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Better Business Bureau ®
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Dallas and Northeast Texas
BBB Issues Wildfire Preparedness Tips
September 08, 2011

“Go upstairs and get everything you care about.”

An 8-year-old girl said she could not wrap her head around that order. That was years when a wildfire was making its way toward her home in California. Her family had minutes to decide what precious few items they could pack in the car and what would be left to face possible annihilation. She said she packed all her stuffed animals into a large garbage bag only to have to leave them behind when she discovered the bag was too heavy to carry.

Now a grown woman, the resident said such scenarios became old hat during her time in California. She knew to have a bag ready and an emergency plan in place. Once she moved to Central Texas, she thought such preparations were a thing of the past.

From January to August of this year, more than 3.5 million acres in Texas have been burned by wildfire, according to the Office of the Governor. The Insurance Information Institute reported that in 2009, only 753,261 acres burned due to wildfires.

A large fire has raged near Bastrop, and more fires blaze across Central Texas.

In light of the fires ravishing the area, 
Better Business Bureau in Central Texas is advising residents across Texas to have a plan, prepare their homes for a possible wildfire and check out any charities before giving money and items to help fire victims.

To help guide consumers preparing for future fires and looking to help those who have lost their homes, BBB offers the following advice:

· Have a plan. Know what you will do and where you will go should you have to evacuate. The American Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offer tips and materials to help residents plan for wildfires.

· Pack an emergency bag. Have a list of items you will take should you have to evacuate and have as many of them packed and ready to go as is feasible. FEMA compiled a list of important items to help people decide what they need to save in an emergency.

· Prepare your home. The Texas Forest Service recommends following the Ready, Set, Go! plan to help residents prepare their homes for wildfire.

· Protect important documents. BBB recommends consumers purchase a fire safe for important documents — such as passports, birth certificates, insurance contracts and photos — and precious items. Fire safes have ratings that indicate the level of protection they offer, and a higher rating generally means a higher price. Pick the model that is right for your needs.

· Catalogue valuables. Take pictures of your valuables and store them off-site or in a fire safe. This can help the insurance company assess the dollar amount for your losses. Even photos or video taken with a cell phone as you evacuate can be useful.

· Give wisely. Many families will not be able to recover without the assistance of others. However, when donating money or items, be sure you are working with a trustworthy organization.

- Find out where exactly your money and items will go. Does the charity add donations to a general fund or does it have a specific fund set up for fire victims?

- Make sure the charity has experience in relief efforts, especially wildfire damage. Not all disasters are the same and need to be handled differently.

- Visit www.irs.gov to verify that the charity exists and is registered as a 501(c)(3).

- For more tips from BBB on charitable giving, visit http://www.bbb.org/us/Charitable-Giving-Guide/