Wildland fires in Washington, Oregon and California are making news all up and down the West Coast. Drought conditions the past few years have created an abundance of fuel, now dry, that is feeding huge blazes in California. Currently, fires in Washington State are affecting air quality throughout the Northwest and parts of California. Dozens of homes have been lost making it necessary for hundreds of folks to evacuate their homes.
The need for evacuation is rare in our region as we don’t have the hurricanes, tornados, or some of the other major weather events to which the rest of the nation is subjected. But at this writing, several major wildland fires are threatening more homes and scorching thousands of acres of forest land.
It happens like this: Just imagine a lightning storm the night before, the news says 47 lightning strikes in our county have ignited 36 fires. Some have been contained, but firefighters from all over the northwest are responding to several fires whose flames have been fanned by offshore winds and dry conditions aren’t helping matters. You are aware there are firetrucks running up and down the roads, airplanes are flying low overhead and just as you are sitting down to dinner a Deputy Sheriff pulls into your driveway. He seems rushed and tells you in a matter-of-fact tone that all the residences in your neighborhood are being evacuated. You have two hours to gather your things and go to a safer location.
A million thoughts are flooding your mind: Where should we go? What should we take? Who does what? Right here is where panic can set in and you literally accomplish nothing of significance! Either that or you can gather your family and hand them each their assignments. The evacuation is underway and you and your loved ones will make an orderly retreat to your brother’s place in the next county.
The experts tell us there are three levels of evacuation: Level 1: Be ready. Residents are encouraged to move livestock and pets out of the area. Evacuation is voluntary at this point. Level 2: Residents are ordered to leave soon! Roads are usually closed and entry to evacuated areas may be denied. Residents may have time to gather necessary items, but will do so at their own risk. Level 3: This is an order to leave immediately, that imminent danger exists and there is no time to gather personal belongings.
Some evacuations are handled by giving the residents a sheet of paper containing some instructions. This can include the 5 “P’s”. The 5 “P’s” include People and Pets (and other livestock), Papers (important documents), Prescriptions, including hearing aids, eyeglasses and your medications, Photographs, so your memories are preserved and last is your Personal Computer. There is often invaluable, irreplaceable data on your hard drive.
Of course, having a complete 72 hour kit at the ready is going to ease the task of what to take, but as always having a plan in place will eliminate a whole lot of confusion when the time comes to evacuate. When you have a plan, the panic factor, not to mention the stress on the marriage, is greatly diminished. Just keep in mind, the time to prepare is NOW, before there is an emergency!
As always send your questions, comments and even your evacuation stories to email@example.com. Previous columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com. Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers