STAY SAFE DURING FIRE SEASON
PREP, PACKING A BAG, and EVACUATION


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An early fire season has ravaged California; in September of 2020, the Bay Area found itself suffering from the unhealthiest air on earth. We must be prepared to take smart action should another crisis hit. Here are our favorite tips to help you stay safe:

  • Keep an eye on our air quality. Check PurpleAir -- It’s updated every 10 minutes. Or use AirNow.gov. Consider purchasing an air purifier. Here are some good choices as described in the NY Times. More options from CNN and Popular Mechanics will jumpstart your research. And here are the top-rated Amazon choices in air filters. Happy hunting!
     
  • We’re assuming you already know to have an emergency plan in place so that all relatives know whom to call out of state to find out if you’ve checked in. In addition, keep your devices charged, keep your car charged or tanked up, and in the case of a power outage, unplug larger appliances to avoid surges when the power comes back on.
     
  • If you have homeowners or renters insurance, keep it up to date. Make sure all valuables are documented (take a video!) so you have a good accounting of what you own.
     
  • Most importantly, create a “go bag” to keep by the door and/or in your car. Keep it where you can easily grab it and go.

HERE’S WHAT YOUR “GO BAG” SHOULD HOLD:

PERSONAL

  • ☐ Important documents if not scanned in the cloud (scan early!!) like passport, social security cards, birth certificates, lease documents, car title, any unpaid bills that are not digital
  • ☐ Family photos, if not scanned
  • ☐ Valuables, jewelry, small art, mementos
  • ☐ Instruments
  • ☐ Hard drive, laptop, charge cords
  • ☐ Cellphone, charge cords
  • ☐ Local Maps
  • ☐ Flashlights/batteries, headlamps
  • ☐ Ear plugs
  • ☐ Sleep eyeshade
  • ☐ Cash, checks, credit cards (photograph them too)
  • ☐ Printed list of phone numbers and email addresses for important contacts
  • ☐ Extra set of keys
  • ☐ Hand sanitizer & masks
  • ☐ Battery-powered radio / extra batteries
  • ☐ Whistle, to signal for help
  • ☐ Sleeping bags?


MEDICAL / PRACTICAL

  • ☐ Meds; prescriptions
  • ☐ Extra eyeglasses, sunglasses
  • ☐ contacts, saline
  • ☐ TP
  • ☐ Shampoo; brush; toiletries
  • ☐ Headache and/or allergy meds
  • ☐ Tweezers / nail clipper / emery board
  • ☐ Moisturizer / sunscreen
  • ☐ Protective eyewear
  • ☐ Visine; masks; Carmex; throat lozenges
  • ☐ Soap, sanitizer, towels; wipes, alcohol
  • ☐ Paper, pens, poster board, duct tape, zip ties
  • ☐ Trash bags
  • ☐ Umbrella
  • ☐ Backpack


HOUSEHOLD

  • ☐ Pillows / blankets
  • ☐ Air Mattress / tarp / tent
  • ☐ Folding chair / table
  • ☐ Backup charger
  • ☐ Radio / walkie talkie?
  • Mifi router
  • ☐ Bicycle/rack
  • ☐ Pets, pet food
  • ☐ Pet carrier


CLOTHING

Sturdy shoes/socks/undergarments

Casual, warm cotton clothes

Also see this site which offers a similar must-have list.

BOTTOM LINE: sturdy cotton clothes, masks, important documents (or scans), medications, eye glasses, goggles, leather gloves, cash, flashlight, waterproof lighter or matches, water, snacks, hand sanitizer, battery-powered radio and extra batteries.

PREPARING FOR PET SAFETY

Cal Fire has put together this list of items to care for your pet. It includes:

  • A carrier for each pet
  • Vaccination and medical records, proof of ownership, a current photo, contact information for your pet's vet
  • Two-week supply of food and water
  • Food and water bowls that are non-spill
  • A pet first aid kit, medications and instructions on dosing
  • A cat litter box and litter, waste disposal bags
  • Paper towels and newspaper
  • Disinfectant
  • Leashes/collars/harnesses
  • Blankets
  • Toys and treats

Make sure your pets have collars with identification, rabies and license tags. Check to make sure your contact information is up to date.

For more on livestock and pets, look here.

SMART EVACUATION ADVICE

  • DON’T WAIT UNTIL THEY FORCE YOU TO LEAVE. Prepare, and leave early. Roads will be blocked. Traffic may be severe; gas stations may be closed. Cell networks and power may be down. You may not be able to navigate unless you know the route/have a map.
  • Be prepared to be shut out of your home for weeks before you are allowed back in. So make sure you have everything you need to survive if your home burns, if you are not allowed back in for a few weeks, or if you need to sleep in a tent at an evacuation center for months. IT HAPPENS.
  • Don't rely on Airbnb or hotels in a disaster -- they may be booked solid.
  • You might need to sleep in your car on the side of the road.

SAFETY PREP FOR YOUR CAR

  • ☐ Point your car so you can evacuate without having to do a U turn
  • ☐ Get gas/full tank, oil, fluids, FixaFlat
  • ☐ Spare tire
  • ☐ Fuses
  • ☐ Jumper cables
  • ☐ Vehicle documents
  • ☐ AAA card
  • ☐ Spare keys (under your license plate or in a magnetic holder on your roof)

PLAN EVACUATION ROUTE IN ADVANCE

  • ☐ Call relatives/friends and determine SEVERAL possible evacuation routes.
  • ☐ Bring anything combustible inside (wood furniture, pads, etc.), including garbage cans if you have a garage
  • ☐ Clean your gutters if you haven't already
  • ☐ Park the car facing a direction you'd want to leave if you had to evacuate
  • ☐ Close windows and skylights, pull curtains and combustibles away from windows
  • ☐ Put ladders and hoses outside where they can be accessed by firefighters
  • ☐ Have two routes out of your home if using your car isn't possible
  • ☐ Know where your local designated safe spot is.

