Be ready for a wildfire emergency

By Tamera Manzanares

Summer monsoons are providing some relief, but Smokey Bear has not changed his mind; fire danger across Routt County remains very high. While local, state and federal agencies monitor wildfire risk and bolster emergency response and notification plans, it’s important residents assume a role in their own safety.

Jim Johnsen, Northwest Colorado Health’s Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, said changing weather and fire conditions can make fire behavior unpredictable. “Colorado residents have experienced these conditions first hand in the last couple of months with the 416 Fire near Durango and the Lake Christine Fire near Basalt,” he said. “Some residents had only minutes to evacuate their homes.”

Taking the time to consider this scenario ahead of time, making a plan and having evacuation supplies ready can help prevent a panic situation and better ensure your family’s safety in the event you need to leave your home quickly. “When an order to evacuate is issued, comply,” Johnsen said. “When in doubt, get out. There may be a time when conditions are so hazardous that first responders will not be able to assist.”

Take these basic steps to prepare for a possible wildfire emergency:

• Enroll in emergency notification systems. Register for Routt County alerts (Everbridge) here. Register for Moffat County alerts (CodeRED) here. You can receive alerts via landline, cell phone and/or email. Mobile apps also are available.

• Keep in mind that overloaded phone lines or downed towers could prevent a person from receiving an evacuation notice. Use good judgment; monitor weather and listen to the radio for updates.

• Make an evacuation plan and share it with your family. Include a meeting place outside your neighborhood. Designate emergency contacts outside the region that family members can call to keep track of each other if local phone connections are down.

• Put together a basic “go kit.” Include a three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day plus water for pets) and food. It’s also important to have any medications and a source of nonelectrical heat. A go kit may also include a battery operated radio, flashlight and extra batteries, cash, disposable cell phone and/or phone cards, list of contacts – doctors, family, neighbors and law enforcement, sleeping gear (pillows, old sleeping bags), extra clothing and shoes, important documents (copies of prescriptions, insurance documents, legal papers, etc.), identification, playing cards, books, paper and pens, and photos of family members in case someone is missing.

• Have a plan for horses, livestock and pets. Pet owners should have a go kit for their pet, including carriers, leashes, medication, litter and litter boxes, vaccination records and food and water. Plan where to take or stay with your animals during evacuation (shelters may not take pets), including pet-friendly motels, boarding facilities, friends and possible emergency animal shelters such as veterinarian offices and fairgrounds.

• Do a home inventory for insurance reporting. A smartphone is a great tool for documenting your possessions with photos and/or video. Gather warranties, receipts and insurance policies and write down or take photos of the make, model and serial number of electronics. Check your policy limits to be sure certain valuables are covered. Keep paperwork in a fireproof or safe deposit box. Update your list regularly.

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