The City of North Port is located in the southern portion of the Big Slough Watershed, which covers approximately 195 square miles. The current land uses within the watershed north of the City boundaries are predominantly agricultural with some mining activities. A large portion of the runoff from the Big Slough Watershed drains through tributaries to the Myakkahatchee Creek, which runs through the City of North Port.
As the City of North Port is located at the low end of the Big Slough Watershed/Myakkahatchee Creek “pipeline,” the City’s current flooding and water quality conditions are attributed not only to the City's growth, but also to upstream runoff in the Sarasota, Manatee and Desoto County portions of the Big Slough Watershed.
During the mid-2000s, the Big Slough Watershed Study was conducted under a cooperative funding agreement with the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) and the City of North Port. Included is a detailed watershed computer model created to simulate the hydraulic conditions of the Big Slough Watershed. Once the model is calibrated to simulate historic storm conditions, it can be used as a tool to predict the level of flooding in the City under various storm events. The model will be used to revise the 100-year FEMA flood maps, and to evaluate options for drainage improvement projects to reduce the flooding currently experienced within the City. Viable drainage improvement projects are expected to be costly, and are likely to take five to 10 years to complete. Implementation of these projects will require cooperation with Sarasota County and Manatee County, acquisition of large tracts of land and rigorous review and permitting by Federal, State and local agencies.
The City has a program to clear the City canals of sediment deposits that has accumulated over time. The City will also clear fallen trees and debris in the Myakkahatchee Creek. This will help restore the flow capacity of the canals and creek.
Due to Statewide Building Code requirements, all new construction is above the flood plain, and therefore the structure is typically not subject to flooding. However, streets may flood resulting in “islands” of structures, and strand residents. Delivery of emergency commodities or rescue using high-clearance vehicles or boats may be necessary.
Non-Tropical/Severe Thunderstorm Flooding
Flooding from non-tropical and severe thunderstorms provide the greatest flood threats to the City of North Port. The City is especially vulnerable to flooding from canal overflow and ponding.
Flooding from Myakkahatchee Creek and canal overflow is almost always caused by heavy rains within a drainage area and the subsequent inability of the Myakkahatchee Creek and canal to accommodate the additional runoff. Myakkahatchee Creek and canal overflow would occur following an extended period of rainfall causing most bodies of water within the City to overflow their banks. The problem would be compounded if abnormally heavy rains were to fall in South and Central Florida.
Ponding occurs in low-lying areas that are characterized by poorly drained or super-saturated soils (high water table). This type of flooding in the City occurs in all areas of the City where drainage is poor and the water table is high.
Tropical Cyclone Flooding and Storm Surge
This form of flooding is directly associated with a tropical weather event such as a tropical storm or hurricane. Flooding may occur as bands of rain continuously fall, or through the surge of Gulf of Mexico water from the forward movement of the winds.
Most of the City is within a storm surge zone. From that link to the City's Map Gallery, locate where you live, and identify the appropriate evacuation zone. If an evacuation is called, it will be by the designated zone letter.
The US Geological Survey has a network of monitoring stations to track the potential for flooding. Click on the USGS graphic to view the stations in Florida. During heavy rains, City personnel view this website to obtain information on the status of our creeks, canals and rivers. The USGS also has a feature, which City officials subscribe, called "Water Alert" which will send a text or email message to indicate the monitoring station has reached a pre-determined height. In the event of severe flooding along our waterways, City officials may use the CodeRED emergency notificiation system to target those areas at risk.
Driving through roads with greater than six inches of water may be hazardous. The National Weather Service sponsors the “Turn Around Don’t Drown” awareness program. For further information on driver safety, click on the TADD graphic.
Flood losses are not covered under homeowners’ insurance policies. FEMA manages the National Flood Insurance Program, which makes Federally-backed flood insurance available in communities that agree to adopt and enforce floodplain management ordinances to reduce future flood damage. Flood insurance is available in North Port through insurance agents. There is a 30-day waiting period before flood insurance goes into effect, so don't delay. Flood insurance is available whether the building is in or out of the identified flood-prone area. To determine if your home or business is within a FEMA-designated floodzone, go to the City's Map Gallery for flood maps, or click the above National Flood Insurance Program icon.
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Thunderstorms and Lightning
All thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightning. In the United States, an average of 300 people are injured and 80 people are killed each year by lightning. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms. Florida is the “Lightning Capital of the United States.”
