TILLAMOOK COUNTY WELLNESS: Be Prepared – Not Scared: Emergency Preparedness Takes on New Meaning in Tillamook County after 2020’s Pike Road Fire

By Laura Swanson, Tillamook County Wellness Advisory Committee Member

Tillamook County is known for its emergency preparedness – for storms, winds and floods. Last year’s wildfire in Bay City was a different kind of emergency.  With the early onset of wildfire season in 2021, the Tillamook County board of commissioners gathered local fire departments, state forestry, and county agencies to review the Pike Road fire response and make plans to do better. One of the most important keys for residents is being prepared for ANY emergency and knowing where to go to get accurate information. “One of the most important things people can do is signup for alerts,” said Tillamook County Emergency Manager Gordon McCraw. “If you don’t have a landline anymore, our Everbridge Alert Notification System – when we call you to evacuate – works for the numbers you register, but you gotta signup.”   Here is the link to https://oralert.gov/ and it’s easy to signup. Nixle alerts is another system that Tillamook County uses as well at www.nixle.com.

The extreme wildfires in southern and northeastern Oregon and elsewhere in the region have fire-fighting resources stretched thin according to Kate Skinner, Tillamook District Forester. That’s why it’s even more important that people are prepared and aware of the extremely dry conditions.  Most areas of Oregon are under full fire closures.  If you are travelling, it’s always a good idea to carry a shovel and several gallons of water.  There have been numerous reports of “spot” fires along highways that have been extinguished or stopped from spreading by aware, prepared travelers.

“We know folks are experiencing some stress over the Tillamook State Forest Game Hog Creek Fire, which is now in the mop up stages, so this is an excellent opportunity to set up your emergency preparedness game,” said McCraw. “When you’re prepared for an emergency, any type of emergency, it gives you and your family peace of mind knowing – hey – we’ve got a plan, we have our go-bags, we know what to do.”

Here’s a reminder about evacuation levels – you should always “be ready.”

Understanding what to do to increase your safety can help address that fear, and if or when you need to evacuate, you can do so safely and be sure to bring:

  • An emergency food and water supply.
  • An emergency medicine supply. Make a plan to keep medications that need refrigeration cold.
  • Emergency power sources for medical devices and flashlights (don’t forget extra batteries).
  • Safety and personal items, including a face covering and hand sanitizer to protect against COVID. Remember: face coverings do not protect against wildfire smoke.
  • Important documents, including medical documents, proof of vaccination, wills, passports and personal identification.

During an emergency is NOT when you should be assembling your go kit or go bag. Now’s the time to do that.  Here is a helpful resource with a list of what to include: https://www.ready.gov/kit.

And this website is a great resource for up-to-date information about wildfires across the region: https://wildfire.oregon.gov/

Be Prepared – Not Scared.  Tillamook County is ready for an emergency if all of our residents are prepared as well.  Sign-up for Nixle alerts, make a plan, have your go-bag ready.

For more local health and wellness information, visit www.tillamookcountywellness.org or follow Tillamook County Wellness on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.