When the Almeda fire broke out last September, residents had very little, if any, time to evacuate, some leaving everything behind and starting from scratch.
“A lot of people feel like it’s not really going to happen to me, so when we have an event like we did last year, it’s compelling for people. We don’t think of having wildfires in places that are really congested, in city limits, that’s not usually affected by wildfires, so what happened last year, I think, caused a lot of people to realize that it is possible that it happens in our area, where we live, in the city limits,” says Rikki Perrin, education and outreach coordinator for Josephine County Emergency Management.
She says people shouldn’t wait until it’s too late to be prepared, citing studies that say people often grab items they don’t need in a moment of panic. She also says people start to lose fine motor skills, and the ability to think reasonable and rationally in an emergency.
“You really want to know what you’re going to grab, why you’re going to grab it, and where you keep it, so we encourage people to have a grab-and-go binder, with a list of things in it that you absolutely have to have. So, you’d have, in an emergency, follow these steps, so you’re not thinking, you’re following the steps you decided on ahead of time,” Perrin says.
Perrin suggests finding a large pack that’s comfortable, one that you would want to carry and wear. Then, she says, pack it with the things you’ll need for survival for a few days.
“If I need to have quick access to something, I want to be able to wash my hands, I use this little pocket paper soap and in my other pocket here, toilet paper, I keep a whistle right here, people bags, not just dog bags and my little flashlight. I have my bucket that’s collapsible and my cup that’s collapsible. I have my water filtration stuff right here, I have drops, I have filters that will work. You need to be able to filter at a viral level, so you need to make sure your filter can do that,” Perrin says, “One of the most important things you can have, this is highly recommended, everywhere I have room, I shove gauze. I have my little first-aid kit, which isn’t the best, but I do have gauze, I have my Sam Splint, and ace bandages in case there is some kind of injury.”
She says on top of all the equipment, it’s also important to have skills and be able to use the equipment if necessary. In her pack, she also has a couple of good knives, a small bag of toiletries, fire starters, and items for shelter.
“It doesn’t have to be a life tent, but some kind of shelter that’s easy to put up. A tarp is great, but it’s heavy and it’s cumbersome and if you’re going to use paracord of some kind, it needs to be 750-pound paracord so it’s worth something. But you should also know how to tie knots if you’re going to use something like that,” Perrin says.
She packs food and clothes as well, switching out the food when needed and changing up the clothes based on the seasons. Once you have your go bag how you want it, Perrin suggests practicing emergency.
“We really encourage people to do drills and time themselves, if you have to be able to get out of your house in less than 5 minutes, then you should practice that. That means, everything you want to take with you, including people and pets, you have to make sure it all fits in your car,” Perrin says.
The bottom line, Perrin says it’s all about being prepared.
“It’s hard for people to think about, it’s sad for people to think about, but ultimately it’s how you recover.”