Wildfire Survivor: Before You Have to Face a Disaster, Be Prepared!

The 2003 San Diego wildfires took 16 lives and nearly 2500 houses, including my own home. As a survivor, I feel that it’s my responsibility to help inform others how to best prepare for such a disaster. This is the first of a multi-part series.

Yes, I know. You think you’re already prepared. And I thought that I was also prepared after dodging two major Southern California earthquakes, but I never thought that it would happen to me.

Then my butt was handed to me in 2003.

I know that I probably sound like an overgrown Cub Scout for saying this, but nonetheless “BE PREPARED”!


(Please note that the advice given here comes from the Red Cross and CAREhelp, an organization started by Oakland Hills wildfire survivor George Kehrer)

1) Establish two meeting places in case loved ones are separated during a disaster. One meeting place should be located near your house. The second should be located somewhere away from your neighborhood if you cannot return to your home.

2) Pick a friend or family member as an emergency contact in case of disaster. It’s best that the person live outside your neighborhood.

3) Draw a floor-plan of your house, marking two escape routes from each room.

4) If you have small children, teach them how to call 911.

5) Show responsible family members how to shut off gas, water, and electricity at the main switches.

6) Take first and CPR classes if you don’t already have the information.

7) Think about specific emergency preparations for pets, since most shelters won’t allow pets.

8) Store at least a two-week supply of water per person in your household. Note that children, nursing mothers, and the infirm may need more.

9) Keep a two-week supply of food in a cool dry place. Canned foods are recommended because they don’t require cooking or water.

10) Other items to keep on hand include:

A battery-operated radio
A cell phone
Extra batteries
A fire extinguisher
Sleeping bags or two blankets per person
Garbage can with tight-fitting lid (in case you might need an emergency toilet)
Plastic garbage bags (for “toilet” lining)
First aid kit in waterproof container
Antibiotic ointments
Antiseptic solution
Bandages in assorted sizes

11) Make copies of all important documents and give them to trusted friends or family members

Stay tuned for part two.




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