Disaster Preparedness Profile: Wildfires

Sep 2, 2020 | Organization, Procedures

Stephanie Berry, Writer and Editor for All Things Admin

Stephanie lives in a fairly rural valley in southern Oregon where wildfires are always a concern. However, they are generally limited to the mountains surrounding the area. While a wildfire had never directly impacted her family, the resultant smoke from distant fires often caused hazardous air quality, cancellation of outdoor events, and reduced visibility on roads.

In July 2018, an illegal burn sparked a wildfire less than two miles from her home. She was at home with her three children, three cats, and two dogs when she walked out back and noticed a giant plume of smoke rising. The sirens started soon after.

In the time it took her to call her husband, who was at work 20 miles from home, a Level I – Get Ready evacuation order was issued. By the time she had the animals and kids rounded up, they were already at a Level II – Get Set order.

Stephanie has been integral in creating our disaster preparation materials for several years now. So she knew what she should be doing – namely, gathering important documents, family heirlooms, prescription medications, etc. But in the moment, she did none of that. “I just froze,” she said. “I got the kids and the animals, and we left.”

Ultimately, the fire burned more than 100 acres and caused one death. All homes were spared, although some were heavily damaged. Several outbuildings were deemed a total loss.

Fortunately, the wind shifted the fire away from the town, evacuation orders were lifted a few hours later, and everyone was home safe in their beds that night.

“The thing about disasters is that they happen fast,” she says. “And while you may know what you’re supposed to do when the fire isn’t breathing down your neck, all of that goes out the window when you’re facing the flames.”

Stephanie’s Wildfire Tips

“You don’t have as much time as you think you have. Fire moves quickly, and one shift in the wind can bring it towards you or send it in the other direction. If you decide to wait and see, you may be putting your family in danger. Always pay attention to the evacuation orders and leave before you think you need to.”

“It’s important to have all of your important documents in one area. You don’t have time to be tracking down birth certificates, insurance cards, or other hard-to-replace documents. I now have a lockbox with everything in it that can be grabbed on my way out the door.”

“Have a family plan and an established meeting place in case your family is separated when a disaster happens. It was sheer dumb luck that all my kids were home that day, since they’re generally scattered to the winds; and at the time, my younger two didn’t have cell phones. (They definitely do now!) If they hadn’t been home, I would have had no idea what to do.”

© 2020 Julie Perrine International, LLC

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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures. 

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