How to Prepare

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Evacuation Terminology

The terms “voluntary” and “mandatory” are often incorrectly used to describe evacuations. In Santa Barbara County, law enforcement will use the terms “Evacuation Order”, “Evacuation Warning”, and “Shelter-In-Place” to alert you to the significance of the danger and provide basic instructions. It is important that all residents understand the difference between each of the evacuation instructions.

“Evacuation Order”– This means to leave now. Follow your evacuation plan and evacuate immediately. Do not delay gathering your belongings or preparing your home. Pay attention to specific instructions that will be contained in the evacuation order.

“Evacuation Warning” – Evacuate as soon as possible. A short delay to gather valuables and prepare your home may be ok. Leave if you feel unsafe. “Evacuation Warnings” may become “Evacuation Orders” if conditions change.

“Shelter-In-Place” – Stay in your current location or the safest nearby building or unburnable area. This type of direction may be required when evacuation is not necessary or is too dangerous.

All evacuation instructions provided by officials should be followed immediately for your safety.

As the fire approaches


  • Ensure your cell phone is fully charged
  • Notify an out-of-area contact of your phone number, location, and status. Update them regularly at scheduled times
  • Leave a note with your contact info and out-of-area contact taped inside a front window so it can be seen from outside of your home
  • Call neighbors to alert them to prepare


  • Dress all family members in long sleeves and long pants; heavy cotton is best, no matter how hot it is
  • Wear full coverage goggles (sunglasses if you do not have goggles), leather gloves, and head protection
  • Cover faces with a dry cotton bandanna or a N95 respirator
  • Carry a headlamp and flashlight (even during the day)
  • Carry car keys, wallet, ID, cell phone, and spare battery
  • Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated
  • Put “Supply Kit” in your vehicle


  • Shut all windows and doors, leaving them unlocked
  • Shut off air conditioning and heating units
  • Close fireplace doors and damper
  • Remove flammable window shades, lightweight curtains, and close metal shutters
  • Leave your lights on so firefighters can see your house under smoky conditions


  • Gather up flammable items from the exterior of the house and bring them inside (i.e. patio furniture, children’s toys, doormats, etc.) or place them in your pool
  • Turn off outdoor propane tanks
  • Connect garden hoses to outside taps
  • Do not leave sprinklers on or water running – they can waste critical water pressure needed by the Fire Department
  • Leave exterior lights on
  • Disconnect electric garage door from the motor
  • Pull your car out of the garage if you are unable to manually open your garage door in case you lose power
  • If you can manually open your garage, back the car into the garage and shut the doors and windows
  • Keep the garage door closed until you are ready to leave
  • Disconnect motor on automatic gates. Leave gates open and unlocked
  • If you have a ladder, place it against your roof in a visible location
  • Seal attic and ground vents with pre-cut plywood or commercial seals

If you are trapped: Survival Tips

  • Alert your family and neighbors
  • Close all exterior doors
  • Shelter away from outside walls, opposite the approaching fire
  • Have your fire extinguisher available
  • Fill up your sinks and back tubs with water and have a bucket available in case you lose water pressure and need to extinguish small fires
  • Patrol inside your home for spot fires and extinguish them
  • Stay hydrated
  • Ensure you can exit the home if it catches fire (remember- if it is hot inside the house it is much hotter outside)
  • After the fire has passed, check your roof and extinguish any fires, sparks, or embers
  • Check inside the attic for hidden embers
  • Patrol your property and extinguish small fires
  • If there are spot fires you cannot extinguish yourself, call 9-1-1

Evacuating Your Animals

You play an important role in helping your pets stay safe in a wildfire. Make sure they are included in your family’s evacuation plan.

Some Tips:

  • Bring smaller pets inside at the early signs of a wildfire – that way if an evacuation notice is issued, they will be close and you won’t have to spend time searching for them outdoors.
  • If an evacuation is imminent, place the pets in carriers near the front door, with extra food and water.
  • Many human evacuation centers cannot accept pets due to health and safety regulations. It is important to have an alternate plan for your pets if you plan on staying at a public provided shelter.

The Santa Barbara Equine Assistance and Evac Team is available to assist residents who have large animals, have been evacuated, and/or need assistance. Their volunteers are trained and registered Disaster Service Workers under the Office of Emergency Services in California.

The Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade webpage is a great resource to help prepare yourself, your family, and your neighborhood for the next emergency. This includes a Neighborhood Action Kit to help with resilience team building and your neighborhood emergency preparedness plans.

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