Be Fire-Resilient, Start Today
Fire is one of the top disaster risks in our area, along with earthquake and severe storm. There is a lot you can do today to improve your chances of surviving a fire with your home intact. Here are the basic steps.
- Harden Your Home, and Your Neighborhood
- Be Prepared for Evacuation
- Attend Free Classes to Learn More
- Join the Woodside Hills Fire Resiliency Team
- If You SEE Something, SAY Something
Let's look at these things in a little more detail.
Harden Your Home
Hardening your home is about making it harder to burn. There are state and local laws regarding creating a defensible space around your home. There are many little things you can do to make your home less flammable too. Just imagine walking around your home with a burning ember, and look for all the places you could put that ember to set your home on fire. Those are the places where you want to make improvements. Replace flammable roofing and siding. Install ember-proof vents in your eaves and foundation. Keep leaves from building up on your roof or against your house. And keep your fire extinguishers and smoke alarms in good condition.
Learn more about defensible space at http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Defensible-Space
CalFire also has a great resource on defensible space at http://calfire.ca.gov/communications/communications_firesafety_100feet
Learn more about home hardening at http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Hardening-Your-Home/
Harden Your Neighborhood
If all the homes and open areas in your neighborhood are fire safe, you are safer. Defensible space principles apply here too, but there are also some broader issues in the neighborhood. Inspect power lines; they can become overgrown quickly, and conditions can change, threatening lines that were perfectly safe the last time PG&E inspected them. PG&E inspects all lines annually. In our area, that happens at the end of the year. PG&E does a pretty good job of keeping the lines safe, but we are the first line of defense. We are the people who can spot a problem before it becomes a serious risk. We can also work to reduce the overgrowth in the wildland areas adjoining many of our properties. The Town of Woodside and our Fire Department will often help mitigate problems once they are pointed out.
Learn more about PG&E tree management at https://www.pge.com/en_US/safety/emergency-preparedness/natural-disaster/wildfires/vegetation-management.page
Learn about the Town of Woodside's Defensible Space Matching Fund Program at https://www.woodsidetown.org/community/defensible-space-matching-fund-program
Learn about the Woodside Fire Protection District's Chipper Program at http://woodsidefire.org/prevention/chipper-program
Get the PDF explaining the WFPD's Vegetation Management Requirements here .
Here is an example of what a defensible space project can do. This was done recently by one of our neighbors. The result is dramatic, and obviously less flammable.
Be Prepared for Evacuation
Being prepared to evacuate begins with having a plan. You family might not be together when it comes time to leave. With a shared plan, you will know how to re-connect quickly. If you aren't already signed up with SMCAlert, you should be. This is the main resource that our local emergency managers will use to send information, like "evacuate now." Know all of your evacuation routes, not just the one you take every day. Keep at least a half tank of gas in your car, always. If you think an evacuation is imminent, park your car heading outward, and get it loaded. And if you think it might be time to leave, it is time to leave. It is better to evacuate early than late. If you do wait for the evacuation order to be given, follow the instructions carefully.
Download the American Red Cross Family Disaster Plan template here .
Learn more about planning and preparation at http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Get-Set/
Learn more about evacuation at http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Go-Evacuation-Guide/
Attend Free Classes to Learn More
WPV-Ready is our local Emergency Preparedness organization. They give classes that cover this material, and more. The class, "Fire Resiliency in Your Neighborhood," is particularly focused on these topics. They also have a class, "Basics of Personal and Neighborhood Preparedness," that covers a broader range of topics. There is also an organization dedicated to Emergency Response, based on the FEMA Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. That organization is WPV-CERT. They give training that teaches valuable skills for emergency response. Classes for both organizations can be found on the Events page of either of their websites.
Learn more about WPV-Ready at http://WPV-Ready.org.
Learn more about WPV-CERT at http://WPV-CERT.org.
Join the Woodside Hills Fire Resiliency Team
Our Fire Resiliency Team exists to put all of these principles to work in Woodside Hills. We organize observations about needed mitigation, and work with the fire department, the town manager and engineer, and other agencies to follow up on issues we identify. We work most closely with our Fire Marshals, to help us identify the most productive projects we can undertake. Our long-term goal is to make Woodside Hills a "Firewise USA Site."
We are also building an Evacuation Team. These are neighbors who help identify all of the more obscure ways in and out of Woodside Hills, and between the streets. There are a surprising variety of them. Many need maintenance if they will be useful in an emergency. The Evacuation Team works to make these routes more useful.
Signing up for our teams does not obligate you to anything. It just gets you on the mailing list. When we have information to share, or we have a gathering to work on some project, you will get notified.
Learn more about the Firewise USA program at https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Wildfire/Firewise-USA
Get on the list for the Fire Resiliency Team or the Evacuation Team on our Team Sign-Up Page.
If You SEE Something, SAY Something
If you see fire hazards in your neighborhood, let someone know. Here are some of the most useful ways you can tell someone about a problem.
- Send an email to email@example.com.
- Call your local WPV-Ready leader, Emerson "Chip" Swan at (650) 206-2525.
- Contact the Fire Marshals at (650) 851-1594, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
- Fill out the fire department's hazard complaint form: http://woodsidefire.org/prevention/hazard-complaint-form
- Come to one of the "Fire Resiliency in Your Neighborhood" classes, and learn some of the details to watch for. Then there are a couple of more detailed evaluations you can do. If you feel that you have a good understanding of the issues, these forms will make sense already.
There is a 1-page form intended to capture the things you might be able to see from the street: Get the Form
And there is a multi-page form that you can fill out if a neighbor gives you permission to evaluate their property: Get the Form
- Call PG&E to report trees that threaten power ilnes (the topmost lines on the pole) at (800) 743-5000.
We hope to handle all of the fire hazards in our neighborhoods as a neighbor-to-neighbor conversation, along the lines of, "I'm hoping to help you identify the kind of things that the fire department would be looking for if they came by, to help us all avoid a big fire." If you are uncomfortable contacting neighbors about issues you see, you can contact our Fire Resiliency Team by using one of the first two methods listed above. We will work with neighbors to resolve issues quickly, and between friends. Only if that doesn't work out, we will coordinate with our Fire Marshals for "next steps."
And remember, defensible space and home hardening work!