The devastating Laguna Beach blaze is a reminder to all that the necessity for quick evacuation in the face of fire is always a possibility in this fire-prone area.
There are a number of things you can do that will make the difficult and emotional act of fleeing your home easier if the need arises, fire officials say.
"A lot of these things are common sense," said Fire Safety Officer Karl Feierabend of the Santa Ana Fire Department. "Everybody's evacuation plan is going to be a little bit different, but there are steps everybody should take."
Here are some suggestions:
* Make an evacuation plan with your family, discuss it and conduct drills. Think about ways you could exit your house if the main entrance is blocked and the various ways you can leave your neighborhood. Store folding escape ladders in rooms above the first floor.
* Consider storing irreplaceable items such as old photographs, jewelry and family heirlooms in a safety deposit box at your bank. If not, store them in a fireproof safe.
* Put together a survival kit that can be carried with you, perhaps in a backpack. It should include first aid supplies, prescription medicines, money, important documents, personal hygiene items, extra clothing, bedding, portable radios, some food and, if applicable, baby food and diapers.
* Because not everyone may be home when an evacuation is called--the children may be in school or your spouse may be at work--designate a friend or relative who lives outside the area as someone for family members to call when they reach safety. Many families were separated during the Laguna Beach evacuation Wednesday and much worry could have been avoided if members had used this method to locate each other.
* If you think you may have to evacuate, but still have time to prepare, park your car facing outward in the driveway (in case you need to move quickly). Close any heavy curtains (helps keep heat from radiating through windows) and close the doors. Turn off air conditioners and furnaces and close up the fireplace.
* When the police or fire department orders the evacuation, don't argue. Get your family and possessions together. Lock up your house. Listen to police officers and firefighters--they will direct you away from danger and to an evacuation center. And offer rides to neighbors who might need them.
* Once you're out, stay out. Never linger inside a burning or threatened house or go back in for any reason.
* Remember that your house and many of your belongings are replaceable; you're not.