Other associated dangers of thunderstorms include tornadoes, strong winds, hail, and flash flooding. Flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities—more than 140 annually—than any other thunderstorm-associated hazard.
Dry thunderstorms that do not produce rain that reaches the ground are most prevalent in the western United States. Falling raindrops evaporate, but lightning can still reach the ground and can start wildfires.
Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Every state is at some risk from this hazard.
Actions to take:
- If there is a tornado safe room or engineered shelter, go there immediately.
- Go at once to a windowless, interior room or the lowest level of the building.
- If there is no such location, go to an inner hallway or smaller inner room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet.
- Get away from the windows.
- Get under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a workbench or heavy table or desk and hold on to it.
- Use arms to protect head and neck
- If in a mobile home, get out and find shelter elsewhere.
- If at school or work:
- Go to the area designated in your tornado plan. The most interior room, on the lowest floor without windows.
- Avoid places with wide span roofs such as auditoriums, cafeterias, large hallways or shopping malls.
- Get under a piece of sturdy furniture.
- Get down low with head against the wall and use arms to protect head and neck.
- If outdoors:
- If possible, get inside a building.
- If shelter is not available or there is no time to get indoors, lie in a ditch or low-lying area or crouch near a strong building. Be aware of the potential for flooding.
- Use arms to protect head and neck.
- If in a car:
- Never try to out-drive a tornado in a car or truck.
- Get out of the car immediately and take shelter in a nearby building.
- If there is no time to get indoors, get out of the car and lie in a ditch or low-lying area away from the vehicle. Be aware of the potential for flooding.
Tornadoes are classified into six categories based on their wind speed. In 2007, the National Weather Service adopted the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale to more precisely measure damage potential.
|EF Number||3 Second Gust (mph)||Description|
The Storm Prediction Center is the Federal government's forecasting agency for the risk of tornadoes:
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A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, the generic term for a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics. A typical cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms, and in the Northern Hemisphere, a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earth’s surface.
All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes or tropical storms. Parts of the Southwest United States and the Pacific Coast experience heavy rains and floods each year from hurricanes spawned off Mexico. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October.
Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. Winds can exceed 155 miles per hour. Hurricanes and tropical storms can also spawn tornadoes and microbursts, create storm surges along the coast, and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.
Hurricanes are classified into five categories based on their wind speed, central pressure, and damage potential (see chart). Category Three and higher hurricanes are considered major hurricanes, though Categories One and Two are still extremely dangerous and warrant your full attention.
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
|1||74-95||Minimal: Unanchored mobile homes,
vegetation and signs.
|2||96-110||Moderate: All mobile homes, roofs,
small crafts, flooding.
|3||111-130||Extensive: Small buildings, low-lying
roads cut off.
|4||131-155||Extreme: Roofs destroyed, trees
down, roads cut off, mobile homes
destroyed. Beach homes flooded.
|5||More than 155||Catastrophic: Most buildings
destroyed. Vegetation destroyed.
Major roads cut off. Homes flooded.
Hurricanes can produce widespread torrential rains. Floods are the deadly and destructive result. Slow moving storms and tropical storms moving into mountainous regions tend to produce especially heavy rain. Excessive rain can trigger landslides or mud slides, especially in mountainous regions. Flash flooding can occur due to intense rainfall. Flooding on rivers and streams may persist for several days or more after the storm.
Between 1970 and 1999, more people lost their lives from freshwater inland flooding associated with land falling tropical cyclones than from any other weather hazard related to tropical cyclones.
Storm surge is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tides. Storm surge should not be confused with storm tide, which is defined as the water level rise due to the combination of storm surge and the astronomical tide. This rise in water level can cause extreme flooding in coastal areas particularly when storm surge coincides with normal high tide, resulting in storm tides reaching up to 20 feet or more in some cases.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) created outreach fact sheets to describe the new,"experimental" Potential Storm Surge Flooding graphic (what has been called the “inundation graphic”) which is planned to be made publicly available on the NHC website this coming hurricane season. These fact sheets have been developed with direct involvement from social scientists who obtained input from emergency management, media partners, and NWS offices. To access this document, click here.
Naming the Hurricanes
Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms have been named from lists originated by the National Hurricane Center and now maintained and updated by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization. The lists featured only women’s names until 1979. After that, men’s and women’s names were alternated. Six lists are used in rotation. Thus, the 2009 lists will be used again in 2015.
