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At-Home Readiness for Fire and Water

Simple Steps to Protect Your Home Heading into Fall and Winter

With sundowner weather and winter on the way, now’s a good time to inspect your home and take protective measures. | Credit: Courtesy

With summer fading out, fall arrives with seasonal wind events followed by wet weather. Now is a good time of year to make brief inspections of your primary residence, checklist in hand. 

Marking peak wildfire season throughout Santa Barbara County, the fall months often bring formidable sundowners across the region. These hot winds out of the north are notorious for driving mountain wildfires into residential areas along the wildland-urban interface, or WUI (pronounced “WOO-ee” in firefighter circles).

For residents living in or near the WUI, firefighting agencies urge steady vigilance year-round, particularly during peak wildfire season. For easy-to-follow details, visit readyforwildfire.org, keeping three main protective measures in mind: 

  • Defensible space
  • Home hardening
  • Fire-resistant landscaping

In recent years, the most destructive firestorms in state history have been caused by the electrical arcing of power lines during high-wind events. Southern California Edison and PG&E have responded with a plan to shut down large sections of the electrical grid ahead of such events, depending on the forecast. In Santa Barbara County, this is called a PSPS (Public Safety Power Shutoff), and it’s already been implemented. 

In planning for these shutoffs around your property, consider this: 

  • Santa Barbara County public-safety officials recommend that residents need to be prepared to endure an outage lasting as long as 5-7 days. 
  • Be prepared for disruptions in communication services, water, sanitation, transportation, and at-home medical devices that require electricity. 
  • Do you know how to operate your garage door and/or automatic driveway gate when there’s a power outage? If not, learn. 

For the full scope of PSPS readiness in Santa Barbara County, visit readysbc.org.

On a lighter note, is your house ready for a typical season of wet weather? This isn’t about flood insurance — though it’s not a bad idea to revisit your coverage if you haven’t looked at your policy in a while — so much as taking easy steps toward protecting your home against less conspicuous water damage.

  • Take a look at your property’s drainage system to make sure rain gutters and catch basins are clear of leaves, dirt, and other debris that could cause clogging and backup.
  • Ahead of winter rains, inspect the plaster weep screed at the perimeter of your home to ensure it’s not buried by soil or mulch, which could lead to rot as moisture from the soil or mulch soaks into the stucco. A weep screed allows moisture to drain and also prevents moisture from migrating into stucco walls. Water from built-up soil or mulch can wick as far as three feet into the stucco.
  • Ensure that built-up soil immediately around your home is several inches below the weep screed or wood framing.
  • A good rule of thumb is that the finish grade around your structures slopes away at a ¼-inch-per-foot fall for every six feet.
  • With colder days and rainy weather, reduce irrigation watering times and frequency.

Home is a place to take pride in. Treat it well and keep it safe, and it’ll do the same for you. 

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