Safety Tips: National Fire Prevention Week

A devastating fire season is just ending, and National Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 7-13) is an ideal time to remind employers and the public about ways to keep their workplaces and homes safe. Wildfire safety and prevention tips from the Fire Adapted Communities campaign, which is presented by the U.S. Forest Service, are useful to residents of more than 70,000 communities throughout the United States within or near a fire-prone ecosystem.

During the past decade, wildfires have burned an average of 6.5 million acres of land annually in the United States. More than 46,000 wildfires this year have damaged 8.3 million acres of land, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Fire Adapted Communities means that homeowners, firefighters, land managers, and civic leaders have done their part to prepare for the next wildfire. Becoming a fire adapted community is a process that involves recognizing the threat of wildfire, taking steps for prevention, and being prepared for fire suppression.

A wildfire ember can travel more than a mile and result in ignition of homes and property, the campaign reminds us. Here are an infographic and tips from for homeowners, business owners, managers of commercial and residential properties, and community leaders to help them prevent damage from wildfires:

For homeowners

  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Design and landscape the home with wildfire safety in mind. Select materials and plants that can help contain fire rather than fuel wildfires.
  • Create a buffer zone of 30-100 feet of fire-resistant plants, shrubs, and accessories that will prevent fire from spreading to the home.
  • Use fire-resistant or noncombustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of the dwelling, or treat wood or combustible material used in roofs, siding, decking or trim with fire-retardant chemicals evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories.
  • Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees. For example, hardwood trees are less flammable than pine, evergreen, eucalyptus, or fir trees.
  • Regularly clean roofs and gutters.
  • Inspect chimneys at least twice a year. Clean them at least once a year. Keep the dampers in good working order. Equip chimneys and stovepipes with a spark arrester that meets the requirements of National Fire Protection Association Standard 211. (Contact your local fire department for exact specifications.)
  • Use 1/8-inch mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas, and the home itself. Also, screen openings to floors, roof and attic.
  • Install a dual-sensor smoke alarm on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms; test monthly and change the batteries at least once each year.
  • Teach each family member how to use a fire extinguisher (ABC type) and show them where it's kept.
  • Keep handy household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, axe, handsaw or chain saw, bucket, and shovel.
  • Keep a ladder that will reach the roof.
  • Consider installing protective shutters or heavy, fire-resistant drapes.
  • Clear items that will burn from around the house, including wood piles, lawn furniture, barbecue grills, tarp coverings, etc. Move them outside your defensible space.

For business owners
Business owners must prepare for wildfires, as well. Below are measures that can be taken to help increase a business be prepared for wildfires:

  • Design and build your business with wildfires in mind using fire-resistant materials.
  • Create a buffer zone of 30-100 feet of fire-resistant plants, shrubs, and accessories that will prevent fire from spreading to your business.
  • Understand and abide by local and state fire regulations and ordinances.
  • Partake in a fire safety preparedness course in order to protect your business.

For commercial and residential land managers
When preparing for wildfires, commercial and residential real estate developers should take these into consideration:

  • Identify risks on their land such as overgrowth, fuels, pests, and fire protection access.
  • Understand the relationship between public and private managers concerning land use, water resources, gate locations, sensitive areas, and first responder accessibility.
  • Take into account existing planning, zoning, ordinances, and forest initiatives when developing.
  • Understand and implement prescribed local and state fire protocols.

For community leaders
Local officials play roles in the development and maintenance of communities. In preparation for wildfires, local officials should:

  • Note the trends of commercial and residential development into wildfire zones.
  • Understand existing planning, zoning, and building ordinances.
  • Create a Community Wildfire Protection Plan and engage residents and local organizations in wildfire preparedness.
  • Know homeowner association regulations on landscaping, home design, and material use with regard to wildfire protection.
  • Identify at-risk populations, such as the elderly and disabled, who may need help during a wildfire.

Posted by Jerry Laws on Oct 04, 2012

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