With all of us adjusting to new routines and demands for our attention, one risk that Pacific Northwest families should keep on their radar this year is wildfires – predictions for dry and warm summer conditions means we're one of the nation's wildfire hotspots.
Wildfires can strike quickly and without warning, so we spent some time connecting with our friends at American Red Cross for tips and resources for talking about wildfire preparedness with your family.
Here are three proactive ways to get prepped and ready:
- Know the wildfire risks in your area. It's not only the faraway forests and fields that are at risk. Increasingly, the impacts of wildfires – including smoke and poor air quality – can be felt on both sides of the Cascades and along the wildland-urban interface, a transition zone between wildland and residential development. The Red Cross suggests listening to local area radio or NOAA stations for the latest wildfire news and keeping up to date with wildfire and shelter maps.
- Involve your household in emergency planning. The Red Cross says assembling an emergency preparedness kit and creating a household evacuation plan are two important steps to help prepare for the potential impacts of a wildfire. Taking time to build a kit together grows situational understanding and helps reduce fear, especially in younger children. Try this: Have each family member pick a favorite canned food or personal item to add to your emergency preparedness kit, or draw a map of your home and neighborhood together to highlight evacuation routes or meeting places.
- Use open and reassuring communication. Before, during, and after a disaster, it's important to encourage kids to ask questions and talk through the answers together. Using reassuring language that demonstrates concern, calm and control may help children feel more confident and better able to cope. The Red Cross suggests focusing on children's emotional needs by asking what's on their minds. Having children participate and talk through your family's recovery activities will help them feel that life will soon return to "normal."
Check out these one-minute drills the Red Cross put together to help families prepare and develop the skills they need to respond in an emergency.
Setting aside time for some prepping and planning now will go a long way easing worry and build confidence for the whole family.
Thank you to Red Cross for making these resources available. Download the Red Cross Emergency app for more info on preparing for disasters and monitoring conditions and response efforts in your region.
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