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How to stress your contingency plan


Thousands of people across Oregon were forced to evacuate this week as wildfires raged on hundreds of thousands of acres of land. There was often little time between a Level 1, or “Ready” notification, and Level 3, or “Start Now”.

This forced many people to make decisions in fractions of a second about what to bring, what to leave, and where to go.

Making those decisions about what to do in an active evacuation scenario is nearly impossibly difficult – even for those of us who cover forest fires and other natural disasters for a living.

This week’s fires are a reminder that very few of us are immune to the dangers of wildfires in Oregon, even in a big city.

“If you have trees or forests or even grasslands anywhere around you, you might be in danger,” said Ed Jan, executive editor of the OPB’s Science and Environment Team.

He has produced Unprepared, a special OPB on earthquake preparedness, and many of these lessons can help us prepare for all kinds of emergency scenarios.

So what can we do in advance to prepare? And there are many more, it turns out.

Get your Operating Kit ready

Having a bag packed, ready to go and stashed in a locker is the first thing you can do to be ready for an unannounced evacuation. The best part is that the well-stocked Mobility Bag will work with any unexpected event, be it a wildfire or an earthquake.

The kit should have sufficient supplies to last at least three days. You will need clothing, rain gear, water bottles, snacks, and other essentials. “Think about what you would need if you had to camp for a few nights in an emergency shelter or even at a friend’s house that might not have electricity or water,” Jan said.

Multnomah County officials recommend that your relocation kit includes the following:

Three days of food that does not need to be refrigerated or cooked for each family member; Three gallons of water for each family member; Battery or hand crank radio (our favorite) extra flashlight batteries; First aid kit; Supply of medicines; Multi-purpose tool; Copies of personal documents, such as insurance and specifying additional cash in small denominations Personal hygiene items A whistle to indicate to ask for help Local maps Adhesive tape Hand can opener Household liquid bleach for water purification, in addition to an eye dropper for measuring, waterproof sticks, baby supplies if needed, animal supplies Pets if needed, rain gear, warm clothing, insect repellent, sunscreen, extra clothing, emergency blankets

Emergency kits can contain everyday household items, such as blankets, non-perishable food, and communication devices such as radios.

Alan Sylvester / OPB

Upload your car

In most evacuation scenarios, the car will be your ticket out of harm’s way. Jan said it makes sense to load extra emergency supplies into the nooks and crannies of your vehicle that you might not normally use.

Transcripts of emergency supplies such as gloves, blankets, rain gear and snacks are recommended.

“We keep even a small stock of cash in case you need to leave the city and the electricity is cut off and you can only pay for petrol,” Jan said.

The American Red Cross also recommends that you always keep your car three-quarters full of your fuel tank in case you need to leave in the event of an emergency.

Rule # 1 to prepare: Know your relative

Jan said the people who will be most important in an emergency will be the people who live near you in your area. So it’s time to put on the mask, and hit some of the neighbors; The doors and talking about them – with social distancing, of course.

“Talk about who has what,” said Yan. “Whoever has an electric saw to open the way. Who has extra water around it, or even water tanks, or medical skills.”

It’s also important to let friends and families know about your emergency plan ahead of time. He said, “If you are on level 1 or 2 of the eviction notice, now is the time to let people know where to go if you evacuate.”

And don’t expect cell phones to work when the actual crisis occurs, so early over-communication is everything.

Trust people want to help

Jan admits that even with the best preparations, a real evacuation situation can be an overwhelming and frightening time. But he sees a positive side in what is happening in the region now:

“The desire of people in Oregon and Washington to help each other is really strong,” he says. “People take pets for others, open their homes to strangers, and offer their yards for horses and livestock.”

So if a crisis occurs, know that you are not alone. Your neighbors, church and community are here to help. Don’t be afraid to lean on them.

You can find more advice from OPB’s “Unprepared” series here.


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