Download our printable "Evacuation Checklist Family Communication Plan "(updated for 2019)! Print a copy for every family member and fill out in advance. v When fire weather is severe (Red Flag Warning), a fire is burning nearby, or an evacuation is anticipated, follow this checklist (if time allows) to give you and your home the best chance of surviving a wildfire. Read through it BEFORE a fire, to better understand your priorities and decision-making process when a fire strikes.
Updated May 2019 with lessons learned from the Camp Fire, North Bay Fires, and other recent evacuations!
Monitor all available information sources - Alert Marin, social medial (especially Twitter, also Facebook, Next Door), local media (TV and radio), and use your senses to be aware of the situation outside.
Monitor local news and radio stations for fire information. In Marin, AM 740 (KCBS), 810 and FM 88.5 are good options. In West Marin, KWMR FM 90.5 Point Reyes & FM 89.9 Bolinas are excellent local options. KPIX, KRON, KTVU are good local TV news sources.
Alert your neighbors to heightened risk on Red Flag Days, or when a fire is buring nearby, especially if they are have children, or are elderly or disabled.
- Ensure your cell phone is fully charged.
- Notify an out-of-area contact of your phone number, location and status. Update regularly.
- Leave a note with your contact info and out-of-area contact taped to refrigerator or inside a front window.
- Check on or call neighbors to alert them to prepare.
ON YOUR PERSON
- Dress all family members in long sleeves and long pants; heavy cotton or wool is best, no matter how hot it is.
- Wear full coverage goggles, leather gloves, head protection.
- Cover faces with a dry cotton or wool bandanna or scarf over an N95 respirator.
- Carry a headlamp and flashlight (even during the day).
- Carry car keys, wallet, ID, cell phone, and spare battery.
- Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.
- Put “Go Kit” (pg. 2) in your vehicle.
INSIDE THE HOUSE
- Shut all windows and doors (interior too) and leave them unlocked.
- Remove combustible window shades and lightweight curtains; close metal shutters.
- Move furniture to the center of the room, away from windows.
- Leave indoor and outdoor lights on for firefighters.
- Shut off HVAC and ceiling fans.
PETS & ANIMALS
- Locate your pets and place in carriers NOW. You won’t be able to catch them when the fire approaches.
- Be sure your pets wear tags and are registered with microchips.
- Place carriers (with your pets in them) near the front door, with fresh water and extra food.
- Prepare horses and large animals for transport and consider moving them to a safe location early, before evacuation is ordered.
- Learn more about evacuating pets...
- Learn more about evacuating large animals...
OUTSIDE & IN NEIGHBORHOOD
- Place combustible outdoor items (patio furniture, toys, doormats, trash cans, etc.) in garage or move 30’ from structures (optional: place in a pool).
- Shut off gas at the meter or propane tank; move small tanks at least 15’ away from combustibles.
- Connect garden hoses to outside water valves or spigots for use by firefighters. Attach squeeze-grip nozzles if you have them.
- Fill water buckets and place around outside of house, especially near decks and fences.
- Don’t leave sprinklers on or water running - they are ineffective and can reduce critical water pressure needed by firefighters.
- Hosing your roof down is dangerous and ineffective. Clean your gutters and blow leaves away from house instead (only if time allows).
- Back your car into driveway, loaded, with doors and windows closed.
- Unlock and prop open fence and side gates.
- Place ladder(s) at the corner(s) of structures for firefighters.
- Seal attic and ground vents with pre-cut plywood or metal covers (even duct tape will protect from ember entry) if time allows.
- Patrol your property and monitor conditions. Leave if spot fires ignite or conditions change.
WHEN YOU LEAVE
- Leave immediately if ordered.
- Don’t wait for an evacuation order if you feel unsafe or conditions change; leave early if unsure.
- Assist elderly or disabled neighbors.
- Carpool to reduce traffic.
- Take only essential vehicles with adequate fuel.
- In your car, turn on headlights, close windows, turn on inside air and AC, tune to local radio.
- Drive slowly and defensively; be observant.
- The best evacuation route is usually the one you know best. Take the fastest paved route to a valley floor, away from the fire if possible. Avoid fire roads.
- Evacuate on foot only as a last resort.
- You are better protected inside a vehicle or building.
- If roads are impassable or you are trapped: take shelter inside a car, building, or an open area; park in an outside turn if trapped on a hillside; stay far from vegetation; look for wide roads, parking lots, playing fields, etc.
You play an important role in helping your pets stay safe in a wildfire. Make sure they’re included in your family’s evacuation plan; and build each pet their own pet evacuation kit (PDF, 10 MB). It doesn’t take a lot of time to build one, and it can usually be done using things you already have at home. This checklist will help you customize an evacuation kit for the pets in your family and ensure they’re ready to go if you need to evacuate during a wildfire. When building the kit, remember it needs to be a size and weight that can be easily loaded into a vehicle when evacuating quickly.
Just as humans prepare, it’s important to have household pets and horses ready year-round for a potential wildfire evacuation. Preparing animals for an evacuation, however, requires an extra level of planning, preparedness and practice. NFPA’s TakeAction campaign provides the tips you need to start putting your pet emergency kit together now, before a wildfire threatens your area.
Pet EVACUATION TIPS
Bring pets inside at the early signs of a wildfire - that way if an evacuation notice is issued they’ll be close and you won’t have to spend time searching for them outdoors. If the fire is nearby and evacuation is epected, place them in carriers near the front door, with food and water. If possible, take pets with you when evacuating; they could encounter problems when left on their own, and you could have difficulty locating them when you return. Don’t ever delay leaving home during a fire to find pets; your personal safety could depend on a quick exit!
WHAT TO EXPECT FOR PETS WHEN YOU’re EVACUATED
Many human evacuation centers cannot accept pets due to health and safety regulations (note: the Marin Center Evacuation Shelter accepted pets and livestock during the 2017 evacuations from the fires in Sonoma and Napa counties). Often, only service animals are permitted in an evacuation center. If your family will be staying at a public shelter during an evacuation, it’s important to know animals may not be allowed to stay with you.
In some communities, evacuation shelters are located close to where pets are kept, but that’s not always the case. If they’re housed closely, you may have an opportunity to care for them yourself. If your animals are at the shelter, they’ll be happier and more comfortable if you have the items listed on the pet evacuation kit checklist.
Many of the supplies needed for a pet kit can be used. When you buy a new leash, collar or bed, add the old item to your pet’s emergency kit. Instead of disposing of old towels and blankets, wash them and put some in your pet’s kit.
Included on the checklist (PDF, 10 MB) are many types of paperwork and photos that should be included in your kit; but another good way to easily store the information is to scan the recommended documents and photos and store them on a flash drive inside the kit. Consider giving an additional flash drive to a friend or relative that lives in a neighboring community; that way if you don’t have time to pack your pet evacuation kit, you’ll have another option to retrieve the information.
Preparing horses for a wildfire evacuation requires an extra level of planning, preparedness and practice. Building an evacuation kit (PDF, 8 MB) for each horse, and having a plan for them that’s been practiced, increases the potential your horse(s) will be able to leave when you do. If the wildfire’s proximity does not permit the time needed to load horses, it’s best to turn them loose and not leave them confined in a barn or pasture. Close the doors and gates so they can’t re-enter the area.
Evacuation preparedness for horses
Practicing your evacuation route using your horse trailer ensures it’s compatible with the road’s width and grade on each potential exit route from your home. A stuck trailer could prevent others from using the same path to safely evacuate. It’s important to know any limitations before leaving your property during a wildfire. Always take into consideration that large animals take extra time to evacuate. If you don’t have trailer space for all your horses, have a plan that includes neighbors, friends or relatives that have trailers and can help; or identify an animal emergency response team, or for hire service that will assist with short notice.
Being familiar with what to expect in a wildfire evacuation, knowing how and when to leave and building an evacuation kit (PDF, 8 MB) for each horse will expedite leaving safely when fires happen.
If you’re unable to evacuate with the horse, but have time, using one of the methods below may help animal rescuers reunite you quicker with the horse:
- Use a livestock crayon to write your name, phone number and address on the horse
- With clippers shave your phone number into the horse’s coat
- Braid a temporary ID tag with pre-written contact info into the horse’s mane
- Attach a neck band
One way to easily store important information you may need for your horses is to scan the recommended documents and photos on the checklist and keep them on a flash drive that’s permanently stored inside the evacuation kit (PDF, 8 MB). Consider having two identical flash drives and give one to a friend or relative that lives in a neighboring community; that will help provide the information you need if there wasn’t time to grab your kit when the public alert was received.
How to Prepare to Evacuate from a Wildfire
Evacuation plans for families with young children should include helping toddlers understand how to quickly respond in case of fire, and how adults can escape with babies. Prepare ahead of time by practicing your family’s fire escape plan, and what to do to be safe when there is a wildfire nearby.
It is important to talk to toddlers and small children at a level that they understand and that does not frighten. Here are a few resources that offer guides and tips for families with young children about fire safety and preparing for a disaster:
- A Parent’s Guide to Fire Safety for Babies and Toddlers : The U.S. Fire Administration’s information site for parents and caregivers to help prevent fire death of young children.
- Let’s Get Ready! Planning Together for Emergencies : Sesame Workshop campaign with tips, activities, and other easy tools to help the whole family prepare for emergencies.
- Ready.gov Kids : FEMA’s site for older kids to prepare and plan for a disaster. Includes safety steps, tips, and games to help children learn about and be ready for an emergency.
- Smokey Kids : U.S. Forest Service’s interactive Smokey Bear site with games, information and resources on how to prevent forest fires.
Preparing Seniors and Disabled Family Members
Seniors and people with disabilities also need special consideration when preparing for a disaster. Below are several resources that help individuals and families with special needs plan and prepare for an event such as a wildfire.