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Easy as 1-2-3

Sep 22, 2009 12:44PM ● By Wendy Sipple

Here in the Sierra Nevada foothills, we don’t worry much about natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

Even earthquakes, thankfully, are rarely on our radar screens. However, we certainly are not immune to wildfires, severe winter storms, or unforeseen man-made catastrophes that could threaten the safety of our families and property.

October is National Fire Prevention Month, a great time to make sure your family is ready to handle any emergency. Particularly in the case of fire, when a home can be engulfed within minutes, the more prepared and educated you are, the better.

Preparing Your Family

The American Red Cross urges families to prepare for disasters in three main ways:

  • Get a Kit
  • Make an Emergency Plan
  • Stay Informed

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s FEMA “Ready” campaign,, impressively demonstrates all aspects of emergency preparation. But, you can never be too prepared! So Style has a few additional resources to keep in mind.

Get a Kit

Emergency situations often involve power outages, travel restrictions or evacuation orders where access to necessities is limited. That’s why a basic emergency kit for your family is essential.

Based upon your family’s needs, supplementary items such as medicines, diapers or pet supplies may be necessary.

Make an Emergency Plan

Planning ahead and practicing various emergency scenarios is crucial in families with young children.

“It’s especially important to teach children to be responsible and respond appropriately in emergencies,” says Anita Yoder, public information officer for Placer County’s Office of Emergency Services. “Teach them not only how to call 9-1-1, but how to move out of danger.” Officials recommend that your emergency plan include a family communication plan, as well as incorporate your school’s own emergency plan and procedures for an optimal outcome.

And don’t forget the family pet. “There are very basic things people can do to ensure their animals are safe in an emergency situation,” says Lt. Warren Candler, animal services officer with El Dorado County. “The most important is to include animals in your evacuation plans.”

Stay Informed

In an emergency, it’s important for residents not only to be alerted to impending danger, but also to be able to monitor official updates as the situation unfolds. Most local agencies are equipped with email, text message or phone notification systems that can be utilized to warn of emergencies.

The City of Folsom uses a Reverse 9-1-1 notification system and operates a city radio station (1500 AM) to keep residents informed. Placer and El Dorado counties have similar phone warning systems, and along with Cal Fire, also activate emergency call centers when needed. The simplest way to keep informed may be to turn on your television or radio. “We work very closely with media to get emergency information out as quickly as possible,” says Yoder. She also suggests Web sites of print media, and local city and county jurisdictions for timely updates.

Not surprisingly, social media plays a role in disaster preparedness – the American Red Cross uses Twitter, and FEMA is on Facebook. Local residents also may subscribe to RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds and widgets that send emergency alerts and updates directly to a computer, laptop or mobile device.

Need More Help?

A number of local groups help families and communities as a whole prepare for emergencies. In addition to state and county offices of emergency services, the local Red Cross and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) both offer classes and training in disaster preparation and response.

Take Initiative Today to Be Prepared Tomorrow

When it comes to keeping your family safe, preparing for a disaster is a simple, yet necessary, precaution. “It’s extremely important for people to take initiative for their own safety,” urges Yoder. “They need to make sure their home is defensible against fire, they have a family plan in place, and that they stay alert.”


  • Test and clean smoke alarms once a month and replace batteries at least once a year. Replace smoke alarms once every 10 years.
  • Install A-B-C-type fire extinguishers in your residence and teach family members how to use them.
  • Store combustible or flammable liquids safely.
  • Review escape routes with your family. Practice escaping from each room. Include pets if needed.
  • Make sure windows are not nailed or painted shut. Make sure security gratings on windows have a fire safety opening feature so they can be easily opened from the inside.
  • Consider escape ladders if your residence has more than one level, and ensure that burglar bars and other antitheft mechanisms that block outside window entry are easily opened from the inside.
  • Teach family members to stay low to the floor (where the air is safer in a fire) when escaping from a fire.
  • Clean out storage areas. Do not let trash, such as old newspapers and magazines, accumulate.
  • Store important papers in a fireproof container.


  • Create a defensible space around your home (minimum 100 feet)
  • Keep roofs and rain gutters clear of leaves, pine needles and debris
  • Clear away any dead tree branches or bushes.
  • Prune trees away from your home and 8 feet from the ground.
Sources: FEMA and Cal Fire

Emergency Preparedness Kit Items

These basic supplies should be stored in an easy-to-carry container.

  • Water—one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • Food—nonperishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit and medications (7-day supply)
  • Multipurpose tool, can opener
  • Toiletries
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Emergency blanket
  • Map(s) of the area
  • Extra set of car keys and house keys
  • Extra cash
Source: The American Red Cross

Local Emergency Operations Centers
Placer County: 530-886-5310
El Dorado County: 530-621-5895
Cal Fire: 530-823-4083

Disaster Preparation Publications and Resources

“Are You Prepared?” UC Davis Health System:

“Are You Ready?” FEMA:

“Wildfire… Are You Prepared?” U.S. Fire Administration:

Emergency Contact Cards (ready to print):

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):

American Red Cross – Sacramento Sierra Chapter:

California Emergency Management Agency (OES):

California Office of Homeland Security:

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire):

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):

Placer County Office of Emergency Services:

El Dorado County Sheriff Office of Emergency Services:

Sacramento County Emergency Information Center:

California Fire Weather alerts: