The West is on fire. People are dying in those fires.
One Redding, California man — Ed Bledsoe — told CBS News his family didn’t get warned when fire attacked Redding. He left the house to run an errand and left his wife and great grandchildren at home. About 15-minutes after leaving his wife called to say fire was approaching. One of the kids told his great grandmother that fire was at the back door.
The man tried to return. A roadblock stopped Bledsoe’s trip back by car and a wall of flames kept him from getting to the house. His wife and great grandchildren died in that fire.
Bledsoe said they were not warned of the danger. If he’d been warned, he would not have left on that errand.
The sheriff’s department said they notify people a number of ways and that includes going door-to-door and using loudspeakers from emergency vehicles. News media is used as well as the integrated Public Alert and Warning System. It sends warnings to cellphones.
Bledsoe and his family didn’t get the message.
That leads to the first important piece of advice to share with your clients. When there is wildfire in your area, pay attention. When fires burn at that speed, warnings become critical and so does being prepared and aware.
Another danger is not leaving. Too many people choose not to leave. Reports from the Carr Fire — and other fires around the Western states — say some stay to fight the fire and save their property. Also not the brightest thing someone can do when facing a wall of fire.
That brings us to some important tips we found in a story done on the PropertyCasualty360.com website. These are the should not do and the should do things your clients need to know:
1. Listen to authorities to find out when it is safe to return, and whether water is safe to drink.
2. Use caution when re-entering a burned area — flare-ups can occur. If you find fire, call 911 immediately.
3. Wear a mask rated N-95 or better while cleaning up.
4. Put on gloves, long pants and a long sleeve shirt. Wear boots with good soles.
5. Walk carefully. When ash gets wet, it can be slippery.
6. Check you property for hot spots: smoldering stumps and vegetation, ash pits (holes created by burned trees filled with hot ash).
7. Check the roof and exterior of your house for sparks and embers. Be sure to check rain gutters, under decking, in crawlspaces and in any piles of debris for embers.
8. Check for the smell of gas. If you smell gas, leave the house and turn the supply off at the tank or outside valve. Open the doors and windows and contact your utility provider.
9. Check the attic and throughout the house for hidden burning sparks and embers.
10. Give your pets a bath to get rid of ash.
11. Wash toys before children play with them.
12. Throw away frozen food that might’ve thawed during a power outage. Also, throw away food, beverages or medications that were not in airtight containers. This includes products that have been stored in cardboard or other soft packaging.
13. Toss plastic bottles, like bottles of water, that have ash on the caps. Rinsing bottle caps is not enough to decontaminate the containers.
14. Place any ash you collect into a plastic bag, so it doesn’t blow away.
15. Document property damage with photographs or video. Conduct an inventory and contact your insurance agent for assistance.
16. Ask your insurance provider what you should do about covering broken windows, doors, and other exposed areas, pumping out water and any other activities you may need to do to secure your home.
1. Don’t start cleaning or throwing away anything until you have contacted your insurance company.
2. Don’t turn on a flashlight inside a damaged home. The battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present.
3. Don’t turn on your electricity if you seen any damage to your meter.
4. Don’t try to fix any damaged gas meters, gas lines or propane tanks. If you find damage, call your local utility provider.
5. Don’t touch any downed wires. Again, call your utility provider.
6. Don’t let kids play in the ash whether its dry or wet.
7. Don’t let ash linger on our skin. If ash does get on your skin, wash it off using warm water and soap.
8. Don’t eat the food in your refrigerator if there was a long power outage.
9. Don’t kick up more ash into the air. Avoid using your leaf blower to clean up the ash. The Los Angeles County Department of Health suggests sweeping the ash carefully, and then using a wet mop.
10. Don’t use your average home vacuum cleaner to clean up ash unless it has a HEPA-filter. Regular vacuum cleaners will just blow the particles back into the air.
11. Don’t plug a generator directly into your home’s electrical panel or power meter — the power can flow back out onto the wires on the street and give workers a bad shock.
12. If you have a safe or strong box, do not try to open it. It can hold intense heat for several hours. If the door is opened before the box has cooled, the contents could burst into flames.
13. Cleaning products, paint, batteries and damaged fuel containers need to be disposed of properly to avoid risk.
14. Don’t use water that you think may be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, make ice or make baby formula.
15. Don’t attempt to open or save any container of potentially hazardous material (or of unknown content) that has been burned or is bulging.
16. Don’t assume the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the only financial assistance you need. A Presidential Disaster Declaration must be established in order for a community to become eligible for FEMA funding. Ensure your expectations of FEMA are realistic. FEMA does not replace homes or businesses (except in extremely rare cases). FEMA assistance, when provided, is not a substitute for insurance but rather will provide minimum assistance to get people on their feet after a disaster.
Lastly, the website — who got most of this information from FEMA/Ready.gov, Colorado State University Extension, the American Red Cross, the Ready For Wildfire, Los Angeles County and the British Columbia government — urges you to tell your clients to use caution and good judgement when confronted by wildfire.
Ultimately — PropertyCasualty360.com — says, you are responsible for your own safety and well-being.
Source links: Insurance Business America, PropertyCasualty360.com