JoAnne Skelly: Evacuation preparedness |

JoAnne Skelly: Evacuation preparedness

By JoAnne Skelly

Fires are raging around us darkening skies with acrid smoke. Some of us have been lucky so far in that fires aren’t threatening our homes. Others have had to evacuate. Because of this, I decided to revisit our evacuation plan. We’ve been evacuated before and it’s very stressful when it’s happening, making it hard to think clearly. It’s wiser to plan ahead before an event requires action.

Fortunately, there is the “Living with Fire” program evacuation checklist, written by my colleague Ed Smith, Natural Resource Specialist Emeritus, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and founder of the Living with Fire program. We keep a copy of the one-page checklist posted near the door during fire season. If a wildfire approaches, this checklist helps us evacuate our home quickly and safely. You, too, can review this information now to prepare yourself for such an emergency. It covers what to take with you; what to wear; how to prepare family members, pets and livestock; how to prepare your vehicle; and what to do about both the inside and the outside of your home.

For example, here’s the list of things to take with you: important documents (bank, IRS, trust, investment, insurance policy, birth certificates, medical records); credit and ATM cards; medications; prescription glasses; driver’s license, passport; computer backup files; inventory of home contents (consider videotaping now, prior to an emergency); photographs of the exterior of the house and landscape; address book; cell phone and charger; personal toiletries; enough clothing for three to five days; family photo albums and videos; and family heirlooms. If taking pets with you, remember their needs, too.

What should you wear and what else should you take with you? Wear only cotton or wool clothes. Proper attire includes long pants, long-sleeved shirt or jacket, a hat and boots. Carry gloves, a handkerchief, bandanna or mask to cover your face, water to drink and goggles. Keep a flashlight and portable radio with batteries with you at all times. Tune in to a local radio station and listen for instructions.

Understand that fires are fast moving. People in recent fires in California and other states had minutes to leave their homes. Be prepared! It will likely be dark, smoky, windy and hot. There could be airborne burning embers, no power, no telephone service and poor water pressure. Remember, there is nothing you own worth your life! Please evacuate immediately when asked by firefighters and law enforcement officials.

To print the checklist, go to

JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at