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Prepare, Go Early or Stay and Defend

A lot of us think we have the physical preparation and know how to stay and defend our properties. This article addresses the subject in some depth. Firewise Communities too has addressed the subject and there is a growing movement here in the US to utilize this concept and practice where appropriate.
Click Here for the Fall 2009 Issue of the Firewise How To Newsletter Including An Introduction to Prepare, Go Early or Stay and Defend
The Cascadel Ranch Fire Safe Council addresses this subject in an effort to educate and clarify what stay and defend really means and entails. This reality check should go a long way to discouraging people from thinking of staying with their homes in a trivial manner. According to the NFPA, there is no official US policy regarding what residents should do to protect their homes threatened by wildfire. That’s where Firewise comes into play. Get Ready, Get Out!

Leave My Home? No Way!

Evacuation sometimes isn’t a popular subject with a lot of property owners. Particularly property owners in the WUI can tend to be independent minded folks who came here to get away from urban areas and are loath to abandon their homes. The temptation to stay and defend your property is a natural reaction common to all people. Not only is this usually not a good idea, it may not be an option. According to Cal Fire, the Sheriff has legal authority to remove you under certain circumstances in the State of California. Hopefully you’ll be long gone before that happens.
But who wouldn’t want to stay there with their home that likely contains all their memories and sole possessions? And that is why preparing to evacuate and hardening your home way in advance gives you such a big advantage. You won’t be caught knowing that all your photos and memories and documents and sentimentally valuable items are trapped in a tinderbox house. You’ll be prepared. Photos will have been scanned and backed up off site. The same goes for important documents. For possessions that can’t be digitized you’ll have removed them way early or leave them in a home capable of protecting them. You will have hardened your home to the extent that you can confidently hope your home survives when you leave, and will be waiting for you when you can return.
Some will still insist on staying and defending and the Sheriff doesn’t always order mandatory evacuation.The risks of staying and defending are very real, and attempting to stay and defend your home is a real gamble, mostly because most of us aren’t properly trained and prepared to stay and defend our property. And that is the point of the approach. If one must stay and defend, and some will, at least they’ll be properly prepared and trained and not increase the danger to others.
As always, probably the much better strategy is preparation well in advance and leaving early. Prepare and go early really can be the key to increasing the odds of successfully and safely surviving a major fire in your neighborhood.

Stay and Defend Defined

However, no fire wise discussion would be complete without addressing this still controversial subject. Why this is so controversial remains unclear. The chaos that sometimes ensues when residents attempt to flee after it is far too late is part of what spurred this approach forward. Firewise Communities USA did a great introductory article on this approach that has taken hold in Australia, and is now being duplicated here in the United States. Click Here for the Fall 2009 Issue of the Firewise How To Newsletter Including An Introduction to Prepare, Go Early or Stay and Defend
Staying and defending is the third part of Prepare, Go Early or Stay and Defend for a reason. That order is critical. Each step is dependent on the one before it. After making and practicing your evacuation plan and hardening your home to a very high degree, you may be in a position physically and mentally to undergo the extensive training to enable the third option. If you aren’t physically fit forget it. And you’ll need equipment as well, and water for fire suppression.
Suffice to say, staying and defending only has a reasonable chance of being a viable option with proper preparedness and training. And that is the point of the order of events, prepare, go early and lastly, or stay and defend. You only have the stay and defend option if you have prepared to go early, hardened your home to a high standard and are physically capable. Than and only then may you elect to undergo the training and equipment investment to make the stay and defend option a viable option.
Anyone who is interested in fire preparedness will make sure to get ready to evacuate and then harden their home and property to a high level. Because a stay and defend scenario takes physical fitness to a high degree, training, equipment, access to water and a steely disposition this option is highly discouraged here locally.
Stay and defend is being addressed here on the The Cascadel Ranch Fire Safe Council web site to help educate us all about the realities of stay and defend. The very real dangers, the mandatory steps to get there if and and only if all criteria have been met put a big damper on anyone considering this option or thinking it’s easy. The Cascadel Ranch Fire Safe Council places the focus on Prepare and Go Early and doesn’t recommend stay and defend, but we will be addressing the stay and defend topic as well as has Firewise Communities USA.
Click Here for an NFPA Article on the Subject of Prepare, Go Early or Stay and Defend
The NFPA has not offical position on PGESD (or sometimes SDLE) their focus is as here, Prepare and Go Early!
Here’s a great article on the subject from the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
Here’s an article from Australia about how the Prepare, Go Early, Stay and Defend policy has worked for them.