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Evacuation will be a learning experience

It’s only a drill, but the City of Ashland is planning an evacuation for the morning of Saturday, July 20.

To simulate a real emergency, an alert will be sent to all of Ashland via the city’s Nixle notification system.

Acting Fire Chief David Shepherd said a notification will be sent to residents Thursday to let them know Saturday’s alert is only a drill.

“We have done tabletop exercises in the past, but this is the first time we’ve done an actual drill involving citizens of Ashland,” Shepherd said.

A selected neighborhood will participate to help staff and residents prepare for a real emergency. Those who are selected will be notified with instructions via mail beforehand. Only those who are notified will participate in the exercise.

Mayor John Stromberg and city staff have stressed the importance of a planned exercise for months, but especially after last year’s devastating fires.

“If you think about it, evacuation is a very community-centric process in the sense that we have to coordinate with other evacuees smoothly and sometime creatively, if we are to save our own lives and possibly those of our family member, neighbors and pets,” Stromberg said in a press release.

City Administrator Kelly Madding said the goal is for city staff and residents to learn more about what a real evacuation might look and feel like, and to improve the process for a real-life situation.

“While it is common for city staff to do exercises on paper, it is unique to do a live drill,” Madding said. “But it is only by conducting a live exercise that the positive actions and gaps can be understood. There will likely be hiccups, but we can all learn from this to be better prepared should a real evacuation be necessary.”

Participating residents will leave their homes and go to a designated shelter in town. Staff will be at the shelter to collect information about the evacuation process.

According to city officials, in the case of a real emergency the department heads of the fire, police and public works departments would head the evacuation process. City staff and CERT volunteers would help residents navigate out of town.

Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.