What Would You Take With You?

On February 12, the Lake Oroville Dam emergency spillway in Butte County suffered potentially catastrophic damage as a result of erosion secondary to water flow. In response, approximately 188,000 people from counties and cities near Lake Oroville were ordered to immediate evacuate.

Evacuations are more common than many people realize. Almost every year, people living along the coastline on the east coast and along the gulf states are evacuated due to hurricanes. While here in California, most evacuations are caused by wildfires or floods.

Most disasters are the result of some force of nature, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. Some natural disasters can be predicted, such as hurricanes and severe winter storms, while others, such as tornadoes and earthquakes, happen with little or no warning.

The amount of time you have to leave will depend on the impeding hazard or disaster. If the event is a weather condition, such as a hurricane, you might have a day or two to get ready. However, many disasters allow no time for people to gather even the most basic necessities and trying to think of what to save can be very difficult, which is why planning ahead is essential.

“The concept of preparing to evacuate is often difficult for people to grasp,” says Miranda Bowersox, Public Information Officer for the Butte County Sheriff’s Office. “Often times it seems simple to be prepared for an evacuation if an emergency situation seems likely; however, we tend to let our guard down when emergencies are over and life returns to normal.”

Whether the order is voluntary or mandatory, if officials in your area tell you to evacuate, you should do so before things get worse. Failure to follow an evacuation order can place your life in danger by leaving you stranded in an area with no basic services or food and water.

There are a few things that can done in preparation in case you and your family are forced to leave your home. Taking the time now and planning ahead can save you a lot of time, not to mention your life.

  • Establish plans with other family members for meeting up outside of the evacuated area. Make sure each member knows the location of the established meeting points.
  • Have main and alternate routes in North, South, East, and West directions to reach meeting point destinations.
  • Follow recommended evacuation routes. Do not take shortcuts; they may be blocked.
  • If you have a car, keep a full tank of gas in it if an evacuation seems likely. Gas stations may be closed during emergencies and unable to pump gas during power outages.
  • If you do not have a car, plan how you will leave. Make arrangements with family, friends or your local government.
  • Find out about your local shelters or evacuation centers beforehand.
  • Establish an out-of-area contact (such as a relative or friend) who can coordinate family members’ locations and information should you become separated. Make sure each family member knows the phone numbers of this out-of-area contact.
  • Remember to take your pets or make plans for them to stay with friends. Most emergency shelters will only accept service animals that assist people with disabilities.
  • Keep your emergency evacuation plan in a safe place with your emergency supply kit and remember to take your emergency supply kit with you.
  • Finally, take the time to practice your emergency evacuation plan, so that everyone in the family remembers what to do, where to go, and whom to call in an emergency.

Whether the order is voluntary or mandatory, if officials in your area tell you to evacuate, you should do so before things get worse. Failure to follow an evacuation order can place your life in danger by leaving you stranded in an area with no basic services or food and water.

Bowersox reminds us that, “It is important to always be prepared, make a checklist of important items to take with you in the event of an emergency or evacuation. Keeping those items organized and on hand is also important. Emergencies can happen at any time, and it’s difficult to think clearly in the midst of chaos; a checklist can help organize your thoughts during a difficult time.”

Additional Resources:

Emergency Supply Kit

Pet care in an emergency

Ready.gov

Sign up for Emergency Alerts

Red Cross Shelter Information

 

Robb Mayberry

Robb Mayberry is a Public Information Officer for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. He has assisted in the response and recovery efforts with some of California’s worst disasters, including the San Refugio Oil Spill, the Valley and Butte Wildfires, Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, Erskine Fire, and the Winters Storms of 2017. Prior to public service, he spent 25 years managing the public and media relations for some of Northern California’s largest healthcare organizations.

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