The Peninger fire in Central Point revealed some glaring holes in my evacuation plan.
I had decided to create an evacuation plan several months ago. When a natural disaster strikes, we often do not have much time to decide what we want to do. I had decided to designate one shelf in my closet for several containers of financial records that I would want to take. I also decided to take the contents of my desk file drawer. My dogs and their records would also be on my evacuation list.
Around 4 p.m., I received a recorded phone call that said there was a fire and the evacuation order was a Level 3. I didn’t know what Level 3 was, but it sounded more urgent than Level 1 or 2.
Then my suspicious side kicked in.
As an older person, I am used to getting phone calls and emails that are scams, like the phone call from the IRS agent advising me to call right away to resolve a tax problem. I worked for the IRS, so I know they never call anyone about a tax problem. They always send a letter.
I particularly enjoyed the email from the nice Nigerian man who had access to $8 million, and all I had to do was send him $50,000 and we could split the money. His email was full of misspelled words. If you’re going to be a crook, buy a dictionary!
Was the phone call about evacuating some scam to get me out of my house for some nefarious purpose? I turned on the television, and the news confirmed that Central Point residents were advised to evacuate due to a fire about two miles away. I hit the panic button. I got the records off my shelf in the closet. I took some files out of my desk. Then I started looking for my dogs’ leashes. Then I went from room to room trying to decide if there was anything else I wanted to take. A sense of panic set in. I got the dogs in the car and headed over to my sister’s apartment.
A lot of my neighbors were standing in their front yards talking to their neighbors. It was like a scene in the alien invasion movies where the unsuspecting humans are huddling together and pointing toward the sky. When I got to the main street out of my neighborhood, the road was clogged with traffic and no cars were moving. I started to think it was going to be very difficult to make a left turn. One driver noticed me and stopped to let me make my turn. Granted, we weren’t fighting over the last lifeboat seat on the Titanic, but his courteous gesture was much appreciated in my somewhat frantic state.
I spent several hours at my sister’s apartment and called a neighbor around 8 p.m. She said that people were being let back into the neighborhood. I drove home happy to see my house standing. The next morning when I drove out of the neighborhood, I saw that the fire had burned right up the edge of our neighborhood. It was probably only about one mile away from my house.
I realized from my state of panic the previous evening that I need a more complete evacuation plan. I called the Forestry Department and asked them what the levels were for evacuation. Level 1 means get ready — gather up whatever you want to take with you. Level 2 means get set — pack up your car and get ready to leave. Level 3 means GET THE HECK OUT OF THERE!
I also decided that I need a one-page check list to make sure I did everything I needed to do. The list would include what items I wanted to take to make sure I didn’t forget anything. I would also include other things — like make sure I locked the front door, turned off the air conditioning, the oven, etc. I decided to put a box in the garage labeled “evacuation” and put extra items in it, such as dog leashes, bowls, water, etc.
The best evacuation plan is one you never have to use. But if you do need to evacuate, be sure that you are ready and that you don’t forget something important in the rush to leave.
Cheryl Pearson lives in Central Point.
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