The only time there is a change in the list is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the continued use of the name would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity. When this occurs, the name is stricken from the list and another name is selected to replace it. Sometimes names are changed. Lorenzo replaced Luis and Michelle replaced Marilyn. The complete lists can be found at www.nhc.noaa.gov under “Cyclone Names.”
Know the Terms
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a hurricane hazard:
- Tropical Depression: An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 MPH (33 knots) or less. Sustained winds are defined as one-minute average wind measured at about 33 ft (10 meters) above the surface.
- Tropical Storm: An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39–73 MPH (34–63 knots).
- Hurricane: An intense tropical weather system of strong thunderstorms with a well-defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 MPH (64 knots) or higher.
- Storm Surge: A dome of water pushed onshore by hurricane and tropical storm winds. Storm surges can reach 25 feet high and be 50–thousands of miles wide.
- Storm Tide: A combination of storm surge and the normal tide (i.e., a 15-foot storm surge combined with a 2-foot normal high tide over the mean sea level created a 17-foot storm tide).
- Hurricane/Tropical Storm Watch: Hurricane/tropical storm conditions are possible in the specified area, usually within 48 hours. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
- Hurricane/Tropical Storm Warning: Hurricane/tropical storm conditions are expected in the specified area, usually within 36 hours.
- Short Term Watches and Warnings: These warnings provide detailed information about specific hurricane threats, such as flash floods and tornadoes.
Take Protective Measures
Before a Hurricane
To prepare for a hurricane, you should take the following measures:
- Make plans to secure your property. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
- Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
- Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed.
- Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
- Determine how and where to secure your boat.
- Consider building a safe room.
During a Hurricane
If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:
- Listen to the radio or TV for information.
- Secure your home, close storm shutters, and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
- Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
- Turn off propane tanks.
- Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
- Moor your boat if time permits.
- Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.
You should evacuate under the following conditions:
- If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.
- If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure—such shelters are particularly hazardous during hurricanes no matter how well fastened to the ground.
- If you live in a high-rise building—hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
- If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an inland waterway.
- If you feel you are in danger.
If you are unable to evacuate, go to your wind-safe room. If you do not have one, follow these guidelines:
Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors.
- Close all interior doors—secure and brace external doors.
- Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm - winds will pick up again.
- Take refuge in a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.
- Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.
The National Hurricane Center is the forecasting agency for the National Weather Service.
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Chemicals are found everywhere. They purify drinking water, increase crop production, and simplify household chores. But chemicals also can be hazardous to humans or the environment if used or released improperly. Hazards can occur during production, storage, transportation, use, or disposal. You and your community are at risk if a chemical is used unsafely or released in harmful amounts into the environment where you live, work, or play.
Chemical manufacturers are one source of hazardous materials, but there are many others, including service stations, hospitals, and hazardous materials waste sites.
Take Protective Measures
Before a Hazardous Materials Incident
The Southwest Florida Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) is responsible for collecting information about hazardous materials in the community and making this information available to the public upon request. The LEPC also are tasked with developing an emergency plan to prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies in the community. Ways the public will be notified and actions the public must take in the event of a release are part of the plan. Contact the Southwest Florida LEPC to find out more about chemical hazards and what needs to be done to minimize the risk to individuals and the community from these materials.
You should add the following supplies to your disaster kit:
- Plastic sheeting
- Duct tape
During a Hazardous Materials Incident
Listen to local radio or television stations for detailed information and instructions. Follow the instructions carefully. You should stay away from the area to minimize the risk of contamination. Remember that some toxic chemicals are odorless.
|If You Are:||Then:|
|Asked to Evacuate||Do so immediately.|
|Caught Outside||Stay upstream, uphill, and upwind! In general, try to go at least one-half mile (usually 8-10 city blocks) from the danger area. Do not walk into or touch any spilled liquids, airborne mists, or condensed solid chemical deposits.
|In a Motor Vehicle||Stop and seek shelter in a permanent building. If you must remain in your car, keep car windows and vents closed and shut off the air conditioner and heater.|
|Requested to Stay Indoors||
Turn off air conditioners and ventilation systems. In large buildings, set ventilation systems to 100 percent recirculation so that no outside air is drawn into the building. If this is not possible, ventilation systems should be turned off.
Go into the pre-selected shelter room. This room should be above ground and have the fewest openings to the outside.
Seal the room by covering each window, door, and vent using plastic sheeting and duct tape.
