Expat Safety Tips: Wildfires
Wildfires have been terrorising the planet recently, with significant outbreaks roaring through parts of California and various UK locations. One of the most shocking wildfires of the past 50 years tore through Yellow Stone National Park in the US, with more than 9,000 firefighters battling the flames. Similarly, the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009 blazed through 1.1 million acres of the Australian bush and resulted in 173 deaths.
Any country that experiences hot and dry weather can be at risk of wildfires. Check out the information below on how to act during this frightening scenario.
What is a wildfire?
A wildfire is usually a large, destructive and uncontrollable fire that wipes out large areas of land. They can also be referred to as forest fires, grass fires, peat fires and bushfires depending upon the vegetation being destroyed. However wildfires do not just destroy plants and trees, all life forms can be lost, and the air and water of the area will become heavily polluted. If wildfires spread to residential areas, homes and businesses can also be burnt down.
What causes a wildfire?
Some wildfires are natural disasters whereas others are due to human impact. See a list of common causes below:
|Natural Causes of Wildfires||Human Causes of Wildfires|
|Intense heat and very dry land||Fireworks|
|Equipment or engine sparks|
Being prepared for a wildfire
The best options for expats living in wildfire-prone areas is to be aware of local protocol – this will be available from your emergency services. They will likely advise protecting your home using fire-resistant materials if it isn’t already. They will also recommend your home has a large defence space – this is usually in the form of a large garden of at least 30ft around your home. There should not be anything thick woodland or vegetation within 100ft of your home.
Emergency supply kit
Being prepared for a wildfire is best and you should have an emergency kit ready for you and your family. It should include as a minimum:
- Wind-up or battery powered radio
- N95 masks
- Canned food, dried foods, energy bars
- Can opener
- First aid kit
- Spare sets of house and car keys
- Important family documents
- Clothing and blankets
Family emergency plan
You should always be aware of local protocol when it comes to wildfires. Your emergency services will keep you informed throughout any disaster on how to act and whether you should evacuate or not. Always abide by the plan emergency services have set out.
However, particularly for families who have young children or elderly dependants, putting together a family plan can be extremely beneficial so that everyone knows what is expected. With children it is important to explain wildfires at a level which they understand and is not frightening for them.
During a wildfire
If you are instructed to evacuate during a wildfire by emergency services, do exactly as they tell you. Do not return to your house under any circumstances.
If you are trapped during a wildfire or fear for your safety call your emergency number immediately. However, due to the wildfire, a response may take longer than usual. However, the authorities will make sure you are safe.
Make sure you use a TV or radio to keep abreast of local information regarding the wildlife.
Ensure you have N95 masks for all the family should the air become polluted.
After a wildfire
You must never return to your home if you have been evacuated until the authorities instruct you that it is safe to do so. They will also be able to tell you if the water is safe to drink.
When returning or venturing outside be aware that there will likely be smouldering debris, live embers and charred remains of trees and buildings. Be sure not to burn yourself and steer well away from danger. You should make sure you are wearing an N95 face mask to protect your lungs from particles.
Reach out to your family and friends via mobile phone or social media. Let them know you are okay. If they are in the same area, ensure they are safe also.
When it comes to your home, document any damage with photographs and contact your insurance company for assistance.
Remember that wildfires dramatically change the ground conditions of an area. It can take 5 years for vegetation to restore and, during this time, you will be at an increased risk of floods and mudflows. Many people, following a wildfire, have to take out flood insurance to protect there home.
Discover some of Expatriate Group’s other Expat Safety Tips articles below: