Fire season is here again, agencies and others encourage you to be prepared, (re)pack go bags and have a plan. If you live pretty much anywhere in California, you’re familiar with the to-do lists. Check food and water in the go bags, replace expired prescription medications, verify you are signed up for emergency notifications and be aware of weather conditions.

Once all that’s done, you are mostly set for peak fire season. What might be missing from the lists are ways to deal with stress and anxiety.

Cumulative stressors add up

A pandemic, combined with fire season followed by Snowmaggeddon interspersed with power and communications outages, followed by fire season and power outages with a chaser of Snowmaggeddon v.2.0. A series of events out of our control, piling atop regular life’s vicissitudes. Emphasis on events out of our control, i.e. natural and human-caused disasters.

Not every plane overhead goes to a fire near you

Foothill residents have developed routines for fire season. Hear a plane overhead? Hop on your favorite news site, radio station or social media group to find out if there is a fire and how far away it is. Most times, it is not a fire near you. Air Attack and tankers have a wide range, and on top of it all they train regularly. If there is a fire close by and you are signed up for emergency alerts, you will know.

Be Ready

Being prepared and informed before and during fire season, it helps lessen stress.

Now that you are prepared, look at what you accomplished. If a fire were to force you to evacuate, you are ready and can focus on executing your plan. That plan also helps first responders. If you are prepared and leave when asked they can focus on fighting the fire and keeping your neighborhood safe.

Reach out and offer help

Communities in this area are generous and willing to help before, during and after disasters. Helping others is a great way to refocus your energy from fretting about hypotheticals to being an integral part of the community and making it a better place. It can be as small or big as you’d like. Ask a neighbor if they “Know your Zone” and show them how to find their zone. Volunteer for a charity, school or non-profit. (Pro Tip: There’s a Volunteer Fair coming up on June 3rd.)

Check in with Your Five

Identify five people who will become your trusted allies during a disaster
or emergency. Your five allies are people that will check on you and that
you can communicate with in an emergency so they know you are safe,
or if you need help. Don’t wait until the proverbial knock on the door or the hi-low sirens. Check in with your five regularly and offer to return the favor by being one of their persons.

It’s OK to reach out for help

Phebe Bell, Nevada County’s Director of Behavioral Health, offered these tips: “Fire season adds another layer of uncertainty and stress to our day-to-day lives, and many of us may feel anxious as the hotter months approach.  This is especially true for any of us who have been touched by fire in the past – whether we or someone we love lost a home or had to evacuate or had some type of close call. 

If you are feeling really worried, reach out for help.  Start by talking to a friend or family member – sometimes just sharing how we are feeling can help us feel more calm or less alone with our anxious thoughts. 

If you need more support, you can call the Nevada County local crisis line at (530) 265-5811 or toll free at 1-888-801-1437. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or text “HOME” to 741741. 

And always remember to be gentle with yourself – take a moment to breathe, and to acknowledge the ways you are safe and well right now.  We are lucky to live in a community of caring people who will look out for each other in any type of emergency!

Self care is health care

Being kind to yourself can be hard when you are in crisis mode during an emergency. Like Phebe stated above, take a moment to breathe. Give yourself a break. If needs be, step away from doomscrolling on social media or obsessively refreshing a webpage.

Taking care of yourself puts you in a better position to act when needed and make sure you and your loved ones are safe. Just like having a full tank of gas in your car on a Red Flag Day, being rested and ready mentally gives you a head start.