Red flag warning art over a forest on fire

What is a Red Flag Warning?

If you live in a wildfire-prone area, you should know the meaning of “Red Flag Warning” and all the details that go with it. The combination of heat, low humidity, dry debris, and strong winds set the stage for wildfires. When this confluence of conditions occurs, the National Weather Service (NWS) can issue a Red Flag Warning indicating a heightened risk of wildfires or an already-ignited fire. 

When the NWS declares Red Flag Warning, your local fire department may suspend open burning, meaning no backyard bonfires or burning yard debris, for example. What else can you do to prepare for a wildfire and protect your home and family? We’ve compiled a list of ideas to help.

Develop a Plan

Plan ahead to minimize risk during an emergency. For instance, collect everything you need for survival in a central location as soon as you get a Red Flag Warning. You’ll also want to establish proper evacuation protocol and be ready to execute your escape plan well before fire or smoke approaches. Use these tips to prepare:

  • Review evacuation plans as a family on a regular basis.
  • Designate escape routes, and travel them regularly, so you’re familiar with them.
  • Learn other area roads around your home, so you’re aware of secondary evacuation routes if your primary options aren’t available.
  • Sign up for local and state emergency alerts.
  • Plan how to access news sources during an emergency since you may not have television or Internet services.
  • Make plans for pets and animals during an evacuation.
  • Locate power switches for all electrical and natural gas resources so that you can shut down these fire fuel sources.
  • Determine multiple family meeting locations in the event you’re separated when an evacuation occurs.
  • Make a list of area shelters or safety zones.
  • Gather critical emergency items in one place, so you’re ready to evacuate quickly and efficiently:
    • A first-aid kit, including current prescription medications and medical devices. (Remember to pack your pets’ medicine.)
    • A disaster kit with food, fuel, and other emergency items. 
    • Important documents, such as passports, birth certificates, marriage licenses, or insurance policies.
    • Electronic devices, including cell phones, tablets, and computers, and their corresponding charging cords.
    • Several days’ worth of clothes and at least two pairs of shoes per person.
    • Special, irreplaceable mementos such as family photos. 

Prepare Your Property

Wildland fires can be tough to combat, but there are barriers you can establish to potentially mitigate damage to your home. Keep your property clear of brush, leaves, weeds, and other flammables, and store lawnmowers and gas cans away from your house. Additionally, surround your home with at least 100 feet of defensible space, which means minimizing fuel for the fire like trees, shrubs, and leafy plants. 

Here are some other practices that can help protect your property in the event of a wildfire:

  • Remove pine needles, leaves, and other dry debris from your gutters.
  • Install ⅛ inch of mesh around all vents to block embers. 
  • Ensure all escape routes surrounding your property are clear and easily accessible.
  • Decorate your landscape with fire-resistant features.
  • Keep your yard healthy and mowed throughout the season.

Stay Safe During a Red Flag Warning

It’s important to follow instructions from local emergency authorities to prevent accidental ignition of a fire. Here are a few tips:

  • Adhere to local fire restrictions for the use of weed eaters, mowers, and other equipment.
  • Follow area burn bans.
  • Never leave outdoor fires unattended, and extinguish them thoroughly with plenty of water.
  • Immediately report any unattended outdoor fires to local authorities.
  • After a barbecue or cookout, soak any charcoal or ashes in water, dispose of them in a metal can, and discard them away from any ignition sources. 

Living in wildfire country may occasionally come with Red Flag Warnings, but proper preparations can help ease your mind and protect your family, as well as your investments. If you’re looking for more peace of mind, purchase a homeowners policy from Mercury Insurance. Contact us today to see how we can help.