FEMA Region VII Offers Wildfire, Heat Tips

Planning ahead before summer outdoor activities is the right idea, Regional Administrator Beth Freeman said.

Take the time to plan for heat and wildfire threats before beginning summer outdoor activities such as July 4th celebrations, camping, grilling, and road trips, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Region VII (www.twitter.com/femaregion7) advises. "To protect our eyes, most of us automatically grab our sunglasses before heading outside during the daytime. Many of the things we can do to protect ourselves from high temperatures and to prevent wildfires are just as easy and make just as much sense," said Regional Administrator Beth Freeman in Kansas City.

Tips provided by her region include these for heat:

  • Consider spending the warmest part of the day in air-conditioned buildings. Find a cooling off location near you by sending a text message to SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio for updates from the National Weather Service.
  • Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor work and play during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.
  • Protect your face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Eat well-balanced, light, and regular meals. Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine and limit intake of alcoholic beverages. Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; are on fluid-restricted diets; or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.
  • Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun's rays.
  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone.

Before a wildfire, Region VII recommends these:

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit (www.ready.gov/build-a-kit) and make a family emergency plan (www.ready.gov/make-a-plan).
  • Ask local emergency management officials or the local American Red Cross chapter how you would be warned if a wildfire threatened.
  • Meet with other household members to discuss where to go and what to bring if advised to evacuate.
  • Plan several escape routes away from your home, by car and by foot.
  • Talk to your neighbors about wildfire safety. Plan how the neighborhood could work together after a wildfire. Make a list of your neighbors' skills, such as medical or technical. Consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs, such as elderly or disabled persons. Make plans to take care of children who may be on their own if parents can't get home.
  • It is recommended that you create a 30- to 100-foot safety zone around your home. Within this area, you can take steps to reduce potential exposure to flames and radiant heat. Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum safety zone of 100 feet. If your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not suffice. Contact your local fire department or forestry office for additional information.
  • Rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs. Clear all flammable vegetation, including any hiding under structures. Make sure fire vehicles can get to your home. Clearly mark all driveway entrances and display your name and address.
  • Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
  • Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
  • Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
  • Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
  • Show responsible family members how and when to shut off water, gas, and electricity at main switches.
  • Remove vines from the walls of the home.
  • Mow grass regularly.
  • Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue. Place a screen over the grill (use nonflammable material with mesh no coarser than one-quarter inch).
  • Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish at an approved site. Follow local burning regulations.
  • Place stove, fireplace, and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for two days, and then bury the cold ashes in mineral soil.
  • Store gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans. Place cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
  • Stack firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home. Clear combustible material within 20 feet.
  • Use only wood-burning devices evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories.
  • Review your homeowner's insurance policy and also prepare/update a list of your home's contents.

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