How to prepare for an emergency during wildfire season

Jul 5, 2023

blog header that includes a hand making a list for a plan, an orange backpack, and a warning sign for wildfires

Wildfires are unpredictable and you never know when you or your community might be affected. However, we can all be proactive by taking the recommended steps before it happens.

5 steps to prepare your family for a wildfire emergency

Being prepared for an emergency or evacuation not only reduces the risk of injury, loss, or damage— it also helps reduce stress and anxiety because you’ve already put a plan in place to protect everyone and everything important to you.

Step 1: Make an emergency plan

Ensure your family knows what to do in an emergency by creating an emergency plan. Prepared BC has plenty of helpful tips and even created a fill-in-the-blanks Home Emergency Plan for anyone to use. It only takes 20-minutes to create a plan so setup a time for everyone in your household to get together and start planning! It’s also recommended to let someone outside your home know your plan too in case you are unreachable during the emergency.

Step 2: Make Grab and Go Bags

In an emergency, it’s important to have some supplies ready to grab and go in case you must quickly leave your home. The list below is a guideline to help you prepare and pack your bags. Most emergency organizations recommend that you prepare to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours so make sure to pack accordingly. If you have a vehicle, it’s a good idea to have some of these items in there too in case you’re on the road during an emergency. Just make sure there’s nothing in your vehicle kit that could melt or explode in the heat and ruin other items. And don’t forget to make a grab and go bag for your pets too!

Basic Emergency Checklist:

  • Pen and notepad
  • Phone charger and battery bank
  • Flashlight – wind up or battery powered (and extra batteries)
  • Radio – wind up or battery powered (and extra batteries)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Personal toiletries and medication
  • Seasonal clothing
  • Extra keys for house and vehicle
  • Food – nonperishable such as energy bars, dried and canned food (and a manual can opener)
  • Water – at least 2 liters of water per person, per day
  • Cash and change
  • Important family documents – ID (passport, status card, health card, driver’s license), insurance papers, bank records
  • Whistle
  • Emergency blanket
  • Emergency plan and contact information

Visit Prepared BC for more information on building an emergency kit and grab-and-go bag.

Step 3: Protect your home

Firesmart™ your home by reading and following FireSmart BC’s landscaping guide.

Step 4: Know your evacuation stages

Depending on the severity of the situation, an Evacuation Alert or Order may be issued. It’s important to know the difference and to always follow the advice and direction of your local authorities. Prepared BC provides and explains what the evacuation terms mean:

  • Evacuation Alert: Be ready to leave on short notice.
  • Evacuation Order: Leave the area immediately. You are at risk. Make sure to check in at an Emergency Support Services (ESS) reception centre. Contact family and friends and let them know where you are and that you are safe.
  • Tactical Evacuation: This happens when a sudden threat to life requires immediate action and there is no time to prepare or issue written warnings. These types of evacuations are often coordinated by the RCMP or local police, with assistance from other agencies.
  • Evacuation Rescind: All is now safe and you can return home.

Step 5: Download Prepared BC’s Wildfire Preparedness Guide

The Wildfire Preparedness Guide will help you prepare for what to do before, during, and after a wildfire.


5 steps to prepare your community for a wildfire emergency

Preparing your community for an emergency can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Completing the tasks below can help your community be prepared in case of a wildfire emergency.

Step 1: Create a Planning Committee

Creating a planning committee helps your community determine personnel, assign roles, and assign responsibilities. Key members of this committee may include representatives from:

  • First Nations departments (e.g., health, finance, planning)
  • Local law enforcement and first responders (e.g., fire, ambulance, emergency social services)
  • Relevant agencies and organizations (e.g., health authority, school district)

Step 2: Create a Community Emergency Management Plan

Create or locate an emergency plan for your community and ensure it is up to date. Emergency Management BC’s Emergency Management Planning Guide for Local Authorities and First Nations is a great resource if you need help.

Step 3: Create a community map

Creating a community map helps identify high hazard and high-risk areas such as:

  • Wildland-urban interface zones
  • Infastructure (e.g., roads, communication systems, water, and power lines)
  • Water sources
  • Elder’s homes
  • Community centres
  • Places of special interest (e.g., graveyard, sacred places)

Step 4: Create contact lists

Contact lists help identify emergency resources and community contacts. In your community contact lists, we also recommend compiling a list of community members that may require extra assistance such as elders and people with disabilities.

Step 5: Create relationships with partner/host communities

It’s important to know who you can lean on for support during an emergency. Build relationships with your neighbours, both inside and outside of your nation. Reach out to other communities and develop mutual agreements to provide and receive assistance to one another during emergency situations.


If you need to contact FNESS during an emergency, please call the FNESS After Hours Assistance Line: