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Smoke inhalation can cause headaches, eye irritation, scratchy throats, and worsen asthma and other chronic lung conditions. Here are some tips to help. Derrick Shaw/USA TODAY Network - Florida

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Here are some guidelines from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on how to prepare for an evacuation in the event of brush fires. You can download their booklet on wildfire preparation and evacuation here.

Your goal for protection

EVACUATE: When a brush fire threatens your area, the best action to protect yourself and your family is to evacuate early to avoid being trapped. If there is smoke, drive carefully because visibility may be reduced. Keep your headlights on and watch for other vehicles and fleeing wildlife or livestock.

DEFENSIBLE SPACE AND FIRE-RESISTANT MATERIALS: Your goal now, before a fire happens, is to make your home or business and the surrounding area more resistant to catching fire and burning. This means reducing the amount of material that can burn easily in and around your home or business by clearing away debris and other flammable materials, and using fire-resistant materials for landscaping and construction.

INSURANCE: Review your homeowners or renters insurance policy to ensure that you have adequate coverage for your property and personal belongings.

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When you evacuate

If authorities advise or order you to evacuate, do so immediately. Be sure to remember the Five Ps of Evacuation: People, Prescriptions, Papers, Personal Needs, and Priceless Items.

While your safety and your family’s safety are most important, there are things you can do before evacuating that can help firefighters. If there is time before you need to evacuate, do the following:

  • Turn on lights outside and in every room to make the house more visible in heavy smoke.
  • Close all windows, vents, doors, and fireplace screens. This will help reduce drafts in the home and reduce radiant heat.
  • Disconnect automatic garage door openers so doors can be opened by hand if you lose power.
  • Move flammable furniture, including outdoor furniture, into the center of the home away from windows and sliding glass doors. Remove flammable curtains and window treatments. 
  • Connect garden hoses. Fill garbage cans, tubs, or other large containers with water. Shut off natural gas from the source, and move propane or fuel oil supplies away from the house.
  • Follow any additional guidance provided by local authorities. 

When driving away from a fire:

  • Roll up windows and close air vents because smoke from a fire can irritate your eyes and respiratory system.
  • Drive slowly with your headlights on because smoke can reduce visibility.
  • Watch for other vehicles, pedestrians, and fleeing animals.
  • Avoid driving through heavy smoke, if possible.
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If trapped in your home

If you do not leave before the fire reaches your immediate area and you are trapped in your home, take the following actions:

  • Call 911, provide your location and explain your situation.
  • Turn on the lights to increase the visibility of your home in heavy smoke.
  • Keep doors, windows, vents, and fire screens closed. Keep your doors unlocked.
  • Move flammable materials (e.g., curtains, furniture) away from windows and sliding glass doors.
  • Fill sinks and tubs with water.
  • Stay inside, away from outside walls and windows.

If trapped in a vehicle or outdoors

Researchers are examining guidance to provide the best advice for last resort actions if you are trapped in a vehicle or outdoors. If you are in a vehicle, base your decision to stay in the vehicle or to take cover outside on your specific circumstances, including your distance from the fire, the direction of the fire, whether there is fuel (e.g., brush and trees) near your vehicle, and the potential for rescue. Try to stay away from fuel sources; stay in a rocky area or roadway, or near a water source. Stay low to reduce the effects of heat and smoke, breathe through cloth to avoid inhaling smoke, and cover yourself with a wool blanket or coat, or even dirt. If you are trapped by the fire, immediately call 911, if possible, to provide your location and explain your situation.

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