Wildfire Resources: Go Bags, Insurance, Masks, and More

Preparing now can make a big difference ahead of evacuations, power outages, and smoky conditions.

California wildfire season peaks in October and November, but the threat of fire persists year-round. With that in mind, we've gathered these resources to help you stay prepared.

Bookmark this web page in your phone's browser, so you can access it any time you need a reminder.

How to Prepare a 'Go Bag'

A filled "go bag" is essential to keeping your family ready for an emergency. It should contain items like a hand-crank-powered flashlight, spare clothes, paper maps, medications, and other items you might need.

Are you prepared for the next big one?

Essential Links:

If you are having a life-threatening emergency, call 9-1-1.

Evacuating Safely

If you have to evacuate due to a wildfire, the checklist below has some suggestions to help keep you and your loved ones safe and your home protected.

If a wildfire is threatening your home, what should you do? Garvin Thomas lists some of the things you should consider to keep yourself safe and your home protected.
If you're forced to evacuate because of a wildfire, earthquake, power outage or other emergency in your area during the coronavirus pandemic, be sure to pay extra attention to your health.

Returning Home Safely Once Evacuation Is Lifted In Your Area

When an evacuation order is lifted, it's important to take certain steps to ensure safety upon returning home. NBC Bay Area consumer investigator Chris Chmura details Cal Fire recommendations.

Protecting Your Home

Insurance Tips

Over the past few days, we've been helping everyone prepare for a wildfire -- no matter whether your home is near or far from the current fire lines. Consumer Investigator Chris Chmura is here with another vital step that involves your insurance.

Helpful Links:

Remember to Record Home Inventory Photos and Video

If your home is destroyed, you'll need to prove to your property insurance provider what you lost. Use your phone camera to record a walk-through of your home and valuables, and take photos of important documents. Then, save everything to the cloud. Watch video guide here to learn more.

Federal Disaster Relief

Click here for FEMA resource page for the Northern California Wildfires

Some families do not have the money to bounce back from the wildfires. Consumer Investigator Chris Chmura provides vital steps to file for federal aid.

What you will need before you apply:

  • Address of loss (home or apartment that was damaged / destroyed)
  • Names of everyone who lived there
  • Insurance information (you must file a claim with your property insurance provider, if you have one, before applying for FEMA assistance)
  • Social Security Number of the property owner
  • Temporary address where you can receive mail from FEMA (friend or relative’s home, workplace, etc.)
  • Bank account information (for direct deposit of FEMA funds, if desired)

No Power?

Your refrigerator should be able to keep chilled food at a safe temperature for several hours if the door remains sealed shut. Freezers can keep food frozen even longer.

With some 800,000 PG&E customers bracing to lose power this week, many families might be worried about losing hundreds of dollars worth of groceries as their refrigerators and freezers go quiet. Consumer Investigator Chris Chmura has tips on how to keep your food from spoiling.

Make Sure Your Safe is Safe

During the 2017 North Bay Fires, we learned some homeowners' safes melted in the intense heat and flames. That led us to investigate how safes are rated for fire resistance.

Watch what happens when a safe is exposed to 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit. Chris Chmura takes us inside the FireKing factory in Indiana where safes are built -- and destroyed!

Using a Generator? Consult the Manual

You may be tempted to buy or rent a generator to ride out power outages. If you do, carefully read the instruction manual -- all of it! -- and follow the manufacturer's guidelines. Failure to do so can result in serious injury or death.

A lot of people ran out and bought a portable generator to keep powered up if their lights go out. Many of us are new to this, so what are the guidelines and pro tips when it comes to generators? Consumer Investigator Chris Chmura has some expert advice.

How to Block Out Smoke

N95 masks are recommended by the FDA.

N95 mask
NBC 5 News
N95 mask

If you're sensitive to smoky air, or if you can't avoid being outdoors in areas downwind of wildfire, you may want to use a face mask. Ordinary dust masks won't do much good. The FDA recommends masks (also called respirators) rated N95 or higher. It's crucial you use the mask exactly as instructed by the manufacturer, or it won't work properly. Learn more here.

With all of the wildfires taking a toll on air quality, how do you keep from choking on smoke? Consumer Investigator Chris Chmura explains what you can do to clear the air at home.

Price Gouging is Illegal -- But Only During Declared Emergencies

California law bans businesses from raising prices on certain items during an emergency, such as fuel, hotel rooms, and batteries. However, the law only applies during an emergency officially declared by local or state government.

Click here to report price gouging to the California Attorney General

When prices rise rapidly we like to gripe that we're being gouged. Consumer Investigator Chris Chmura shows what you can do about price gouging.
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