Wildfire

Emergency Preparedness Hits Home

I’d like to start by saying how sorry I am for all those who lost their homes and worse in the recent fires. I know we have a long recovery ahead, but I’m confident our community will pull together and rebuild.

Given our recent disaster, I’ve been thinking about how important it is to plan for emergencies. The truth is, because the Redwood Valley fire was so fast and so ferocious, people often had no time to do anything but run. In other emergencies, however, people who have prepared ahead of time often fare better than those who don’t.

Of course, any preparation you can do to prevent a disaster from occurring is best. Those of us lucky enough to have homes still standing should make sure our properties are fire safe. Clear flammable brush at least 100 feet from your home and trim trees at least six feet off the ground. Make sure tree limbs do not hang over your roof and clear debris from your roof. If you have aboveground utilities in your neighborhood, keep an eye on electrical lines that go through trees—make sure there’s plenty of clearance. Locate woodpiles and other fuel sources at least 30 feet from all structures and maintain a 10-foot clearance area around them.

Most fires start small. If you are ready, you may be able to stop a fire from spreading. Be sure you know where the closest fire hydrant is, as well as your garden hoses and outdoor faucets. If you have a well providing at least two gallons per minute, consider filling a 2000-gallon storage tank so it’s ready if you need it.

Sadly, even with all this responsible preparation, your home can still go up in flames. Just ask the families who returned to find ash where their houses used to be.

For insurance purposes, you should create a photo or video log of all your possessions. While tedious, it’ll be time well spent if you need to ask an insurance company to pay a claim.

While disasters come in all shapes and sizes, preparations are similar. You’ll need food, water, and medications for you and your pets. You’ll need some clothes and, depending on the situation, you may need your own shelter for a while. You may also need fuel for your vehicle.

In my house we have backpacks ready to go, because they are easy to carry. In them we have flashlights (with batteries stored in plastic bags, not inside the flashlights where they will corrode). We have matches, a couple water bottles per person, non-perishable snacks, a change of clothes, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a utility knife and/or multi-tool, and a pair of boots or sturdy shoes. We also have our camping gear stored in one place so it would be easy to grab and throw in the car.

If you have time to pack more than just the essentials, consider the irreplaceables: photo albums, family heirlooms and keepsakes, important documents, and if you can, your computer. For more information about disaster preparedness, go to www.ready.gov and www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster. There, you’ll find a wildfire safety toolkit, as well as many other resources.

One of the most important ways to reduce stress during a disaster is to be sure your loved ones are safe. Agree upon an out-of-town family member or friend who everyone can call to report in. Also, in case you cannot get in touch with one another, agree upon a location away from your home where you could all meet.

For locals impacted by the Redwood Valley fire, be sure to visit the Local Assistance Center at Mendocino College. It’s a multi-agency support center where you can register for assistance of all types. Also, I encourage everyone to attend the community fundraiser Saturday, November 4 at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds. For details, visit www.mendocinostrongtogether.com.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business in Ukiah for more than 40 years.