Whether it’s an ice storm, a wildfire, or another natural disaster, volunteers from Benton County Community Emergency Response Team (BCCERT) have been trained to help their neighbors respond. Pam Wilson is a retired teacher and a trained BCCERT member who has created this blog post series to help Benton County residents prepare for emergencies. This is the fifth installment.
With Benton County’s early entry into “fire season” this year and the recent Red Flag warning – I’ve decided to discuss these issues. An excessive heat warning was issued for June 26 and on June 27 Corvallis recorded a high temperature of 110°F (!!!!). When it’s hot, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids, stay out of the sun, check on relatives and neighbors, make sure pets are OK and help younger family members stay safe. The CDC has a succinct graphic of symptoms and first aid for heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn, and heat rash. Airnow.gov monitors air quality by zip code. When it is very hot, Benton County opens cooling centers. Learn about their cooling centers here.
Red Flag Warnings are issued by the National Weather Service when temperatures are up, relative humidity down, less than 40%, dewpoint down, there are dry (high) fuel loads and sustained winds of 10 to 20 mph with additional gusts and a chance for dry lightning. Our first Red Flag Warning came on April 15th, the earliest recorded. Red Flag warnings can be a trigger for power companies to shut down electricity, so lines don’t add to fire potential.
Linn Benton Alert System – The system sends out Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 alert notices. Take a moment to update your information in the system; scroll down and choose “Emergency Alert.” If you don’t want it coming to your land line (or do), update. Make sure numbers and email addresses are correct. Review what the evacuation notice levels mean so you are sure what to do.
- Level 1 – Be Ready
Pay attention – what’s going on around you? Monitor media, the NWS radio channel. Gather supplies, have a route in mind. Start packing the car. Check with neighbors – what are their plans – do they need help?
- Level 2 – Be Set
Load vehicle, gather pets, load animals, prepare your home. Keep monitoring media. Leave if ready and feel you should go. This creates space on the evacuation route.
- Level 3 – Go now!
Imminent threat. Once you leave, you won’t be allowed to re-enter until the fire threat is clear.
Pay Attention – The Oregon Department of Forestry has all kinds of current fire data including maps, regulations, a listing of prohibited activities during fire season: of course, these are tempered with common sense and an awareness of what is happening in this valley where we live!
Prohibited activities during fire season:
- Use of sky lanterns year around in Oregon
- Use of exploding targets and tracer ammunition
- Backyard debris burning
- No mowing dry, cured grass from 1 – 8 PM
- No power saw use from 1-8 PM. Safety requirements are: shovel, fire extinguisher and water
To follow current fires in the state and country, monitor the Incident Information System map.