Photo: Greg Doyle

family emergency plan

Photo: Will Wicks


Wildfires are just that—wild, unpredictable and massively powerful forces of nature. The best place to be is far away from the destruction. The Fire and Sheriff’s departments will issue an Evacuation Warning, Evacuation Order, or a Shelter in Place advisory based on Topanga Zones.


When an Evacuation Warning is issued by authorities, you should prepare to leave the Canyon. This is also the time to evacuate those in need of special assistance and large animals.

Evacuation Warnings often turn into Evacuation Orders, so it’s best to get your Emergency Plan together as quickly as possible and then leave as soon as you can. Evacuating early helps you avoid gridlock on Topanga’s narrow roads and could make it easier for you to get to safety.


  • Get family members ready to leave.
  • Extend garden hoses with nozzles around your home. Firefighters may be able to put out spot fires with your hoses once the fire has passed. Please note that garden hoses are ineffective in fighting a wildland fire.
  • Close all windows and doors to keep embers from blowing inside.
  • Open or take down any flammable drapes or window coverings.
  • Gather all items on your evacuation lists and put them in your car.
  • Fill sinks and bathtubs with water. Fill trash cans and buckets with water and place them around your house for easy access by firefighters.
  • Move furniture away from windows and sliding glass doors.
  • If you have children in school, follow the school’s Disaster Plan.

    An Evacuation Order is a directive from the Sheriff and Fire Department to leave your home or business immediately. Failure to follow an Evacuation Order could put your own life and those of your neighbors along with firefighters and other emergency responders in jeopardy. As with Evacuation Warnings, Evacuation Orders will be issued for specific Topanga Zones.


  • Put everything on your evacuation lists plus your disaster supply kit in your car.
  • Dress in layered clothing: long pants and long sleeve cotton shirt (avoid synthetic fabrics which are less resistant to heat and flames), sturdy shoes (no sandals or flip flops), head covering (cap or towel), dry bandana or scarf to cover your mouth (do not wet the bandana), eye covering such as goggles or safety glasses. Do not wet yourself down.
  • Immediately leave your home or business.
  • Follow directions from Sheriff and Fire Department personnel.
  • Drive carefully at a safe speed with your headlights on.
  • Never park or leave your vehicle where it could pose a hazard.
  • Keep pets in carriers or on leashes.
  • Stay calm and head to an appropriate evacuation location you previously identified in your Family Emergency Plan.

    Depending on the intensity, direction and speed of a wildfire, the condition of roadways, weather patterns and other factors, authorities may determine that evacuating the canyon is no longer safe. In these circumstances, a Shelter in place order may be issued for specific Topanga Zones.

    Shelter in place means to make yourself as safe as possible in your current location. Unfortunately, because there are so many variables unique to individual homes and other potential canyon locations, LA County Fire cannot provide definitive action steps for Shelter in place. TCEP suggests searching the internet for general guidance. Early evacuation is going to be your safest action in a wildfire scenario. Getting out of the area before you are directly threatened by flames can help prevent the need for sheltering in place.