Between recent wildfires and hurricanes, we have been reminded that disasters happen. The better prepared we are, the less stressful an evacuation will be. It doesn’t matter if you live in the foothills and mountains or the plains or even in the middle of Denver, we need to be prepared for disasters. We think about those living in the mountains being evacuated, but we could easily be in their shoes.
Your first step is to sign up for the emergency notification system at bouldercounty.org/safety/
emergency/emergency-mass-notification-system. This is how you receive emergency notifications and evacuation notices.
If you live on an acreage, defensible space and mitigation is key no matter if you live on the plains, foothills or mountains. This is not a 100 percent guarantee that your house survives but it can shift the odds in your favor plus makes it is easier to defend your home. The Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) has a booklet online explaining how to create defensible space around your home. Visit static.colostate.edu/client-files/csfs/pdfs/FIRE2012_1_DspaceQuickGuide.pdf. If you live in a forested area, your local Colorado State Forest Service forester can even visit your property and help you determine what trees and vegetation should be removed. Contact your local CSFS office for details. Mitigation is not a one and done job, you must continue to maintain your property by mowing grasses, removing new trees and shrubs that don’t fit into the defensible space plan. Insurance companies may require defensible spaces to get and keep a policy.
When replacing a roof, siding or adding an addition, consider using materials that are less likely to quickly ignite. Modify landscaping with fire resistant materials and plants. Gutters collect leaves and needles that readily ignite from sparks. Consider using a guard to keep gutters from collecting needles or have a regular gutter cleaning schedule. Check with your insurance company to see if they offer a discount for fire resistant building materials.
Speaking of insurance, most people purchase their insurance and then only talk to their agent when they have a claim. You should meet with your agent on a regular basis (every year or two) so that you fully understand what your policy will and won’t cover and make any upgrades. Some policies cover debris removal if your house burns while others don’t.
Document what you have in your home. Trying to remember everything you owned is difficult under normal circumstances. It’s very easy to do with cell phones and cameras that take videos. Walk around your house documenting what’s there, remember to open drawers and closets. Take photos of all your important documents and store the videos and backup documents offsite (Cloud storage, jump drive or external hard drive at your brother’s Wyoming house). Having copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, etc. can make it easier to replace them if they are lost or destroyed.
Everyone in the house should have a “Go” bag and know the plan for evacuation and communication. The “Go” bag should have several clothing changes (change for the seasons and children’s growth), medications, spare glasses, flashlight, food and water to last for several days. Have a list of those items that you cannot replace that you want to take with you. While not a guarantee that you will be home when the evacuation occurs or that you will have time, having a list makes it quicker and easier to collect everything and evacuate.
Ready Colorado’s website has great resources for families and businesses to prepare for disasters. They have suggestions for what to put in your “Go” bag, contact information forms, resources for those with family members with special needs and information for both pets and livestock and many other resources. colorado.gov/pacific/dhsem/preparedness-1.
By Sharon Bokan, Colorado State University Extension Boulder County