#NoFuelNoFire – We Can Stop Wildfire Before It Starts

By John Zarrella – Former CNN Correspondent

Golden Gate Estates in Southwest Florida east of Naples looks quite a bit different than it did back in 1985. Today there are four lane roads, strip malls, housing developments, and, of course, traffic. Thirty years ago, the roads were two lanes that faded into dusty streets with a few homes scattered amongst the Pine trees and cabbage palms. Heck, I don’t recall a traffic light, just stop signs at intersections. NoFuelNo Fire Facenook

January of that year brought with it bitter cold and a nasty biting wind. Couple that with drought conditions and you had an ideal recipe for a wildfire. We got the call January 30, “Get over to Golden Gate.” A young Forest Ranger had been killed when he was plowing a fire break and the head of the fire blew up around him.

None of us had ever covered a wildfire before. That night you could see the embers jumping from tree to tree and swirling in the cold wind. I stood in the high dead grass at the edge of a dirt road with my back to the woods. I had just started my on-camera presentation when Steve Sonnenblick, our engineer, saw it coming. He yelled to watch out, grabbed my winter coat, and pulled me onto the gravel. The fire swept across the dry brush where I had been standing. The heat was like opening an oven door. That’s the nature of wildfires. They are like living, breathing organisms consuming everything in their path. When there is nothing left to devour, they move on. And in an instant, a place you thought you were safe was NOT.

I was reminded of that night in 1985 while watching coverage of the fires raging in Southern California, New Mexico, and Arizona. While the American West sees more than its fair share of fires, every state is at some risk. Remember the headlines “Florida on Fire” back in 1998? More than 2,000 fires scorched half a million acres causing $600 million in losses. Three hundred homes were engulfed. At one point, 100,000 people were evacuated. In 2002, the Hayman fire outside Denver consumed nearly 140,000 acres and destroyed 130 homes. Annually, there are 75,000 wildfires that burn an average of 7 million acres and destroy thousands of homes and structures. And get this. Many fires are caused, firefighters have told me, just by people who throw cigarette butts out their car window.

During those 1998 Florida fires, one woman apparently in shock spilled her heart about losing everything, “Every baby book. Every hair lock from when they were young. Everything. All their clothes and all their toys.” That doesn’t need to be you. There are things you can and should do to easily make your home a defensible space. Here are a few:

  • Clean leaves and debris from gutters, eaves, porches, and decks.
  • Remove dead vegetation from under your porch and deck and within 10 feet of your home.
  • Move flammable material like firewood piles and propane tanks to no closer than 30 feet from your home.
  • Cover exterior attic vents with metal mesh to prevent hot embers from entering.
  • Keep your yard watered and maintained.
  • Prune trees so the lowest branches are no less than six-to-10 feet from the ground.

And, by all means have an evacuation plan. You may have to get out in the face of a wildfire, but if you do the simple things to protect your property, chances are you will still have a home to go back to. There are many other invaluable tips and videos you can find at www.flash.org.

I went to California for the Anderson Cooper show in 2007 to cover the horrible fires outside Los Angeles and in San Diego. The first night, we flew in a helicopter over the foothills. You could see pockets of fire in all directions. While some of them were caused by lightning strikes, others were, sadly, the result of arson. At least five people were arrested. FLASH documented one homeowner’s journey during these fires in the video Tale of Two Homes – Wildfire.

Whatever the cause, why risk losing everything when just doing the little things could save your home and more importantly your life? Take a good look at those wildfires burning out west. Do you need any more of a wake-up call?

Links of Interest:

Fight Wildfire Before it Starts

Tale of Two Homes – Wildfire (video)

Wildfire Protection for Your Home (video)

#NoFuelNoFire (wildfire photo gallery)

QuakeSmart Now—Earthquake Safe Later: California Employers Lead the Way

By Terry Sheridan – FLASH Consumer Reporter

The magnitude 6.0 earthquake that struck picturesque Napa Valley on August 24 was Northern California’s strongest since Loma Prieta 25 years earlier. And if there is anything positive to come from it, it’s that it likely shook awareness into people about the need to prepare.

That’s where QuakeSmart™ comes in.

QuakeSmart is a mitigation program for businesses launched in 2008 by FEMA and the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. The goal is to guide business owners in protecting their buildings, employees, and equipment with non-structural and structural reinforcements.

That’s how Becky Pereira and Tom Spada, both in San Jose, California, discovered what they’d need to do for their homes or office buildings. They learned that mitigation efforts can be as simple or complex as you want to make them — including projects like anchoring office and kitchen appliances and securing cabinet doors, desks, file cabinets, computers, TVs, and racks.