Shelter Safety for Sealed Rooms
Ten square feet of floor space per person will provide sufficient air to prevent carbon dioxide build-up for up to five hours, assuming a normal breathing rate while resting.
However, local officials are unlikely to recommend the public shelter in a sealed room for more than 2-3 hours because the effectiveness of such sheltering diminishes with time as the contaminated outside air gradually seeps into the shelter. At this point, evacuation from the area is the better protective action to take.
Also you should ventilate the shelter when the emergency has passed to avoid breathing contaminated air still inside the shelter.
After a Hazardous Materials Incident
The following are guidelines for the period following a hazardous materials incident:
- Return home only when authorities say it is safe. Open windows and vents and turn on fans to provide ventilation.
- Act quickly if you have come in to contact with or have been exposed to hazardous chemicals. Do the following:
- Follow decontamination instructions from local authorities. You may be advised to take a thorough shower, or you may be advised to stay away from water and follow another procedure.
- Seek medical treatment for unusual symptoms as soon as possible.
- Place exposed clothing and shoes in tightly sealed containers. Do not allow them to contact other materials. Call local authorities to find out about proper disposal.
- Advise everyone who comes in to contact with you that you may have been exposed to a toxic substance.
- Find out from local authorities how to clean up your land and property.
- Report any lingering vapors or other hazards to 9-1-1.
Terrorism is the use of force or violence against persons or property in violation of the criminal laws of the United States for purposes of intimidation, coercion, or ransom. Terrorists often use threats to:
- Create fear among the public.
- Try to convince citizens that their government is powerless to prevent terrorism.
- Get immediate publicity for their causes
Acts of terrorism include threats of terrorism; assassinations; kidnappings; hijackings; bomb scares and bombings; cyber attacks (computer-based); and the use of chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological weapons.
High-risk targets for acts of terrorism include military and civilian government facilities, international airports, large cities, and high-profile landmarks. Terrorists might also target large public gatherings, water and food supplies, utilities, and corporate centers. Further, terrorists are capable of spreading fear by sending explosives or chemical and biological agents through the mail.
Within the immediate area of a terrorist event, you would need to rely on police, fire, and other officials for instructions. However, you can prepare in much the same way you would prepare for other crisis events.
The following are general guidelines:
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Move or leave if you feel uncomfortable or if something does not seem right.
- Take precautions when traveling. Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behavior. Do not accept packages from strangers. Do not leave luggage unattended. You should promptly report unusual behavior, suspicious or unattended packages, and strange devices to the police or security personnel.
- Learn where emergency exits are located in buildings you frequent. Plan how to get out in the event of an emergency.
- Be prepared to do without services you normally depend on—electricity, telephone, natural gas, gasoline pumps, cash registers, ATMs, and Internet transactions.
- Work with building owners to ensure the following items are located on each floor of the building:
- Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries.
- Several flashlights and extra batteries.
- First aid kit and manual.
- Hard hats and dust masks.
- Fluorescent tape to rope off dangerous areas.
Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.
Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for his or her age and physical condition. Older adults, young children, and those who are sick or overweight are more likely to succumb to extreme heat.
Conditions that can induce heat-related illnesses include stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality. Consequently, people living in urban areas may be at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than those living in rural areas. Also, asphalt and concrete store heat longer and gradually release heat at night, which can produce higher nighttime temperatures known as the “urban heat island effect.”
Know the Terms
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify an extreme heat hazard:
- Heat Wave - Prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with excessive humidity.
- Heat Index - A number in degrees Fahrenheit (F) that tells how hot it feels when relative humidity is added to the air temperature. Exposure to full sunshine can increase the heat index by 15 degrees.
- Heat Cramps - Muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe, they are often the first signal that the body is having trouble with the heat.
- Heat Exhaustion - Typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing blood flow to decrease to the vital organs. This results in a form of mild shock. If not treated, the victim’s condition will worsen. Body temperature will keep rising and the victim may suffer heat stroke.
- Heat Stroke - A life-threatening condition. The victim’s temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly.
- Sun Stroke - Another term for heat stroke.
Take Protective Measures
Before Extreme Heat
To prepare for extreme heat, you should:
- Install window air conditioners snugly; insulate if necessary.
- Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation.
- Install temporary window reflectors (for use between windows and drapes), such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside.
- Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in.
- Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings, or louvers. (Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80 percent.)
