Be Prepared for Another Wildfire Season with OnStar
2020 was the worst year for wildfires in U.S. history, and this year is shaping up to be as bad — or maybe even worse
Wildfires continue to be an incredibly destructive force across the U.S. In 2020, the nation set a new record for acres burned in wildfires, with 58,950 fires burning more than 10 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. And, according to the Congressional Research Service, since 2011 wildfires have burned an average of 7.5 million acres each year.
While wildfires are a risk all over the country, they are typically most destructive in states like California, Texas, Colorado, Washington and Arizona. In 2020, about 40 percent of all acreage burned by wildfires occurred in California. No matter where you live, it’s important to be prepared for an elevated risk of wildfires this summer — especially with early predictions warning of a hot, dry season that could result in even more fires than last year.
In any weather-related emergency, specially trained OnStar Advisors are available 24/7 to help Members. They can provide driving directions away from fires, help find scarce resources like fuel or hotel rooms, or connect you to loved ones. You can 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*16a services as part of the OnStar Safety & Security Plan.*4
You can also bring key OnStar safety services with you when you’re outside of your vehicle, thanks to the OnStar Guardian™ app.*82 It allows you to contact an Advisor right from your phone, as well as to share your location*85 on a map with up to seven family members.*84
This year is shaping up to be another dangerous year for wildfires. Just through June 3, the National Interagency Fire Center reported more than 25,000 wildfires that burned more than 711,000 acres. And conditions are prime for even more fires through the rest of 2021, due to elevated levels of drought across the western part of the country.
As of mid-April 2021, “the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that over 41 percent of the West is experiencing extreme drought or worse. This marks the largest expanse of extreme and exceptional drought in the Western states at the beginning of the dry season in the map’s 21-year history,” says Deborah Bathke, climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. “With warmer and drier than normal conditions forecast for the next three months, the stage is set for an escalation of extreme drought conditions this summer with widespread water restrictions and a dangerous fire season.”
Meanwhile, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) says that “the fire season in California and across the West is starting earlier and ending later each year … The length of fire season is estimated to have increased by 75 days across the Sierras and seems to correspond with an increase in the extent of forest fires across the state.”
With the devastating impacts of the 2020 wildfire season, and a likelihood of more severe wildfires this year, it’s smart to revisit your disaster plans and prepare now.
The following tips will 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 so you can have access to key OnStar safety services, even when you’re not in your vehicle.
- 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.