USA — As twin wildfires burn in California’s Los Angeles and Ventura counties, Red Cross chapters are opening the doors of shelters to ensure that evacuees have a safe place to turn. The fast-moving fires continue to force thousands of people from their homes, many taken by surprise and forced to leave with whatever they can carry with them. At least two deaths have been confirmed, more than 10,000 acres have been scorched, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency.
Red Cross disaster workers throughout southern California are providing evacuees with safe shelters and have deployed Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) to offer canteen services for firefighters. Along with a place to stay, Red Cross shelters offer meals, vital information for evacuees and an opportunity for emotional support.
Evacuees and local residents in the fire area are urged to register on the Red Cross’ Safe and Well web site. On the site evacuees can leave a status message for loved ones. If you are evacuating and must leave quickly, place a phone call to someone you love. Let that person know you are safe and ask them to register you on Safe and Well by either visiting www.redcross.org, or calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). Concerned family members can search for the messages using their loved one’s phone number or home address.
Follow the instructions of local officials. If you are advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Red Cross offers the following information to help you be prepared and keep your loved ones safe if threatened by the wildfires:
Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. Shut the vehicle doors and windows and leave the keys in the ignition. Close the garage windows and doors, but leave them unlocked.Disconnect automatic garage door openers.
Confine your pets to one room and make plans to care for them in case you have to evacuate.
Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area.
If you are evacuating, wear sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and a handkerchief to protect your face.
Take your Disaster Supplies Kit.
Lock your home.
Tell someone when you left, and where you are going.
Choose a route away from the fires and watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.
Take prescription and emergency medication, extra clothing, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies, important documents and other comfort items with you.Don’t forget special items for children and infants such as diapers, formula, and toys. Remember special items for family members who are elderly or disabled.
If you are sure you have time:
Close windows, vents, doors, blinds and heavy drapes. Remove lightweight curtains.
Shut off gas at the meter and turn off pilot lights.
Open the fireplace damper and close your fireplace screens.
Move flammable furniture into the center of your home, away from windows and sliding-glass doors.
Turn a light on in each room to make your home more visible in heavy smoke.
Seal attic and ground vents outside your home.
Turn off your propane tanks.
Place combustible patio furniture inside your home.
Connect the garden hose to outside spigots.
Wet or remove shrubs within 15 feet of your home.
These wildfires come on the heels of a string of hurricanes and a busy year for disasters – including widespread tornadoes, the worst flooding in the Midwest in 15 years, and an active hurricane season with Dolly, Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike. In the past 12 months, the cost of providing disaster relief has rapidly outpaced contributions to the Red Cross, depleting our Disaster Relief Fund. As a result, the Red Cross is actively seeking donations for its Campaign for Disaster Relief to raise $100 million for the Disaster Relief Fund.