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The Dirt | Emergency Preparedness Tips #11

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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 eleventh installment.


Emergency Services, Burn Piles, and Water Storage

I’m breathing easier because we didn’t evacuate this summer! But next summer could be hotter and longer. I’m using this winter to refine my planning and physically complete fire-proofing not accomplished this summer – move the woodpile 30 feet from the house, take down the double-boled Port Orford Cedar and a Ponderosa Pine, both too close to the house. A sickly-looking cedar at the end of the driveway may also come down. If it falls, it blocks our road. I hate cutting trees but see no other fire-proofing strategy beyond what we’ve already done. When this place was built 70+ years ago, living with wildfire was not a concern – is this the situation many of you find yourself in?

Now is a good time to go back to your “go bags” – take out shorts and sleeveless tops; repack with autumn/winter clothes. Make sure your kids clothes still fit! Swap out any food that is close to or past expiration. Update the flash drive with all your information.

My neighbors have asked questions about fire, water, and emergency services, so I will address those questions in this blog post.


Emergency Services

Life Flight

There was a question about Life Flight; a membership program for emergency air medical transport in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington with reciprocity in parts of California, Nevada and Alaska. The cost is $65/year. When I picked up the brochure at Fire Station #1 in Corvallis, I asked questions and was assured that if I purchased this membership, they would not send a helicopter to my house instead of an ambulance. The way I understand this membership, is that it’s a great thing to consider if I was making trips to the “outback of nowhere” or still driving to Alaska every other year. To enroll go to Call 800-982-9299 to get more information or a brochure.


FireMed Program

On the other hand, I have been for years, a member of Corvallis Fire Department’s FireMed program. The program covers a household – spouses and/or domestic partners, dependent children and/or parents. This program helps reduce or minimize ‘out of pocket’ expenses associated with ambulance transport. I’ve used this service at least three times living out here. In each instance, the entire ride was covered. This April, in Vancouver, my co-pay for a ride to Legacy Salmon Creek was $120; the bill was $1500+. As of 2021, FireMed membership is $65.00/year. For information, to obtain an application or to see if this is what you need – call 541-766-6952, email:, or visit the FireMed membership webpage.



The second question had to do with water storage – how to, how much, where to store and what kind. If you lost your garden this year, researching water for survival gardens might be where you spend time. In terms of water preparedness, there are four areas to consider – storage, treatment, filtering and a category of questions/concerns that pertain only to you. I want to look closely at other ways to disinfect water and clean water, how to store water and filters in the next few weeks. Preparedness sites like and are featuring water in all sorts of configurations from 4 oz packs with a 5 year shelf life to canned water. This column answers the two specific questions about emergency preparation of water received from neighbors.

  1. Boiling water: bring water to a rolling boil. Boil one full minute. Time from after the pot is fully boiling; not from the time you first see some boiling. Many let it cool then store. If water has come from an “outdoor” source, filter it first.
  2. A makeshift filter: pour water to treat through coffee filters. You can also use t-shirts, towels or cloth napkins placed in a strainer or secured tightly over a bowl or jar. I’ll talk about commercial filters next time.
  3. The second question had to do with using bleach to disinfect water. Use regular bleach – no additives or scents. Bleach has a six month shelf life from the date on the jug. After that, it becomes less effective. You have to use more bleach but I found no instructions as to how much more bleach! So be warned, if your bleach is past 6 months old, it will take more, but nobody agrees on how much more. Chemically disinfected water smells and tastes horrible which means some people won’t drink or use it in cooking. You can let treated water sit longer so it “off-gases” some of the chemical. Others filter treated water. Some mix in a powdered fruit drink mix like lemonade or kool-aid because the ascorbic acid helps convert the chlorine to tasteless chloride but if you don’t use these items in your normal life, don’t count on them working in an emergency! Several different resources gave this rule of thumb for purifying water.
Volume WaterVolume Bleach for Clear WaterVolume Bleach for Cloudy Water
Quart/Liter2 drops4 drops
1 gallon1/8 tsp. (8 drops)1/4 tsp. (16 drops)
5 gallons½ tsp.1 tsp.
10 gallons1 tsp.2 tsp.
55 gallons5½ tsp.11 tsp.


Lastly, leave those burn piles alone! This blog post is being published in early October of 2021 and we haven’t had that much rain! Check this Benton County webpage for burn tips and it will direct you to your fire district for current allowable burning. And if you haven’t already, clean those chimneys before you fire up your pellet or wood stoves. If you can’t remember the last time you did it, it’s time! Chimney fires are no joke and with foresight they are preventable!