongings now, before it’s too late and you’re faced with damages from a forest fire or other disaster. Keep a copy in a secure location, such as a safety deposit box. If you find items of value over the standard insurance company values, talk to your agent about getting additional coverage.
Step 2: Clear Combustible Debris from Your Property
Step 3: Use Defensible Space Management Zones Wisely
Zone 2: A transitional area for fuel reduction between Zone 1 and Zone 3.
Zone 3: This zone extends from the edge of Zone 2 to your property boundaries, and is the area farthest from your home.
- Introduce more native vegetation.
- Use non-flammable ground cover in the area surrounding your home, but leaving about five feet of space clear around your house and deck.
- Keep trees spaced at least 10 feet apart.
- Keep your trees and shrubs pruned, and immediately remove dead or dying trees, bushes, and branches from your defensible space.
- Keep branches trimmed so that they don’t extend over your roof or near your chimney.
- Clean your roof, gutters, and eaves regularly to free them of debris.
- If you have pine trees on your property, keep your lawn free of needles by cleaning them up regularly (yes, this is a monumental task).
- Store all flammable liquids only in approved metal cans.
- Store firewood and storage tanks a minimum of 50 feet away from your home. Keep an area of at least 10 feet surrounding them clear.
- Regularly maintain your irrigation system.
Avoid using the space under your deck for storage, particularly for things like lawn mowers and fuel.
- Installing spark arresters in your chimneys.
- Applying non-combustible screening to vent and eave openings.
- Using fire-resistant materials to cover the exterior of your home, such as stucco, brick, or stone. Use a low- or non-flammable underlayment, if possible.
- Opting for tempered or double-paned glass for windows.
- Installing non-combustible shutters and replace window coverings with heat-resistant options.
- Enclosing the underside of decks with fire-resistant materials.
- Using treated wood or another flame-resistant material to box in eaves, soffits, fascias, and subfloors to reduce vent sizes.
Step 5: Create a Disaster Plan
Select a meeting location for all family members to meet after escaping from the property. This meeting location should be at a sufficient distance to keep everyone safe from the fire, but not so far away that it’s difficult for family members to get to in a panic.
You should also prepare an emergency kit containing first aid supplies and essentials to get your family through a few days, including:
- A battery-powered NOAA weather radio
- Extra batteries
- A cell phone charger and/or portable power bank
- A flashlight
- Bottled water (3 gallons per person)
- Prescription medications (enough to last for 2-3 days)
- Non-perishable food (3-day supply)
- Medical supplies (enough to last for 2-3 days)
- Cash and credit cards
- Copies of important documents
- A change of clothing
- An extra pair of eyeglasses and/or contact lenses
- A spare set of keys to your vehicles and house
- If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
- Know your evacuation route ahead of time and prepare an evacuation checklist and emergency supplies.
- Wear protective clothing and footwear to protect yourself from flying sparks and ashes.
BEFORE YOUR LEAVE, PREPARE YOUR HOUSE:
- Remove combustibles, including firewood, yard waste, barbecue grills, and fuel cans, from your yard.
- Close all windows, vents, and doors to prevent a draft.
- Shut off natural gas, propane, or fuel oil supplies.
- Fill any large vessels—pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, or tubs—with water to slow or discourage fire.
IF CAUGHT IN A WILDFIRE:
- Don't try to outrun the blaze. Instead, look for a body of water such as a pond or river to crouch in.
- If there is no water nearby, find a depressed, cleared area with little vegetation, lie low to the ground, and cover your body with wet clothing, a blanket, or soil. Stay low and covered until the fire passes.
- Protect your lungs by breathing air closest to the ground, through a moist cloth, if possible, to avoid inhaling smoke.
Local Evacuation Map