Wildfires are another disaster people need to be prepared for. In light of everything that happened in Maui in Aug 2023 I want to tread very carefully about preparing for wildfires.
This blog post is in no way going to point fingers, shame or blame anyone. I am not interested in talking about the politics of it or the divisiveness in it. What I want is people to learn from a horrible and tragic real life example. I want people who are at risk of wildfires to learn from this tragic experience so they can do better and when people do better there’s less loss of life and tragedy.
With that being said let’s dive into wildfire preparedness.
Wildfires, as the name suggests, are wild fires that burn areas of natural landscapes such as mountains or fields. Winds primarily drive them, making them highly unpredictable. Wildfires can vary in speed, ranging from slow-moving to rapid. This variability means that you may or may not have time to evacuate if a wildfire is nearby. While there are a few preparations you can make for a wildfire, the best course of action is to evacuate.
Preparing Your Home
Before I go into evacuation I want to cover the few things you can do to prepare your home for a wildfire. This comes from ready.gov
1- When building or remodeling your home use fire resistant materials
2-Have the ability to spray down flames with water using a long hose a water supply
3- Clean up dead plants, leaves, or anything that could kindle flames.
4-Have an air filter to help filter out smoke
Evacuation is going to be your best bet when it comes to wildfire preparedness.
First step to evacuation is having a plan. You have to know what you are going to do and how you are going to do it before you are faced with an immediate evacuation. My emergency preparedness workbook will help you create a fool proof family plan for all of your emergency preparedness needs, including evacuations.
Second step is having everything easily accessible in order to grab and go and making sure you know how you’re going to fit everything and everyone in your vehicles.
Third step is knowing where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Following officials’ directions and having multiple routes out of your area is also extremely important.
Fourth step if you have time is to shut off the utilities to help prevent more problems.
What do you do?
Like I have with all of my other disaster readiness posts I wanted to share lessons learned from a wildfire. There is a lot to learn about the Maui wildfires, it truly was the worst case scenario in so many instances. In some ways some things were unpreventable, but there’s always something we can learn. So, let’s dive into what we can learn about the Maui wildfire tragedy.
What started as a small brush fire quickly escalated due to hurricane strength winds from Hurricane Dora. The winds were so severe that they toppled telephone and electric power lines. Because of the lack of telephone and power lines it cut off the ability for emergency alerts and 911 operations. The fire got hot enough that it started to melt water pipes causing water pressure to decrease so fighting the fire became even harder. People ended up having to evacuate with just the clothes on their back into the ocean and wait for the winds and fire to settle down before they could be rescued.
What do you do if you have hurricane force winds that knock out power and telephone operations? 911 isn’t working or available, you have a wildfire rapidly burning everything in sight, and your water pipes are melting so you don’t have the ability to fight the fire.
Even the best of plans can’t prepare you for a situation like this. You literally have to do the best you can in the moment and pray for the best. Emergency preparedness can help you prepare for a lot of things, but sometimes you just have to wing it and do the best you can with what you are able.
Breaking it down
I do what to break down each individual aspect of what happened though and help you prepare for those circumstances separate of each other.
Take away everything else that happened with the fire and just focus on intense winds that topple power and telephone lines. What are you going to do? How do you prepare for power outages and how do you communicate if lines are down?
If 911 is unavailable due to communications towers being down or simply being overwhelmed, what are you going to do to get the help you need?
What are you going to do if you try to evacuate and you come across road closures?
If you find yourself in a situation with little to no water pressure. How are you going to handle that?
You might not be able to prepare for all of those situations combined, but you can prepare for all of those situations as separate instances. Being prepared for each of them is going to give you better options when needs arise. Stephen King once said
“There’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst.”
― Stephen King, Different Seasons
Prepare for the worst and hope for the best!