If your schools were even remotely invested in keeping you alive, you probably had fire drills a few times a year. Your teachers knew that practice makes perfect. We here at HCTA are also remotely invested in keeping you alive. (Please please please stay alive so you can buy things from our affiliate links so we can stay alive.) So let’s get to drilling!
Evacuating is just running away, right? WRONG! A+ evacuators are running away with poise, while completing important tasks to make it easier for firefighters to do their jobs and protect their homes. Running a drill should include the home prep steps below as well as the personalized wildfire emergency plan you prepared earlier. You may want to edit your plan to include these steps if there’s time in the event of a wildfire.
Here are the steps to include in your drill to get your house ready for a fire:
- Turn on all your lights – Make your house as visible as possible through the smoke by turning on all indoor and outdoor lights. You might yell at your kids for leaving the lights on all night, but this time, it’s actually recommended.
- Close up the gaps – Stop drafts from sweeping through your house to fan the flames: close all windows, vents, and doors.
- Disconnect garage openers – Without the motor engaged, you can open your garage doors by hand if you lose power. The less time it takes to get out, the better! You may even want to move your car out of the garage in advance.
- Move flammable items to the middle of the house – Get anything flammable like upholstered furniture, drapes, or blinds away from exterior walls. If the fire reaches your window, anything near that window could ignite and spread the fire more quickly.
- Connect garden hoses and fill containers with water – Every outdoor faucet should have a hose attached, in case fire fighters need to get creative. Containers of water will also reduce your property’s flammability, so fill up tubs, garbage cans, or anything else that will hold a large quantity of water. Set a timer to remind yourself to turn the faucets off before evacuating.
- Disconnect fuel lines – If your house uses propane, natural gas, or fuel oil, make sure all the lines are disconnected. Forgetting this step could lead to an explosion, so it’s the pre-evacuation priority on this list if you’re pressed for time.
- Evacuate – Complete the tasks from your emergency plan, grab your wildfire prep kit, load everyone in the car, and drive away, following your designated evacuation routes. Remember to try out several evacuation routes during your drills. You’ll never know when one might be blocked.
Circle back to make sure this sinks in! If you have time before you evacuate, do not forget to turn off and disconnect your gas lines, or you may become known as the neighbor who exploded the cul de sac.
Practice going through all the steps of the drill at least once a year—or more frequently if you live in a fire-prone area. Let’s all learn from Dwight’s mistakes and keep things calm during drills; traumatic chaos is probably not a great learning environment unless you’re accustomed to the ways of the beet farmer.
Delegate, delegate, delegate! If your kids are old enough to take directions, trust them with some responsibility during your wildfire drills. For example, while you’re pretending to fill containers and shutting off fuel lines, send your kids to close all the windows and doors.
Make sure everyone knows their responsibilities so your family can get through all the steps without confusion. If it’s not clear to everyone what they should do during the drill, they might not do anything. So, make sure they all know what to do in advance, and include the full list of responsibilities in your wildfire emergency plan. Each person should have a list of their tasks to refer to during the drill, as well.
If your family gets sick of drilling, just tell them that practice makes perfect! And maybe get some ice cream after each successful drill. Saving your own life is hard work; you deserve a treat. Cap it all off with a high five to celebrate your increased chances of wildfire survival.
You’re prepped, primed, and drilled, so the only thing left to do is stay alert to the danger.