Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

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At our home, my wife has resolved to work on emergency preparedness this year. Sure, we have a pantry full of food, jugs of water, flashlights and batteries. Heck, anyone living in a rural area keeps those things on hand for comfort in semi-regular storm events.

But how about the really big events or when something very different, like a wildland fire happens? Are you and your family ready?

Some supplies recommended for emergency preparedness
Some supplies recommended for emergency preparedness

My wife has been working to get our family ready for disaster.  Her activities are triggered by a growing scientific and public awareness of the likelihood of a massive earthquake in the Pacific Northwest. Not just fear mongering, there is an abundance of good information about the risk, but also about prudent steps people can take to be prepared. Seems that being prepared is not just for Boy Scouts anymore. So we are putting up supplies to help us ride out the usual as well as a very irregular event.

As rural woodland owners and/or residents, many readers are probably pretty well-versed in preparedness. You are probably better prepared than average for regular winter events, keeping more supplies on hand than many folks do, given the distance to the store. But you face risks that most folks do not. The barrage of stories and information from the likes of me has hopefully made you think about wildland fire, and also to take action regarding prevention and preparation of your house and property to survive a fire.

But how about you and your family? Will you survive?

The summer of 2015 was a dramatic and wrenching reminder of the power of fire. Lives, homes and property were lost across the West. We saw communities and homes burn, with people fleeing with little more than their lives. Although more common on the east side, wildland fire is a major concern here around the Willamette Valley too.

Are you prepared for a fire in your neighborhood? Preparedness for fire does not share a lot with preparedness for other disasters, where the key may be stocking up to hunker down. With fire, the key may be escape.

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Do you and your family have an evacuation plan?

If not, please make a commitment to prepare one. Make it a goal for this winter’s indoor work.

What does fire evacuation preparedness look like? Not surprisingly, California has some great resources on that. I recommend you visit the Ready for Wildfire website to start your planning process. It walks you through the steps of Being Ready (themes of: Defensible Space and Hardening your Home), Getting Set (Family Communication Plan, Wildfire Action Plan, Emergency Supply Kit) and GO! Evacuation Guide (Pre-evacuation Preparedness, Evacuation Steps, and What to do if Trapped).

pod_45I know everyone hopes (and subconsciously believes) they will never need this, which makes it hard to get around to. Also, we assume we will have some warning. After all, most fires start in some distant wilderness, right? No! Fire is more likely to start around people, like from some neighbor’s burn barrel. You cannot assume there will be much time.

So here is a reality check about your most basic readiness.
The Ready for Wildfire website tells you to remember the Six “P’s”
• People & pets
• Papers, phone numbers & important documents
• Prescriptions & eyeglasses
• Pictures & irreplaceable memorabilia
• Personal computers, hard drives and discs
• “Plastic” (Credit Cards, ATM) & cash

If you had to start right NOW, how long would it take you to identify, find and pack all those things? It should be a matter of minutes, not hours. So, how ready are you?

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