A new program outlining preparation and proactive steps residents can take to deal with Southern California's ever-present fire danger, called "Ready! Set! Go!" was rolled out early this month.
Community Services Liaison Stephanie English talked about the program on KHTS's "Something To Talk About" news program today. English emphasized the importance of not only being prepared, but listening to emergency personnel when they recommend evacuation and responding immediately for everyone's safety.
"This program came as a result of a controversial idea that got some speed in the community in the last couple of years, a stay-and-defend concept where people were trying to learn as much as they could about fire and how to prepare their homes so they could stay and defend their homes versus evacuating," English said.
"The LA County Fire Department, along with numerous fire organizations in Southern California, do not support that idea," she continued. "Most people don't realize how dynamic fire is, how dangerous and how fast a fire can move. We use the analogy that you often cannot out-drive a fast-moving fire."
Citing the tragic fires in Australia where more than a hundred people lost their lives trying to defend their homes, English said that incident solidified the resolve behind "Ready! Set! Go!"
"As tragic as it is to lose everything, it is not worth the risk of losing your life," she said.
"Ready! Set! Go! is a comprehensive education process that people can utilize to get themselves ready, get their homes ready and become fire educated. The bottom line message is to get your house ready now before a fire, then when fire comes you've done everything you can to help firefighters to defend your home," she said. "And when you're asked to evacuate, we really ask you to comply with the law enforcement officials and let the firefighters come in and do their job."
The "Ready! Set! Go" program provides information to help homeowners defend their homes before the fires start, with recommendations for defensible space and fuel modification (keep dry brush cut back at least 100 feet and plant ground cover with a high water content) as well as "hardening" homes to make sure there are no places for flying embers to land and smoulder.
The plan also gives some guidance as to step-by-step creation of a customized wildfire action plan, including 10 important recommendations:
1. Create a family disaster plan that includes meeting locations and communication plans and rehearse it regularly. Include in your plan the evacuation of large animals, such as horses.
2. Have fire extinguishers on hand and train your family how to use them.
3. Ensure that your family knows where your gas, electric and water main shut-off controls are and how to use them.
4. Plan several different escape routes.
5. Designate an emergency meeting location outside of the fire hazard area.
6. Assemble an emergency supply kit as recommended by the American Red Cross.
7. Appoint an out-of-area friend or relative as a point of contact so that you can communicate with family members who have relocated.
8. Maintain a list of emergency contact numbers posted near your phone and in your emergency supply kit.
9. Keep an extra emergency supply kit in your car in case you can't get to your home because of a fire.
10. Have a portable radio or scanner so that you can stay updated on the fire.
Because everyone knows that fire is something that touches Santa Clarita on a regular basis, perhaps the most important page is a tick-sheet to use "As the Fire Approaches" - advising what to wear (all cotton and work boots), what to take (the survival kit you have packed and ready), what to leave on (lights), how to prepare your property (back your car into the garage, leave a ladder out) and what to do indoors (remove flammable window shades, move furniture to the middle of the room, shut off the air conditioning).
The last list includes survival tips if you are trapped in your home as a fire moves through.
The 12-page color book packed with valuable information is available at all local fire stations and is downloadable from the fire department's website at fire.lacounty.gov and clicking on the "Ready1 Set! Go!" box.