Commentary | Three simple steps could save your life in a wildfire emergency

Piedmont's Fire Chief Dave Brannigan

Many Piedmonters vividly remember the 1991 Tunnel Fire in the Oakland hills, which killed 25 people and destroyed more than 2,500 homes. While Piedmont escaped the devastation twenty-six years ago, the threat remains today, even more present now because of climate change, which has made wildfires more frequent and destructive than before.

As your Fire Chief, I strive daily to ensure our City government is poised to protect this community in a disaster. But I also know that in an emergency, the best efforts of public agencies alone will not be enough. Our community needs to prepare, too. Today, I ask every Piedmonter to take three simple steps to be more ready for a wildfire.

#1: Know how to get information

First, make sure we can reach you in a disaster. If you aren’t yet registered for AC Alert emergency notifications, sign up now. Piedmont and Alameda County public safety officials will use AC Alert to send evacuation warnings and orders in a fire, earthquake, or other emergency. Visit or text your zip code to 888-777 now to register.

I also encourage everyone to bookmark on your computer and phone. In a wildfire, emergency responders will use this site to post real-time, location-specific evacuation instructions and updates.

#2: Have a go-bag ready

The next thing everyone should do is pack or refresh a “go-bag.” In a wildfire, you could have only moments to leave. Everyone in your household should have a go-bag ready with the items they’d need if they had to evacuate, like a map, cash, and a paper list of phone numbers for essential contacts. Make sure your go-bag is light enough to carry in case you need to leave your vehicle and evacuate on foot – a real possibility in a disaster.

#3: Identify and practice evacuation routes

Finally, think about what routes you would use to evacuate in a fire. Identify two routes away from your home by car and two by foot. Mark them on the map you keep in your go-bag. For driving routes, focus on main roads that connect with major streets and highways. Bigger roads with more capacity are less likely to get blocked during an evacuation.

I encourage everyone to review and practice your evacuation routes with your household, carrying your go-bags with you. Regular practice ensures everyone will know what to do in an emergency, when you must act quickly.

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