It’s safe to say that the weather this April in Central Florida has been gorgeous. Low humidity, almost no rain (I swear I felt a drop yesterday, maybe it was my neighbor’s sprinkler?), perfect temperatures. Sounds amazing right? On one hand it’s great, however even amazing weather has its consequences. Our conservation areas thrive on moisture, which most of March and all of April has been seriously lacking. This beautiful dry weather has brought a drought and a significant wildfire risk.
In Central Florida, we build communities close to conservation areas, as in like 50 feet away from our homes is beautiful conservation. Most of the time this is one of the joyous aspects of living here. However, as conservation areas are drying out, it’s creating a fire hazard. In the last few weeks many roads have been closed due to smoke, homes have been evacuated, and structures have been lost.
You may be asking yourself “What if I had to evacuate quickly?” or “What roads are closed; do I need to find an alternate route?”
Here’s some basic tips for wildfire safety and awareness
Grab your Fire Box!
If you are asked to evacuate, you have little time to do so. You have enough time to get everyone out, and load a few items into your car. You also should determine if you will take your pets or leave them. In my house, I have what I call my “fire box”. In my fire box (it’s a Rubbermaid 36-gallon tote with a lid) I have
- copies of important documents (the originals are in a fireproof safe)
- an SD card with pictures of my house and the contents
- irreplaceable pictures that are not on an SD card
- enough space for me to put my laptop and irreplaceable jewelry in the tote as well.
This is not my 72-hour emergency supply kit. I do recommend bringing a 72-hour emergency supply kit with you as well when you evacuate. A 72-hour emergency supply kit has enough water, non-perishable goods, changes of clothes, medicine etc. that you and your family members need for approximately three days.
If asked to evacuate, you will be given directions to open shelters and which route to take. If you or someone in your home has special needs such as a medical condition, a mental or physical disability, you will want to register with your county’s Office of Emergency Management so that in the event of an evacuation they can know how to best assist you.
What if you’re not asked to evacuate?
However, just because you are not asked to evacuate doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take some precaution measures! If you live in an area near conservation, make sure your yard is cleared of dead or dried out yard debris and vegetation. This type of yard debris makes for great kindling. Water your lawn and plants as your county permits, this will help to stop your yard from drying out. It’s also a great time to make sure your gutters are clear of dried out leaves as well. Before starting an open flame fire check to see if your county has a burn ban in place and specifications. Currently (4/24/17), all Central Florida Counties have an open flame burn ban in place. Those fire pits are on vacation right now! 😉
If you or a family member has any respiratory sensitivities, avoid going outside and keep your windows and doors closed as much as possible, on days when smoke can be smelled in the air. Prior to your morning commute check your local resources to determine if you need to take an alternate route due to road closures. Most importantly do not go investigate smoke yourself, if you see smoke call 911 immediately.
Here are some resources you may find helpful when it comes to wildfires!
Fresh From Florida: the Department of Forestry is part of this agency and has a great app for wildfire prevention, safety, and interactive maps so you can see if a wildfire is near you. They also have counties listed that have a burn ban in place (hint: everyone in Central Florida has a burn ban right now) http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divi…/Florida-Forest-Service
News Channel 13 has a great live interactive traffic map of the greater Orlando area which is my go to for road closure information: http://www.mynews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/traffic.html
Orange County: if you have not signed up for alerts from Orange County please do so they will alert you if anything is going on in your specific area of Orange County: https://member.everbridge.net/index/892807736724792#/login
The Orange County Office of Emergency Management has great resources available to you for different types of emergencies and disasters. They also have special needs registration. If you or someone in your home has special needs and needs assistance in the event of an evacuation you will want to be registered with the Office of Emergency Management. http://www.orangecountyfl.net/Em…/DisasterPreparedness.aspx…
Osceola County: The Osceola County Office of Emergency Management has a great website where you can register for special needs assistance in the event of an evacuation (for explanation please see description in Orange County) you can also follow their twitter and Facebook pages from their site. http://www.osceola.org/agencies-depar…/emergency-management/
Seminole County: they have an alert registration program where much like Orange County they will send you alerts for emergencies affecting your area. Sign up here: https://member.everbridge.net/index/892807736724714#/login
The Seminole County Office of Emergency Management also has a great website to explore and has resources for you to familiarize yourself with potential hazards, emergencies, and incidents. They also have a page that is updated daily with emergency incident activity happening in Seminole County. They also have a special needs registration. http://www.seminolecountyfl.gov/…/emergency-warning-systems…
I encourage everyone to visit your county’s resources! Stay Safe!