Becky’s in charge of health and safety coordination as a vendor for a Silicon Valley technology company in three high-rise office buildings totaling 54 floors. Each floor has a break room with a refrigerator, beverage cooler, and countertop appliances like microwaves and coffeemakers. Labs for software testing have numerous equipment racks, and their café has larger kitchen appliances and equipment.

Her experience in the Quake Cottage™ simulator of a magnitude 8.0 earthquake during a Building Owners and Managers Association presentation helped convince her that mitigation was needed. As a result, she made sure that anything that could move or fall was anchored by a contractor’s crew who spent several nights doing the work.

Even more, employees were receptive to retrofitting their own homes after a few seconds of simulated shaking in the Quake Cottage which the company brought to its offices for employees to experience.

Tom is the facilities maintenance administrator for the Santa Clara Valley Water District. He oversees maintenance of an administrative campus that includes six office buildings, a yard, two warehouses, four water treatment plants, three pump stations, and a water quality lab where one piece of equipment alone costs $500,000.

Bearing in mind that Santa Clara County sits atop three major fault lines, Tom brought in a contractor who provided anchoring kits and trained and certified Tom’s staff so that everyone knows how to use the tie-downs. So far, the project has cost about $7,300 for the lab.

Tom’s unsure how much the overall cost will be, but he is sure of an earthquake’s toll. A prior water treatment plant was destroyed in the 1989 magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake that decimated the San Francisco-Oakland area.   

Nothing is foolproof, of course. But, as Becky says, “It’s not if another quake will hit. It’s when.”

Find out more about QuakeSmart and what you can do at flash.org/quakesmart, and consider joining FLASH and QuakeSmart for a free Earthquake 2014 Summit on Sept. 18 in Riverside, California or Oct. 30 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit www.earthquake2014summit.com for more information.

9 Ways to Prepare for a Hurricane

Leslie Chapman-Henderson is the President and CEO of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), a non-profit organization that is dedicated to promoting protection of lives and property during natural and man-made disasters.

She says, “The more you can prepare prior to a hurricane, the greater your chances are to safely shelter and recover. Taking steps to strengthen your home and preparing your family to evacuate if you live in an evacuation zone will help reduce risk of injury to you and your family, and damage to your home.”

Here are 9 ways to prepare for a hurricane: 

1. Protect doors and windows. Use “approved hurricane shutters or board up with properly installed emergency plywood shutters,” says Chapman-Henderson.

2. Stock up on sandbags in flood zonesSandbags can be useful, says Chapman-Henderson, to reduce water damage to homes and businesses. You can get sandbags in larger quantities for your home or business nationally from Sand Bags To Go.

3. Prepare for different scenarios. You might remain in your home after a disaster or evacuate to a safer location. “Families should pay close attention to and heed evacuation orders from local officials to determine if they can safely stay in their homes or need to go to a safer location,” Chapman-Henderson said. You can better prepare for either scenario by assembling a disaster supply kit that includes three to seven days worth of food and water per family member, cash as ATMs may not be open for many days, a manual can opener, extra required medication, a battery powered radio, First Aid kit, supplies for any pets and flashlights with extra batteries. Replace the water and food supplies every six-months.

4. Protect important documents. Store important family documents, including medical records, insurance papers, social security cards, deeds or mortgages, birth certificates and marriage certificates in a fire and water proof container, says Chapman-Henderson. She also suggests families can scan and keep electronic copies of important documents on a USB drive or as photos on a smartphone.

5. Know your zone. Dennis Feltgen is the Public Affairs Officer and a Meteorologist with NOAA’s National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. He says there are common mistakes to avoid when a hurricane warning is issued including “not knowing if you are located in an evacuation zone and not having a plan on where to go if you are in an evacuation zone.”

6. Get supplies before the hurricane hits. Don’t make the mistake says Feltgen, of searching for the supplies you’ll need once an evacuation order is given, otherwise “you must stand in long lines to get supplies that were readily available weeks ago—and may be gone now.”

7. Involve the whole family in the hurricane plan. Feltgen says, “The creation of a family hurricane plan should involve the entire family. Each member of the family should have a specific assignment in the creation and execution of the plan. For instance, one child could make sure there are batteries for the electronics, another would be in charge of bringing in the small outside furniture. By making it a family plan, the anxiety level is reduced.” Be sure to check FEMA’s website.

8. Don’t forget about pets. Feltgen says plan ahead and have several options for where not only you will go, but also your pets.

9. Practice caution after the hurricane is over. Remember, says Leslie Chapman-Henderson, that danger is still present even after the hurricane is over. She says avoid driving as roads may be blocked and watch for downed power lines. If your home has sustained damage, consider having it inspected by a professional before returning to it including checking that gas lines are not leaking, plumbing is working properly and there are no hazards from damaged trees or unwanted “guests” including rodents, snakes and insects that were blown or washed in by the storm.

Written by Kathleen Miller (source)

Visit flash.org for more information