With the increased speed and intensity of strength we've seen in wildfires over the last few years, those who live in the paths of these fires may have less than an hour to evacuate. Once local law enforcement gives your neighborhood orders to vacate due to oncoming wildfires, every minute counts.
And because you live in an apartment, you'll have a few extra obstacles to be aware of when you're evacuating, but with a little preparation and a good exit strategy, a safe and stress-free retreat is possible.
But first, a few things we strongly suggest before we get started:
If law enforcement announces that everyone in your complex must evacuate the building, you may have a day's warning, or you could get just 15 minutes to run into your place, grab a few things and leave. It all depends on where your complex is in relation to wildfire's path.
If time is limited, these are the five things you need to pack and grab before you leave.
Everyone who lives in your apartment should have a Bug-Out Bag packed, ready to grab and go (preferably stored in the coat closet by the front door). Each bag should have some cash, a change of clothes and toiletries. Enough basic provisions to get you through a weekend if you can't get back into your apartment for a few days.
Each bag should also include non-perishable food, bottled water, a first-aid kit and phone chargers. You might also consider packing face masks to prevent breathing in smoke, which the air will be thick with if a wildfire is looming.
If you're like just about everyone else, you keep track of your entire life on your computer. For obvious reasons, this is another one of those things you can't leave behind if you're being evacuated.
While your most important files and documents are backed up and secure on your hard drive, some things aren't. If you haven't already, buy a portable file box and keep the hard copies of your vital documents in it so all you have to do is grab its handle and go.
Things to store in your file box include birth and marriage certificates, social security cards, wills, property deeds or rental leases, and any other legal, financial or insurance-related paperwork.
Don't forget about the pets! If they're small and feisty, put them in their carrier. They get a Bug-Out Bag, too, which should include food for at least a week, lots of freshwater, a couple of blankets and medication, if they're on any.
Once you've grabbed everything listed above, start securing the family heirlooms and items that are irreplaceable. If you live in a known wildfire hot zone, it might be a good idea to keep a checklist of these important items you can reference.
Sometimes it's unavoidable and you have to live in a fire zone because of work, proximity to school districts or any other number of things. But there are ways to ensure the apartment you're renting is in a safe complex.
Besides the standard walkthrough checklist you should consider as you go apartment hunting, here are a few specific things to look for if you're planning on renting in a historically-known wildfire zone.
Your best bet is to follow the advice of the Boy Scouts: Be prepared. If you're ready to go when wildfire season starts or when there's a risk of a fire in your area, you'll do less rushing around when it's time to leave.