In an emergency, Marin officials may use many different tools to communicate information and instructions to the community: Alert Marin, Nixle, Social Media, local TV and radio, and social media (Facebook and Twitter) are the primary outlets. Sign up and prepare to use these systems now, before an emergency occurs.
These systems are not guaranteed to work in an emergency or during a power outage, and monitoring and understanding them is your personal responsibility. To ensure that you have access to information from multiple sources in an emergency, review the available systems on the preceding page. Monitor a battery powered AM/FM radio continuously during power outages to keep apprised of current conditions.
Don't neglect to use your own senses - look, listen, and smell for signs of fire and changing conditions!
The terms “voluntary” and “mandatory” are often incorrectly used to describe evacuations. In Marin, fire agencies and law enforcement will use the terms Evacuation Order, Evacuation Warning, and Shelter-In-Place to alert you to the significance of the danger and provide basic instructions.
Leave now! Evacuate immediately, do not delay to gather belongings or prepare your home. Follow any directions provided in the evacuation order.
Evacuate as soon as possible. A short delay to gather valuables and prepare your home may be ok (see Evacuation Checklist) may be ok. Leave if you feel unsafe.
Stay in your current location or the safest nearby building or unburnable area. May be required when evacuation isn’t necessary or is too dangerous
At all times during fire season, prepare a Wildfire and Emergency "Go Kit." Assemble a kit for each family member and pet, and keep the kit(s) in your vehicle or near your front door.
It's very common for the power to go out before a fire strikes, since fire and winds can damage electrical infrastructure. You need to be prepared to communicate and escape, even without power. How will you receive warning at night if the power is out, and how will you open your garage door to evacuate if there is no power?
For garage doors, a battery backup should be installed. They typically cost less than $100, and can be installed by homeowners.
Check with your garage door opener manufacturer to see if they make a battery specific to your opener model, although universal models are available.
For home phones and internet connections, a "UPS" Uninterruptible Power Supply is a good option (link is for Amazon, however they are available locally, in-stock at Best Buy, Costco, and other electronics stores).
The larger the UPS is, the longer it will last when the power goes out (consider the 1500VA model, about $150). Consider keeping one dedicated to your home phone, and another dedicated to your internet cable modem. A 1500VA model will last about 2 hours when attached to a cable modem and router, and a home phone may last up to 24 hours, depending on usage.
Please consult with the manufacturer for specifics and installation instructions. Test regularly to confirm function.
Monitoring predicted fire weather can provide advanced warning and extra time to prepare before a fire strikes. During the North Bay Fires of 2017, the National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning 72 hours before the fires began.
Most major wildfires that destroy homes and cause death and injuries have a common denominator: dry winds blowing from the east or northeast. These conditions are most common in the fall from September to October, but can happen any time of year and will always be associated with potentially catastrophic fires during the dry season.
Text your Zip code to 888777 to register for Nixle and receive Marin Fire Weather information notices.
Long before a fire strikes, all Marin homeowners should take time to harden their homes against embers and flames, and create defensible space with good landscaping and maintenance practices.
A wildfire-safe home must be resistant to ignition from wind-blown embers. Even if the flames never reach your home, it must be able to withstand exposure to millions of tiny embers that can be carried a mile or more in front of a wildfire.
Hardening a home is not always complicted or expensive! Use our guidelines to evaluate your home's vulnerabilities and retrofit ember and ignition resistant features today!
Defensible Space is the ignition resistant space you create around your home through landscape design, plant selection, and regular maintenance.
Defensible space will help slow or stop the spread of wildfire and protect your home from catching fire – either from direct flame contact or radiant heat. Defensible space is also important to help protect firefighters when they are defending your home.
Red Flag Warnings are determined by the National Weather Service. All local media outlets will announce Red Flag Warnings when they are issued. Marin authorities will announce Red Flag Warnings by text message via Nixle.
When Evacuation is a Possibility
When a Red Flag Warning has been issued, or if a fire is burnign nearby, you should take steps to prepare for the possibility of evacuation.
Download and print our Wildfire Evacuation Checklist and Family Communications Plan. If evacuation is anticipated and time allows, follow this checklist to give your family and home the best chance of survival. Be sure to complete the Family Communication Plan on the opposite side for each family member and keep in your “Go Kit(s).”
When preparing to evacuate, dress yourself and family in clothes that will shield from heat, embers and flames. Natural fabrics, such as heavy denim or pure wool are better than synthetics, no matter how hot it is. Keep these items near your “Go Kit” during fire season:
Put these clothes on at the first sign of trouble. If you can smell or see smoke, it’s time to prepare.
Monitor TV, phones, radio, and social media for local fire and emergency information and evacuation notifications. Emergency personnel will attempt to provide timely evacuation notifications via Alert Marin, and emergency information via Nixle and Social Media if your community is threatened by wildfire. Act quickly and follow their instructions.
Keep your cell phone charged, and ensure your home phone has backup power.
LOCAL NEWS RADIO
If the power is out, local news radio or a NOAA weather radio with emergency alerting capability may be your best options to receive emergency alerts.
Keep the radio on in the background during power outages, Red Flag Warnings, or when a fire is burning nearby.
A NOAA Weather Radio can be an excellent source of information during emergencies. Prices vary from $20 up, depending on the model. Many receivers have an alarm feature, but some may not. Check the NOAA website for more details.
THE EVACUATION PROCESS
Leave immediately if you receive a notification or alert to avoid being caught in fire, smoke or road congestion. Don’t wait to be ordered by authorities to leave if you are unsure, feel threatened, or lose power or communications. Law enforcement will direct the evacuation, and they will keep intersections open and moving, but their resources may be limited. Evacuating early (before evacuation is ordered) helps keep roads clear of congestion, and lets fire apparatus move more freely to do their job. If you are advised to leave, don’t hesitate!
