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Living in the Wildland Urban Interface or Intermix (WUI) carries a distinct possibility of wildfire and evacuation for your community. Hopefully you’ll never hear two-tone sirens and the words “Evacuate. Go now.” Minimizing stress caused by having to leave your home starts with being prepared. Now is a great time to assemble or refresh your emergency supply kits – your Go Bags.
Go Bag at home
CAL FIRE recommends to “put together your emergency supply kit long before a wildfire or other disaster occurs and keep it easily accessible so you can take it with you when you have to evacuate. Plan to be away from your home for an extended period of time. Each person should have a readily accessible emergency supply kit. Backpacks work great for storing these items (except food and water) and are quick to grab. Storing food and water in a tub or chest on wheels will make it easier to transport. Keep it light enough to be able to lift it into your car.”
The checklist for your primary Go Bag:
- Map marked with at least two evacuation routes
- Prescriptions or special medications
- Change of clothing
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items
- An extra set of house and car keys, credit cards, cash or traveler’s checks
- First aid kit (more on that below)
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
- Sanitation supplies
- Copies of important documents (birth certificates, passports, etc.)
- The family emergency communications plan
- Emergency blanket/sleeping bags
- Chargers for your cell phone and other devices
- N95 masks
- Multi-purpose tool and a can opener
- Duct tape
Store the food and water in a separate box, or an ice chest on wheels. Plan for:
- Three-day supply of non-perishable food and three gallons of water per person
Customize the primary kit according to your needs. Additional items could include:
- Medical supplies (extra batteries for hearing aids, extra eyeglasses or contact lenses)
- Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
- Games and books
- Pet supplies (leash, collar, carrier, food, bowls and litter)
The First Aid kit should include any personal items such as medications and emergency phone numbers or other items your health-care provider may suggest. Check the expiration dates regularly and replace any items that are expired or have been used.
The Red Cross recommends that first aid kits for a family of four include the following:
- 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
- 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
- 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
- 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
- 5 antiseptic wipe packets
- 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
- 1 blanket (space blanket)
- 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
- 1 instant cold compress
- 2 pair of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
- 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
- 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
- 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
- 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
- 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
- Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
- 2 triangular bandages
- First aid instruction booklet
Weight is a issue, be sure you and your family members are able to grab the bag and carry it to a vehicle. Place the primary kit in an easily accessible location, close to an exit. Make sure your bag has a name tag with your phone number on it.
Check your Go Bags every 6 months and replace any outdated items – especially food – with fresh supplies.
It’s perfectly acceptable to have your Go Bag right next to the door and point to it when you have family, friends or neighbors come over. Encourage them to assemble their own kit!
Go Bag in your car
An emergency supply kit in your car should contain the same items as your primary kit, especially if you leave home every day. Add a few specific items to the car kit:
- Tire repair kit
- Jumper cables
- Bottled water
- Non-perishable foods such as granola bars
- N95 masks
- Sturdy gloves
- Hat or baseball cap to protect you from embers if you have to exit the vehicle in a fire
When you have to grab the go bag and leave your home, be aware that you might not return for days, or maybe your home will be damaged or destroyed. The heft of the bag in your hand is small consolation only, but your safety is more important than any “stuff.”
Pet and animal evacuation preparedness
Your emergency plan and preparedness includes everyone in your household and your pets – of course, they are part of the family.
The Pet Emergency Plan
Have your pet microchipped and keep the information up to date, especially your phone number. If possible, add contact info for an emergency contact outside your area.
Create a buddy system in case you’re not home and the area is being evacuated. Ask a trusted neighbor to check on your animals. If you live in an apartment, make sure your pets are on record with management and they are able to be evacuated using the stairs. Teach dogs how to go up and down stairs.
Have crates and pet carriers easily accessible for rapid evacuation.
If you are evacuating to a family member or friend’s home, make sure they are able to accommodate your pets.
Talk to your veterinarian and find out if they offer temporary boarding for pets in case of emergency.
Pets are used to your routine, practicing often by putting them in their respective crates and carrying them to the car will diminish their anxiety levels at the sudden change in environment.
Cats have a tendency to hide when their routine is disrupted or their acute sense of smell warns them of a fire. If possible, put your cat(s) in the bathroom, it will be (somewhat) easier to crate them in a smaller space. Wrapping a cat in a towel or a pillow case if the feline is recalcitrant to enter the evac cage will result in fewer claw marks.
Dogs and their fine noses might try to escape an onslaught of smoke, keep them on a leash if you don’t crate them before loading them to the car. Dogs can also become more protective of you during an emergency. Remain calm, it will reduce both your stress level and theirs.