For extensive advice on how best to prep your home inside and out, pre-evacuation, for the best outcomes, please review this great list on readyforwildfire.org. Reading these checklists ahead of time will give your home the best chances of survival.

FOOD SUGGESTIONS

  • ☐ Canned soups/protein. Snacks! Dried fruit
  • ☐ Tea and beverages to share
  • ☐ Cooler
  • ☐ Frozen bottles of water in cooler as ice
  • ☐ Water container / water (5-7 gallon is great)
  • ☐ Spices, salt
  • ☐ Vitamin supplements, protein powder
  • ☐ Stove, pan, spoons, knife, cutting board
  • ☐ Mug, coffee thermos, can opener


IMPORTANT NOTE:

You can monitor East Bay radio, television and internet sources for vital information. Berkeley’s emergency radio stations are 1610 AM, KPFB 89.3 FM, KCBS 740 AM, KQED 88.5 FM, KSOL 98.9 FM (Spanish). If you feel threatened, leave immediately. Do not wait for an evacuation order.

More details on how to prep for fire danger in the Berkeley Hills can be found here.

JUST TO REVIEW, here’s what one evacuee wished they had known before having to evacuate:

* Do an evacuation practice run with your entire family or household. What will you take, if anything? Practice this until you can do it in 5-10 seconds. In the chaos of an emergency, your muscle memory will astound you.

* Pack important papers (car registration, birth certificate, journals) and medicine in an easy-to-carry case, or leave them somewhere safe if you can plan ahead. PUT IMPORTANT PAPERS IN THE CLOUD (Dropbox, for example)

* Have an easy-to-carry bag packed with easy, comfortable clothes (t-shirts, soft pants, undies, an outer layer).

* Got sturdy shoes next to your exit spot?

* Do you have homeowners or renters insurance, and is it up to date?

* Who is your designated point person in a safe place who can verify everyone is safe, make necessary calls on your behalf, etc.?

IF YOU DO HAVE TO EVACUATE & NEED TO RELOCATE OR REBUILD

Start with this small list:

  1. Get a PO Box.
     
  2. Longer term rental search - Include insurance on it so they pay directly for your rental. Find a "Like Property" so insurance will cover a nice place for you to live while you work through everything. You might be living in your temp home for 2 years, so choose wisely.
     
  3. Find a place to buy some sturdy boots and gloves. Get some shovels.
     
  4. Start working on your personal property list (this is not fun; be prepared to cry). Write it down the moment you remember something – keep a list on your phone or have a pad of paper with you at all times. (Hopefully you’re reading this ahead of time and are making your list or video NOW).
     
  5. Save receipts. Loss of use insurance will cover incidentals – hairbrush, phone chargers, etc.
     
  6. As you buy things, tell the store owner your situation. Most stores will give you some level of discount as their way of helping you.
     
  7. Let people do things for you. Do you have a friend that you can send to the store to buy you some basic clothes or comfort foods? Let them help; you don’t need to spend time doing these errands.


Then comes the BIG List:

  1. Register at the shelters with the Red Cross and any other agency (California FEMA, etc.)
    Most of the aid coming in will use these lists as a point of contact and will help to ensure that you don't get left out of anything. This will be especially important should FEMA be activated.
     
  2. Call Homeowners/Rental insurance to trigger "Loss of Use"
    This typically will allow you to be in a "Like" property for x number of years and sometimes has a dollar limit attached depending on your policy. This coverage should also give you some immediate access to funds for essentials (clothes, toothbrushes, food, etc.) and will also get the ball rolling for the insurance claim on your home and rebuilding/personal property dollars.
     
  3. Get a PO box and forward all mail to the box. Use this PO Box as the mailing address on all forms you begin to fill out.
     
  4. Start searching for a long-term rental.
     
  5. Coordinate with your insurance company so that payments can be made directly from them, using your “Loss of Use” money. Plan on renting 1-2 years, but do not sign a lease for a full two years, as circumstances can change.
     
  6. Itemized list of belongings - you will absolutely need this for your claim!
    Organize by room and list everything that was there and its replacement cost.
    Replacement cost should be what it would really cost to replace.
    Make sure you list everything, even if it is above and beyond your policy limit. This is very important because everything above and beyond the policy limit is considered a Loss and can be claimed as such on your taxes - see below.
     
  7. Call all of your utilities and freeze or cancel service.
    Electric, Gas, TV, Landline phone
    Also Newspaper, cancel or update to PO Box
     
  8. Call the rest of your insurance contacts as needed. (Car insurance and any specialty insurance for unique items)
     
  9. Permits - An unfortunate necessity
    Debris Removal - as things wind down it will be necessary to remove the debris. This usually requires a permit and should be covered by your insurance -- ask repeatedly.
    Erosion Control - If you are on any kind of hill or have sloped property you will need to put some sort of erosion control measures in place. Again, this will need some sort of permit.
    Temporary Power Pole/Trailer on site Permit - Getting this earlier on can prove helpful.
     
  10. Taxes - You will be able to claim the monetary loss of the value of all your items minus what you receive from your insurance company.
     
  11. Network with others. You will learn so much from others as you go through the rebuilding process. The amount of time that you will spend on the rebuild, insurance, recovery process is staggering, so you need to use all your resources.



If you discover other important resources you feel should be added to this page, let us know.