Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us

by Dave Robinson

Dave Robinson

Wildfire Evacuation
Originally published September 04, 2013

When it is no longer safe to live in your home, then it’s time to evacuate. Some evacuations are middle-of-the-night, grab what you can and run because the water heater just set the house on fire. But more often we think of evacuating in the face of a hurricane, tornado, or other cataclysmic event. Then there are the times that you have a little more warning. In past columns, I haven’t dwelt too much on evacuation because in our region, hurricanes and tornadoes are just not that common.

All that changed for several residents of Southern Oregon these past few weeks. On Friday, July 26, some 311 lightning strikes ignited fires in Coos, Douglas and Josephine Counties. Within three days 3600 firefighters, 17 helicopters, 142 wildland fire engines, 22 bulldozers and 6 air tankers were on the scene, battling the scores of fires which have now grown to cover nearly 45,000 acres.

According to officials, 470 homes were threatened and hundreds were ordered to evacuate their homes. In Oregon, evacuation orders are issued by the County Sheriff, although the actual door-to-door work can be with the cooperation of the various agencies battling the fire.

Paul Ries, Public Information Officer with the Oregon Department of Forestry, gave me a rundown on how evacuations are handled. When it comes to wildland fires, there are three levels of evacuation notices with which folks should be familiar. Level 1 is to 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. A Level 3 notice is an order to leave immediately, that imminent danger exists and there is no time to gather personal belongings.

According to Ries some were more “disaster-ready” than others. Each family was told to consider the 5 “P’s” when making plans to evacuate. The 5 “P’s” include People and Pets (and other livestock too), 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.

Miraculously, at this writing, there have been no homes lost and some families are being allowed back into their houses. Residents were quick to praise the high level of professionalism of the various agencies and the manner in which each facet of the evacuations were carried out.

Get a Kit, Make a Plan, and Be Informed is still the theme for every disaster. The best time to make ready is now, before the event.

As always, send your comments and questions to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.

Note: Dave Robinson is Bandon's Postmaster and has worked for the postal service for 30 years. He has a background in law enforcement, served in the Air Force in Vietnam, worked nine years for the Coos County Sheriff's Department, and serves on the Myrtle Point School Board, where he lives.

additional columns by Dave Robinson