By Ken Striplin
The numbers are astounding.
Wildfires this year in our state have burned an area of 1,667,855 acres, claiming lives, destroying homes and causing $2.975 billion in damages. All this adds up to 2018 being the most destructive year of wildfires on record.
Let these daunting statistics remind you to get prepared. There are many actions you can take now to lessen the impact of a wildfire.
First, make sure that your home has adequate brush clearance around it. Make sure that all dead and dying trees and shrubs are removed and those that are healthy are pruned. Clear your roof, gutters and eaves of debris that could catch fire, and trim tree branches so they do not reach over your roof.
Inside your home, make sure you have the recommended number of working smoke detectors. The National Fire Protection Association recommends homes should have smoke alarms installed inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Also, make sure you have a fire extinguisher and know how to use it.
Every household should create a family emergency plan. Identify escape routes from your home and designate a meeting space so family members know where to reunite should they become separated. You also should identify the various routes you can take to get out of your neighborhood to safety.
Families should prepare an emergency kit and have it at the ready in case they need to quickly evacuate. The kit should include first aid supplies, basic tools, a flashlight, clothing, medicine, important documents and insurance policies, among other necessities.
I would also encourage you to get to know your neighbors. They may need your help, or you may need theirs in the event of an emergency. Consider asking your homeowners association to host emergency preparedness meetings to share concerns and identify elderly or disabled neighbors who made need extra help.
Our firefighters and sheriff’s deputies are often stretched thin during these massive emergency situations. By taking part in Community Emergency Response Training, also known as CERT, you can learn how to respond in a disaster situation. CERT participants learn how to recognize the potential hazards associated with a particular type of emergency and take the appropriate action, identify, organize and utilize available resources and people, and treat for life-threatening conditions through Simple Triage and Rapid Treatment, or START.
Through preparation, coming together as a community and knowing how to respond, we can lessen the impact a wildfire would have on our city. I want to take this opportunity to thank our Los Angeles County Fire Department and the firefighters across our state, and across the country, who have spent days at a time on the fire lines protecting homes and lives. Thank you for all you do.
The winter session of CERT begins on Jan. 17. To sign-up or get more information, please visit the city’s website at santa-clarita.com.