Evacuation shelter for animals
The Nevada County Veterinary Disaster Response Team sets up at the Nevada County Fairgrounds to provide shelter for animals during disasters. Their website provides information on disaster preparedness and the volunteers have taken care of hundreds of animals during fires, floods and other disasters. You can take your animals to the Fairgrounds or the team will meet you at a roadblock. Find out more here or on their Facebook page. Other counties have similar organizations, check with your local OES office.
Pet Emergency Kit
Food and Medicine
- 3-7 days’ worth of dry and canned food*
- Two-week supply of medicine*
- At least 7 days’ supply of water
- Feeding dish and water bowl
- Liquid dish soap
*Rotate and replace these items to ensure they don’t expire
First Aid Kit
- Anti-diarrheal liquid or tablets
- Antibiotic ointment
- Bandage tape and scissors
- Cotton bandage rolls
- Flea and tick prevention (if needed in your area)
- Isopropyl alcohol/alcohol prep pads
- Latex gloves
- Saline solution
- Towel and washcloth
- Litter, litter pan, and scoop (box with plastic bag works well for pan)
- Newspaper, paper towels, and trash bags
- Household chlorine beach or disinfectant
- Identification papers including proof of ownership
- Medical records and medication instructions
- Emergency contact list, including veterinarian and pharmacy
- Photo of your pet with you. If you become separated, a picture of you and your pet together helps document ownership and allows others to match you and your pet. Add species, breed, age, sex, color, distinguishing characteristics and don’t forget to add your pet’s name to the info.
- Crate or pet carrier labeled with your contact information
- Extra collar/harness with ID tags and leash
- Favorite toys and treats
- Extra blanket or familiar bedding
Equine evacuation kit
7-10 day supply of feed, supplements, and water
Bandannas (to use as blindfolds)
Batteries (flashlight, radio)
Copies of veterinary records and proof of ownership
Emergency contact list
First aid kit
Heavy gloves (leather)
Diet: record the diet for your animals.
Medications: list each animal separately, and for each medication include the drug name, dose and frequency. Provide veterinary and pharmacy contact information for refills.
Knife (sharp, all-purpose)
Leg wraps and leg quilts
Maps of local area and alternate evacuation routes in addition to GPS (in case of road closures)
Non-nylon halters and leads (leather/cotton)
Plastic trash cans with lids (can be used to store water)
Radio (solar, hand cranked and/or battery operated)
Rope or lariat
Download the “Saving the Whole Family” disaster preparedness list from the AVMA for more evacuation kits and plans for livestock, backyard poultry, reptiles and other small animals.
Wildfire smoke can be harmful to pets and livestock
Animals are equally, if not more, sensitive to smoke. When air quality advisories due to smoke are in effect, protect your pets and livestock. The easiest way to keep your pets safe is to keep them indoors.
Tips to Protect Pets
- Keep pets indoors as much as possible, and keep your windows shut.
- Birds are particularly susceptible and should not be allowed outside when smoke or particulate matter are present.
- Let dogs and cats outside only for brief bathroom breaks if air quality alerts are in effect.
- Avoid intense outdoor exercise during periods of poor air quality. Exercise pets when dust and smoke has settled.
- Have a pet evacuation kit ready, and include your animals in your disaster preparedness planning.
Tips to Protect Livestock
- Limit exercise when smoke is visible. Especially don’t require animals to perform activities that substantively increase airflow into and out of the lungs.
- Provide plenty of fresh water near feeding areas.
- Limit dust exposure by feeding low-dust or dust-free feeds and sprinkling or misting the livestock holding area.
- Plan to give livestock 4 to 6 weeks to recuperate after the air quality returns to normal. Attempting to handle, move, or transport livestock may delay healing and compromise your animals’ performance.
- Have a livestock evacuation plan ready in advance. If you don’t have enough trailers to quickly transport all of your animals, contact neighbors, local haulers, farmers, producers, or other transportation providers to establish a network of reliable resources that can provide transportation in the event you need to evacuate your animals.
- Good barn and field maintenance can reduce fire danger for horses and other livestock. Make sure barns and other structures are stable, promptly remove dead trees, clear away brush, and maintain a defensible space around structures. [source: American Veterinary Medical Association]
If you are not in the immediate evacuation zone, put some water out for animals that may cross your property while trying to escape a wildfire. This is especially helpful when heavy smoke blankets the area.
If you evacuate, be prepared for wildlife crossing the road in an attempt to escape.
Next week we’ll go over vehicle preparation and neighborhood awareness!