All evacuation instructions provided by officials should be followed immediately for your safety.
Learn more, below:
Your primary evacuation route is usually the one you would take to the grocery store! Take the fastest and most familiar route to a wide, primary road on the valley floor, away from the fire if possible. Never evacuate uphill unless directed to do so by fire or law enforcement authorities. Don’t evacuate by fire road or “cross country” trails where you might be exposed to unburned vegetation.
*During an evacuation, law enforcement or emergency personnel may direct you to an alternate route. Always follow their directions.
Take the fastest & most protected route to a valley floor.
Carpool! Every seat should be filled!
Stay in your car or a refuge area if trapped.
Don’t panic in traffic - a wide road on the valley floor is one of the safest places you can be, even in traffic.
Take the car that is most capable of getting you out alive:
- Leave the convertible...
- Take the SUV if possible..
- Take the car with the fullest tank of fuel...
Media images of burned cars have left many California residents with the misconception that cars are highly vulnerable to wildfires. The opposite is true!
Your car provides a tremendous amount of protection. Made of glass and steel, it protects from hot gasses, embers, and radiant heat and as long as it stays on pavement, is extremely resistant to burning!
With an AM/FM radio, air filtration and air conditioning, headlights, and protection from heat, your car is like a survival suit for wildfires.
When a wildfire threatens your community, emergency managers will determine areas to be evacuated, and routes to use, depending upon the fire’s current and predicted location. Law enforcement officers are responsible for enforcing an evacuation order. Follow their directions promptly.
If time allows, officials will attempt to advise you of the safest evacuation routes. You must take the initiative to keep informed and alert. Listen to your radio for updates on changing conditions. Monitor Alert Marin and Nixle for notifications and updates You may be directed to temporary assembly or refuge areas to await transfer to a safe location.
Public and private schools will attempt to notify parents, and evacuate children only if time allows. Schools may need to “shelter in place” and will protect children in safe places on campus if a wildfire strikes without time to evacuate.
When an evacuation is ordered, parents may not be allowed in to the evacuated area to pick up students! Communicate this with your children in advance, and send them to school prepared with the tools they need to communicate and protect themselves, such as extra food, long cotton clothing, and a list of primary and alternate emergency contacts and numbers.
Fire roads are for firefighter use, and are not a safe option for evacuation. Stay on pavement, in your vehicle if possible. The unmaintained vegetation on fire roads, the fact that most lead uphill, and the requirement for high-clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicles makes them unsafe and unsuitable for evacuation.
Firefighters don't evacuate uphill, don't evacuate towards "unburned" vegetation, and don't attempt to outrun a fire uphill. You shouldn't either.
Take the fastest route towards the open areas and wide roads of a valley floor - the route you normally take to the grocery store is usually the best route to evacuate by. If available, law enforcement officers will direct traffic and wave vehicles through intersections. Even during an extreme wildfire, when there may be fire on both sides of the road, you will be safer inside your vehicle than out. Keep the windows rolled up, outside vents closed, turn your lights on, and drive slowly and carefully. Don’t panic if caught in traffic. You are safer in your car than outside! Do not stop to ask law enforcement officers or firefighters for fire information.
Open locations free of unburned vegetation may be safe places to wait while a fire passes. If your evacuation route is blocked or impassable, a wide parking lot, ball field, or even a house or commercial building may provide temporary shelter. Parking your car, with windows up, in a location far from vegetation or structures and waiting for the fire to pass, is often a safe option for sheltering in place. Authorities may choose to evacuate the temporary refuge areas en-masse when it’s safe to do so.
Emergency managers will attempt to provide information on safe evacuation centers if time allows. Plan to drive towards the highway 101 corridor. The Marin Civic Center Fairgrounds are a pre-designated evacuation facility and a safe location for evacuees. For small-scale local evacuations or disaster recovery and sheltering, local schools, community centers, or large parking lots may be used.
Don't panic! Law enforcement can move a large number of vehicles through intersections. Remember that your car provides a tremendous amount of protection from heat, smoke, and embers.
If you live in a "one way in, one way out" neighborhood, as is common in Marin, your escape route is predetermined.
SHELTERING IN PLACE
Wildfires are unpredictable and spread quickly. Even if you’ve prepared in advance, you may be required to “shelter in place” if ordered or if you find yourself trapped by a wildfire. To survive this frightening scenario, it is important to remain calm and keep everyone together. Prepare yourself mentally for darkness (even during the day), noise, chaos, and the natural urge to flee the safety of your shelter. If you’re unable to evacuate, it’s probably safer INSIDE a car or building where your airway, eyes, and skin are protected!
Take shelter in the nearby place that is best able to withstand the fire. This may be your home, another building made of more resistant materials or that is less exposed to burning vegetation, your car, or an open outdoor area like an irrigated playing field or parking lot far from vegetation. Stay calm and together while the wildfire passes. When directed, or when the fire outside subsides, move to a safer area.
If safe evacuation is not an option, follow these steps:
Preparing horses and other large animals for a wildfire evacuation requires an extra level of planning, preparedness and practice. Building an evacuation kit for each animal, and having a plan for them that’s been practiced, increases the potential your animals will be able to leave when you do. If the wildfire’s proximity does not permit the time needed to load animals in trailers, it’s best to turn them loose and not leave them confined in a barn or pasture.
Fire officials will determine when it is safe for you to return to your home. This will be done as soon as possible considering safety and accessibility.
When you return home: