Shelter In Place During a Wildfire

Jane TerjungBy Jane Terjung      August 20, 2021

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Shelter In Place During a Wildfire
Jane Terjung has some timely tips in her “Bathroom Bunker Edition” of emergency preparedness. Now that we’ve been advised that sheltering in place (SIP) may be our only choice during a wildfire, what is the next step? The safest step is what the fire department has been telling us: Leave Early! However, what if they issue a Shelter In Place order? How and where will we shelter in place? We can’t afford to build a zombie-proof bunker, so instead we researched how to shelter as safely as possible. We spoke to firemen, googled our butts off, and double-checked my notes from Fire Chief Drew Smith’s remarks during the last three Topanga Emergency Management Task Force meetings (TEMTF). Survival Tips If You Are Trapped •Shelter away from outside walls. •Bring garden hoses inside house so embers don’t destroy them. •Patrol inside your home for spot fires and extinguish them. Wear long sleeves and long pants made of natural fibers such as cotton. Stay hydrated. •Ensure you can exit the home if it catches fire (remember if it’s hot inside the house, it is four to five times hotter outside). •Fill sinks and tubs for an emergency water supply. Place wet towels under doors to keep smoke and embers out. •After the fire has passed, check your roof and extinguish any fires, sparks or embers. •Check inside attic for embers. •Patrol your property, extinguish small fires. Call 911 if there are fires you can’t extinguish with a small amount of water or in a short period of time. (fire.ca.gov/media/4996/readysetgo_plan.pdf) The Bathroom Bunker Our Bunker of Choice is our bathroom with the smallest window, a bathtub and a place under the sink to store supplies. •Plywood to cover window •Fire extinguisher •Large fire blanket to throw over kitty carriers if window blows •NOAA AM FM Radio •Airhorn (in case we need to signal for help) •Gloves, hat, helmet, goggles, respirator, N95masks, firemen’s jacket and pants (in case window blows & for venturing outside) Garden hose, nozzle (if we need to put out spot-fires after the wall o’ fire passes) Pliers, miscellaneous tools, lantern, drinking water, and our “Go Bags” full of meds, etc. For reference, Bill put what we actually bought on a web page, plus links to the items we bought: janeterjung.org/ShelterInPlace. Trapped In Your Car? Like our house, inside our car is safer than outside our car. At the last TEMTF meeting, we learned from Fire Chief Smith that those Public Refuge Areas listed on the Topanga Zone Map would not be safe if we were outside of our car. Temperatures from the fire blasting through are just too high to survive. Since our Toyota Manual was missing a section on Surviving Wildfires, we found: •Car Survival Tips •Get car close to a barrier or wall if possible •Hunker down on the floor •Cover yourself with a blanket •Keep the engine running •Your tires might explode but stay inside the car. If you get out, you’ll never be able to stay ahead of the fire. We also stowed two fire blankets under our seats to throw over us and the kitty carriers. We always carry a fire extinguisher for those pesky car accident fires that love to shoot up brush-covered roadway hillsides. Hey! Let’s Live To See Life On Mars! Sources Ready! Set! Go! fire.ca.gov/media/4996/readysetgo_plan.pdf (see page 9 for SIP) National Association of Counties (NACO). naco.org/sites/default/files/documents/SIP_for_web.pdf (see page 5 for SIP) Safehome.org researches, reviews and recommends safety solutions. safehome.org/resources/wildfire-safety-guide/ (has SIP and Car Info) Homeland Security Digital Library. hsdl.org/?view&did=489474 “Sheltering-In-Place, Is It A Viable Option?” by Ron Lindroth is an interesting 2005 study on SIP that is often cited and is well worth the read. n
Jane Terjung

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