’Tis the Season for Disaster
Several years ago, a fire ignited in Witch Creek Canyon in San Diego County, California. Strong Santa Ana winds blowing up to 100 mph caused the fire to spread quickly.
The day after the fire started, over 500,000 people were ordered to evacuate their homes. It took almost three weeks to get the fire under control. In the end, it caused nearly $1.3 billion in damages and torched roughly 250,000 acres.
Out of the hundreds of thousands of people told to evacuate, one man decided to stay in his home and attempt to push the fire back.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Frank Vaplon of Poway, California, was still at home when he realized the wind was driving embers through the air toward his house. At this point, most of Frank’s neighbors had evacuated, but he stayed to try to save his house.
Frank had purchased a firefighter’s outfit complete with helmet, coat, respirator, etc. He also owned a 500-foot-long fire hose that he had hooked up to a 10,000-gallon water tank.
At first, he sprayed water at the fire, but it had little effect — if any. Realizing he was fighting a losing battle, Frank turned his attention toward his home and began spraying down his house with water. He also raked up all the loose debris around his house and boarded up the attic vents so embers couldn’t get in.
Emergency Plan B
Even though he planned to stay, Frank made sure he had an escape plan in case things went sideways. He put all his important papers in a steel box and loaded his RV, which he parked facing out in the event he had to leave in a hurry.
When the fire reached Frank’s property, it swept past in less than two minutes. He quickly put out a few small fires and then moved on to extinguish the flames at his neighbor’s house.
The fact is things could have turned out very differently for Frank. However, his preparations helped him survive and save his home. He took the necessary precautions to be ready to defend his home (and made a bold choice to ignore the evacuation orders) and it worked.
If you live in an area prone to certain natural disasters, here are a few steps you can take to protect your property from each:
If you have a woodpile, make sure it is stored at least 30 feet away from your home. You don’t want to stock a bunch of wood right next to your house — this will only add fuel to the fire.
Store other outdoor items at least 30 feet away from your home as well, including lawn mowers, propane tanks, lawn furniture and toys. In addition, keep roofs, gutters, decks and patios clear of leaves and overhanging branches.
If a wildfire is approaching, turn on your sprinklers and water down everything you can. Lastly, get a fireproof safe to store important documents — I have one where I store documents and emergency cash. I recommend checking out those made by SentrySafe.
One of the most critical things you should do to prepare for a hurricane is stock up on supplies NOW — not the day before the storm, when store shelves are empty. In addition to things like food, water and batteries, you also might want to pick up a few pieces of plywood or some sandbags.
Check your homeowner’s insurance to verify that it covers flooding or hurricane damage. If it doesn’t, you probably want to add this coverage (again, do this well in advance).
Before the storm, be sure to bring in all outdoor furniture, toys and anything loose that could be picked up and thrown around in high winds. I also recommend boarding up your windows to protect them from potential projectiles. Lastly, keep your emergency radio on to monitor local conditions and listen for evacuation orders.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, 143 million Americans live in areas where damaging earthquakes can occur. This makes it a matter of when — not if.
One of the most basic things you can do to prepare for an earthquake is to assess your home’s interior. Don’t hang items over your bed, secure pictures to the wall, bolt shelves to walls and install latches on your cabinets so porcelain shrapnel doesn’t hit you if things get bad.
Fires are a major risk following an earthquake, so you need to know how to shut off the gas supply to your home. As with any natural disaster, make sure you have at least 30 days’ worth of food and water stocked up and plan on being without power for an indefinite period.
The most important prep if you live in an area known for tornadoes is to create a safe room in your home where your family can gather to shelter in place. This room should be in a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest level with no windows.
Create a tornado survival kit that includes a hard hat and whistle (to help you locate one another afterward) for each family member. Make sure to stock your safe room with emergency food and water because you might not have time to move it there.
This time of year, you would be wise to evaluate your home and level of preparedness for the natural disasters likely to hit your area. The fact is no matter where you live, you are at some sort of risk. So take these tips into consideration to help you survive like Frank did.