- Keep storm windows up all year.
During a Heat Emergency
The following are guidelines for what you should do if the weather is extremely hot:
- Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun.
- Stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine if air conditioning is not available.
- Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings such as libraries, schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, and other community facilities. Circulating air can cool the body by increasing the perspiration rate of evaporation.
- Eat well-balanced, light, and regular meals. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
- Drink plenty of water. Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; are on fluid-restricted diets; or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.
- Limit intake of alcoholic beverages.
- Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible.
- Protect face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
- Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone.
- Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
- Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.
First Aid for Heat-Induced Illnesses
Extreme heat brings with it the possibility of heat-induced illnesses. The following table lists these illnesses, their symptoms, and the first aid treatment.
|Sunburn||Skin redness and pain, possible swelling, blisters, fever, headaches||
Take a shower using soap to remove oils that may block pores, preventing the body from cooling naturally.
Apply dry, sterile dressings to any blisters, and get medical attention.
|Heat Cramps||Painful spasms, usually in leg and abdominal muscles; heavy sweating||
Get the victim to a cooler location.
Lightly stretch and gently massage affected muscles to relieve spasms.
Give sips of up to a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. (Do not give liquids with caffeine or alcohol.)
Discontinue liquids, if victim is nauseated.
|Heat Exhaustion||Heavy sweating but skin may be cool, pale, or flushed. Weak pulse. Normal body temperature is possible, but temperature will likely rise. Fainting or dizziness, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, and headaches are possible.||
Get victim to lie down in a cool place.
Loosen or remove clothing.
Apply cool, wet clothes.
Fan or move victim to air-conditioned place.
|Heat Stroke (a severe medical emergency)
||High body temperature (105+); hot, red, dry skin; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid shallow breathing. Victim will probably not sweat unless victim was sweating from recent strenuous activity. Possible unconsciousness.||
Call 9-1-1 or emergency medical services, or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.Move victim to a cooler environment.
Try a cool bath, sponging, or wet sheet to reduce body temperature.
Watch for breathing problems.
Use extreme caution.
Use fans and air conditioners.
An emergency water shortage can be caused by prolonged drought, poor water supply management, or contamination of a surface water supply source or aquifer.
Drought can affect vast territorial regions and large population numbers. Drought also creates environmental conditions that increase the risk of other hazards such as fire, flash flood, and possible landslides and debris flow.
Conserving water means more water available for critical needs for everyone. Make these practices a part of your daily life and help preserve this essential resource.
For More Information
If you require more information about any of these topics, the following are resources that may be helpful:
National Weather Service
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Listed here are several suggestions that you can implement immediately. Others need to be considered at the time of construction or remodeling. You should also contact you’re the City of North Port Fire Rescue District or Building Department, or Florida Division of Forestry about local fire laws, building codes and protection measures. Obtain local building codes and weed abatement ordinances for structures built near wooded areas.
Find Out What Your Fire Risk Is
Learn about the history of wildfire in your area. Be aware of recent weather. A long period without rain increases the risk of wildfire. Consider having a professional inspect your property and offer recommendations for reducing the wildfire risk. Determine your community's ability to respond to wildfire. Are roads leading to your property clearly marked? Are the roads wide enough to allow firefighting equipment to get through? Is your house number visible from the roadside?
Learn and Teach Safe Fire Practices
- Build fires away from nearby trees or bushes.
- Always have a way to extinguish the fire quickly and completely.
- Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and near sleeping areas.
- Never leave a fire--even a cigarette--burning unattended.
- Avoid open burning completely, and especially during dry season.
Always be ready for an emergency evacuation. Evacuation may be the only way to protect your family in a wildfire. Know where to go and what to bring with you. You should plan several escape routes in case roads are blocked by a wildfire.
Create Safety Zones Around Your Home
All vegetation is fuel for a wildfire, though some trees and shrubs are more flammable than others. To reduce the risk, you will need to modify or eliminate brush, trees and other vegetation near your home. The greater the distance is between your home and the vegetation, the greater the protection.
Create a 30-foot safety zone around the house. Keep the volume of vegetation in this zone to a minimum. Swimming pools and patios can be a safety zone and stone walls can act as heat shields and deflect flames. In this zone, you should also do the following:
- Remove vines from the walls of the house.
- Move shrubs and other landscaping away from the sides of the house.
- Prune branches and shrubs within 15 feet of chimneys and stove pipes.
- Remove tree limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
- Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns.
- Replace highly flammable vegetation such as pine, eucalyptus, junipers and fir trees with lower growing, less flammable species. Check with the Florida Division of Forestry or garden store for suggestions.
- Replace vegetation that has living or dead branches from the ground-level up (these act as ladder fuels for the approaching fire).
- Cut the lawn often keeping the grass at a maximum of 2 inches. Watch grass and other vegetation near the driveway, a source of ignition from automobile exhaust systems.
- Clear the area of leaves, brush, evergreen cones, dead limbs and fallen trees.
Create a second zone at least 100 feet around the house. This zone should begin about 30 feet from the house and extend to at least 100 feet. In this zone, reduce or replace as much of the most flammable vegetation as possible. If you live on a hill, you may need to extend the zone for several hundred feet to provide the desired level of safety.
Clear all Combustibles within 30 Feet of any Structure.
- Install electrical lines underground, if possible.
- Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
- Avoid using bark and wood chip mulch.
- Stack firewood 100 feet away and uphill from any structure.
- Store combustible or flammable materials in approved safety containers and keep them away from the house.
- Keep the gas grill and propane tank at least 15 feet from any structure. Clear an area 15 feet around the grill. Place a ¼ inch mesh screen over the grill. Always use the grill cautiously but refrain from using it all during high risk times.
Protect Your Home
Remove debris from under sun decks and porches. Any porch, balcony or overhang with exposed space underneath is fuel for an approaching fire. Overhangs ignite easily by flying embers and by the heat and fire that get trapped underneath. If vegetation is allowed to grow underneath or if the space is used for storage, the hazard is increased significantly. Clear leaves, trash and other combustible materials away from underneath sun decks and porches. Extend 1/2-inch mesh screen from all overhangs down to the ground. Enclose wooden stilts with non-combustible material such as concrete, brick, rock, stucco or metal. Use non-combustible patio furniture and covers. If you're planning a porch or sun deck, use non-combustible or fire-resistant materials. If possible, build the structure to the ground so that there is no space underneath.
Enclose eaves and overhangs. Like porches and balconies, eaves trap the heat rising along the exterior siding. Enclose all eaves to reduce the hazard.
Cover house vents with wire mesh. Any attic vent, soffit vent, louver or other opening can allow embers and flaming debris to enter a home and ignite it. Cover all openings with 1/4 inch or smaller corrosion-resistant wire mesh. If you're designing louvers, place them in the vertical wall rather than the soffit of the overhang.
Install spark arrestors in chimneys and stovepipes. Chimneys create a hazard when embers escape through the top. To prevent this, install spark arrestors on all chimneys, stovepipes and vents for fuel-burning heaters. Use spark arrestors made of 12-gauge welded or woven wire mesh screen with openings 1/2 inch across. Ask your fire department for exact specifications. If you're building a chimney, use non-combustible materials and make sure the top of the chimney is at least two feet higher than any obstruction within 10 feet of the chimney. Keep the chimney clean.
Use fire resistant siding. Use fire resistant materials in the siding of your home, such as stucco, metal, brick, cement shingles, concrete and rock. You can treat wood siding with UL-approved fire retardant chemicals, but the treatment and protection are not permanent.
Choose safety glass for windows and sliding glass doors. Windows allow radiated heat to pass through and ignite combustible materials inside. The larger the pane of glass, the more vulnerable it is to fire. Dual- or triple-pane thermal glass, and fire resistant shutters or drapes, help reduce the wildfire risk. You can also install non-combustible awnings to shield windows and use shatter-resistant glazing such as tempered or wireglass.
Prepare for water storage; develop an external water supply such as a small pond, well or pool.
Other safety measures to consider at the time of construction or remodeling.
- Choose locations wisely; canyon and slope locations increase the risk of exposure to wildland fires.
- Use fire-resistant materials when building, renovating, or retrofitting structures.
- Avoid designs that include wooden decks and patios.
- Use non-combustible materials for the roof.
- The roof is especially vulnerable in a wildfire. Embers and flaming debris can travel great distances, land on your roof and start a new fire. Avoid flammable roofing materials such as wood, shake and shingle. Materials that are more fire resistant include single ply membranes, fiberglass shingles, slate, metal, clay and concrete tile. Clear gutters of leaves and debris.
Is your home FireWise? Click the icon for more information on how to reduce the risk of wildfire affecting your house.