Escaping Fire: Calif. Officials Ask Do You Have a Family Disaster Plan?

February 6, 2006

With wind-whipped fires threatening hundreds of homes in Orange County, California, property owners are being asked to evacuate their homes at a moment’s notice. If it happened in your community, would you know how to defend your family, home and finances against natural disaster?

Families can guard against nature’s forces by practicing evacuation plans, developing detailed household inventories and maintaining fire safe landscaping, according to the Insurance Information Network of California.

* Make a complete home inventory and store it in a safe place away from your home. Inventories can be supplemented with photos and videos and can even be stored electronically away from the home. Free home inventory software is available at IINC’s Web site at, as well as an inventory guide in pdf format.
* Prepare and practice a family evacuation plan. Detail escape routes and family meeting places in the event that you are separated.
* Designate a phone “captain” that your family can call to report their well-being and locations.
* Familiarize yourself with your insurance policy, and keep a copy of it in a safe deposit box or other secure location away from your home.
* If you must prepare to evacuate, be sure to collect any financial documents that you may have kept in the home in addition to heirlooms, photographs and other irreplaceable valuables.
* If police or firefighters order evacuation, follow their instructions. Your family’s safety is more important than your property.

Homeowners can also protect their homes from brushfire by focusing on their property:

* Prepare a defensible space by clearing flammable vegetation and other combustible materials for at least 100 feet around your home.
* Replace native plants with fire resistant landscaping such as ice plant. Consult your local nursery for the fire-safe plants that grow best in your region.
* Space trees and shrubs at least 10 feet apart.
* Remove branches within 10 feet of chimneys and several feet from roofs. Cover chimneys with non-flammable screen of 1/2 inch or smaller mesh.
* Remove dead vegetation, leaves and other debris from roofs and gutters.
* If you have a swimming pool, be prepared to use it as a fire-fighting tool by purchasing a pool pump.

“Disaster readiness means preparing both physically and financially,” said IINC Executive Director Candysse Miller. “Prepare your families by sitting down together and creating a plan to help evacuate — and reunite — in case the unthinkable happens.”

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