With wildfires becoming increasingly worse in the United States, OnStar has tips to help you be prepared
Wildfires continue to be an incredibly destructive force across the U.S. The forecast issued by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) predicts that the fire potential will be higher than average at times during February through May in the Carolinas; Florida; parts of Georgia, New Mexico and Arizona; and the central and southern Plains.
In 2021, 58,985 fires burned more than 7 million acres, according to the NIFC. And the Congressional Research Service reports wildfires have burned an average of 7.5 million acres each year since 2011.
Megafires — fires that blacken more than 100,000 acres — are increasingly becoming the norm. Last year’s California Dixie Fire burned more than 960,000 acres in a little over three months, and it was the first wildfire in history to clear across the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) says that the “2021 wildfire season in California experienced an unusually early start amid an ongoing drought and historically low rainfall and reservoir levels.”
While wildfires are a risk all over the country, they are typically most destructive in states like California, Texas, Colorado, Washington and Arizona. However, no matter where you live, it’s important to be prepared for an elevated risk of wildfires this summer.
Crisis Assist is here to help
In any weather-related emergency, specially trained OnStar Advisors are available 24/7 to help Members. They can offer assistance during evacuations away from fires, help find scarce resources like fuel or hotel rooms, or connect you to loved ones. Push the blue OnStar button to connect with Advisors for up-to-date information about the crisis, but remember, if you’re ever in danger, always push your red Emergency button. As a Member, you get Crisis Assist* services as part of the OnStar Safety & Security Plan.*
A Wall of Flames
Hear the true story of how two friends survived when they became trapped by a wildfire in OnStar’s podcast, Tell Me What Happened.
You can also bring key OnStar safety services with you when you’re outside of your vehicle, thanks to the OnStar Guardian® app.* It allows you to contact an Advisor right from your phone, as well as to view and share locations* on a map with up to seven family members.*
Get ready and prepare now
While you should always follow evacuation orders and plan ahead, if you ever get caught driving through a fire, below are practical tips from Tony Briggs, regional CEO for the American Red Cross* Central California Region, who lives and works in an area highly prone to wildfire.
Keep a go bag in your trunk or garage
“Your go bag [should have] everything you need to live off the grid for approximately three to five days,” says Briggs.
Close your vehicle’s air vents
“You want to make sure that you’re not bringing smoke into your car.”
Unlock your car doors
“If your doors are locked and the First Responder is trying to get to you, that’s one more thing that you’ve got to be able to fix.”
Stay low in your vehicle
“You want to try to stay as low as you can because the smoke is going to be rising around you and that will help with the smoke inhalation.”
Hear the full interview with Tony Briggs in the season finale of our podcast, Tell Me What Happened.
Even if you don’t live in a wildfire-prone area, there’s a strong likelihood of more severe wildfires this year, which is why it’s smart to revisit your disaster plans and prepare now.
Here are additional tips to help you get started:
- Plan to receive emergency alerts and warnings from multiple sources (TV, radio, phone).
- Build an emergency kit and be sure to pack these must-have items in your vehicle.
- Help protect yourself and your family by creating a family communications plan.
- Know the risks of your surroundings. For instance, do you live near forested areas?
- Create an evacuation plan. Where do you plan to go if you need to evacuate?
- Make sure your plan accounts for any specific needs for your family.
- Identify how you can register in your community if your family has specific needs, and then register.
- Download the OnStar Guardian app to have access to key OnStar safety services, even when you’re not in your vehicle.
- Familiarize yourself and your family with the Location Status feature within the Guardian app so you’ll know how to view and share locations with one another in case you get split up during a disaster or need to share your whereabouts.
- Follow OnStar on Twitter. During a crisis, we share real-time updates and key information via Twitter to help those in the affected area find resources and keep up with the latest news.
- Have a plan to care for any pets.
- Know the emergency plans at your work and your children’s schools.
- Familiarize yourself with how Crisis Assist can help.
- Finally, practice your plan with your family.
Ready.gov, a national public service campaign created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, offers detailed guidance on how to prepare for wildfires and other disasters.