Having an evacuation plan in place before a wildfire occurs can help avoid confusion and prevent injuries. A thorough evacuation plan should include:
- Conditions that will activate the plan
- Chain of command
- Emergency functions and who will perform them
- Specific evacuation procedures, including routes and exits
- Procedures for accounting for personnel, customers and visitors
- Equipment for personnel
- Review the plan with workers
In addition to creating an evacuation plan, making a safety zone around your business or residence can help protect people and property. Within a 30-foot zone of buildings, remove combustible material and reduce the volume of vegetation to a minimum. In doing so, stay clear of overhead lines (maintain at least 10-feet clearance) and use 29 CFR 1910.269 qualified line-clearance tree trimmers. Clear branches and shrubs that are within 15 feet of chimneys or stovepipes and remove vines from the walls of buildings. Frequently mowing grass and replacing vegetation with less flammable species can provide better protection against spreading wildfires. In addition to the 30-foot safety zone, an additional secondary 70-foot safety zone is recommended – increasing the distance between a building and vegetation will increase the level of protection. For more information, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection offers a useful guide for creating safety zones, and the Ready.gov - Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) website has more information as well.
Employers whose workers will be involved in emergency response operations for releases of, or substantial threats of releases of, hazardous substances regardless of the location of the hazard must comply with OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard, 29 CFR 1910.120. This may include emergency response following an earthquake. Instruction CPL 02-02-073 describes OSHA enforcement procedures under the relevant provisions of the HAZWOPER standard.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has promulgated a standard applying OSHA’s HAZWOPER standard to state and local government workers in states where there is no OSHA-approved State Plan. See 40 CFR Part 311.
OSHA’s HAZWOPER Safety and Health Topics page explains requirements of the OSHA HAZWOPER standard, including required worker training.
- What You Should Know in Deciding Whether to Buy Escape Hoods, Gas Masks, or Other Respirators for Preparedness at Home and Work. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Training and Exercises
- Ensure that all workers know what to do in case of an emergency.
- Practice evacuation plans on a regular basis.
- Update plans and procedures based on lessons learned from exercises.
It is particularly important for responders to regularly train for the hazards present during wildfire response operations. The following resources provide useful guidance on training for responders:
- Wildfire Response Training Tool: Protecting Yourself While Responding to Wildfires. National Institute for Environmental Health and Safety
- Skills Crosswalk: Wildland Training for Structural Firefighters. U.S. Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and National Wildlife Coordinating Group