BUG-OUT BAG Households should have a kit ready to go with them that includes everything they need to survive for five days
No one likes to think about losing their home or their loved ones in a tragedy like a fire, but it happens to people every year. However, the risk can be lowered with sound planning and good communication among family members, neighbours and communities.
John Muir, spokesman for the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, says every household should have two separate emergency kits.
“That involves creating a 72-hour kit with items that will help sustain you and your family for up to 72 hours should you need to shelter in place. Another good idea is to prepare what’s called a ready-to-go kit, which are items for you and your family like water, non-perishable food and clothing. And you should plan for up to five days should you need to evacuate from your home during an event such as a wildfire.”
Every household should also have an emergency plan, which is understood by all members of the household.
“Preplan where your meeting spot will be. Make sure you have mobile phone numbers for each one of your family members and how they can be reached,” Muir said.
During an emergency, local phone lines can often become tied up by frantic relatives trying to reach loved ones. Unfortunately, that can make it difficult for people in the emergency to make contact with their household members. Muir says a friend or relative from outside the community should be selected as a message relayer. Unaffected by clogged phone lines, he or she can be charged with calling each of the family members with updates or instructions.
If a wildfire or other emergency is happening in a community, people can turn their TVs and radios on to a local station for updates and instruction. Households should have a battery-operated or crank-operated radio in the event of an electricity failure. Alberta Emergency Alerts can also be found online at www.emergencyalert.alberta.ca, and the agency also operates a Facebook and Twitter account for delivering emergency messages.
“We know that during recent disaster events and emergency events, social media has played a large role with things like Twitter and Facebook. That allows you to get reliable information during an emergency or a disaster from local officials. You can also sign up for direct SMS and texting to your phone as well,” said Muir.
Livestock producers also need a plan for their animals. “You should always have an evacuation plan for your livestock if there’s ever a threat of fire, and we know that’s certainly a reality. In the past year or so, we’ve seen quite a few grass fires, particularly in the south area,” said Muir. “Move them into a plowed or heavily grazed field where there’s not a lot of fuel for the fire. You should also have water available and if you have a concrete or metal building that’s located quite a bit away from any forest vegetation, that’s another shelter option.”
However, if the worst-case scenario develops, producers may want to cut fences and turn the livestock loose, as long as their release will not impede the evacuation of people and traffic. If a home is faced with imminent danger from fire, hoses should be turned on, and a sprinkler should be nailed to the roof. Combustibles should be moved away from the home, and eavestroughs should be filled with water. However, people should never risk their lives or the lives of others to protect property.
In the face of impending disaster, communities will give evacuation notices, and emergency officials such as firefighters and the RCMP will help facilitate the evacuation. “If you don’t have a way to evacuate at the time, you should let local authorities know,” said Muir. “Always call 9-1-1. Someone will be able to reach you should you be in harm’s way. It’s probably not a good idea to wait a fire out.”