“Thousands flee wildfires in the US and Canada” was a headline in Monday’s paper. Having witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of fast moving wildfires, my heart went out to those in harm’s way. As hot weather continues to cause explosive wildland fires across the West, I felt it was again necessary to talk about the evacuation procedures we have in place in Southern Oregon.

Several years ago we introduced the evacuation and preparedness program: Ready, Set, Go!. This program has been adopted by local emergency service agencies and will be part of our emergency response system for years to come. Ready, Set, Go! may be used for any emergency, not just for fires. Incident commanders as well as the media will be referring to it when evacuations have been ordered.

The "Be Ready" level, also known as green Level 1, means you should be prepared and be aware. The "Be Set" level, or yellow Level 2, means that you must be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. The "Go!" level, or red Level 3, means you must leave immediately.

Let’s talk more about green Level 1, Be Ready.

Be Ready, or being prepared and aware, is always important, but particularly so to Ashland residents during the hot summer months. You do not have to live among the trees to be at risk. A swift moving brush and grass fire has just as much potential to cause extensive fire damage as does a forest fire. We recommend that all residents of Ashland Be Ready throughout each fire season. Be prepared by having a “go kit” with essential basic items such as food, water, medications, vital documents or data, chargers, etc. — enough for several days away from home. Have this kit in a location that is known by all family members and can be quickly accessed if you need to leave home.

It is also important to have a communication plan known to all family members. How will you communicate if you’re not together if an evacuation is ordered? Discuss this ahead of time. Remember it is better to text than to talk during an emergency. Create and practice an evacuation plan with all family members. Where will you meet after evacuating? You should determine a local and regional location to meet at. Don’t forget your pet’s needs.

Be Ready also means being aware. Know the current fire conditions and weather forecast. In Ashland you can listen to emergency updates on your radio at 1700 AM. You can also call the Wildfire and Smoke hotline at 541-552-2490.

Additionally, every citizen in Jackson and Josephine County should sign up for Citizens Alert. Citizen Alert is a version of Reverse 911. While there is no perfect means to receive emergency information, Citizen Alert gives you the best chance of staying informed. Opting-in allows you to give the system multiple means to contact you. You can opt-in by going to www.ashland.or.us and clicking on Opt-in to Citizen Alert (near the bottom of the page). Bottom line, we can’t tell you to Go! if we can’t reach you.

Remember:

• Level 1, Green, Be Ready!

• Level 2, Yellow, Be Set!

• Level 3, Red, Go!

David Shepherd is interim fire chief for Ashland Fire & Rescue. Email his at david.shepherd@ashland.or.us.