If a wildfire is nearby and you need to evacuate, have your medicine, a flashlight, family heirlooms, lots of other essentials and maybe a portable toilet ready to take with you.
The Greater Spokane Emergency Management agency on Friday issued reminders to the public about the meaning of three levels of evacuations and the preparations that should be taken in advance of a potential wildfire in your neighborhood.
The agency said it gave the advice as a result of ongoing confusion among the public as summer heat continues baking the landscape and as a new cold front promises to kick up winds on Saturday into Sunday.
South wind gusts up to 30 mph are expected in the Spokane region on Saturday with a high in the middle 80s.
“We are on high alert, for sure,” said Gerry Bozarth, of the emergency management agency.
He said members of the public are often confused about the meaning of evacuation levels 1, 2 and 3, in part because the fire season is relatively short and evacuations occur randomly, depending on fire locations. People forget from year to year. There have been been at least two Level 3 evacuations this summer in Spokane County.
Bozarth said the system might be thought about as ready-set-go with Level 1 being get ready and levels 2 and 3 being set and go.
Level 1 offers an hour of time to prepare while Level 2 has a 15- to 30-minute time interval. Level 3, the “go” level, offers only five minutes of time.
“People are having some confusion during this wildfire season,” Bozarth said.
His agency has listed items that should be gathered ahead of a potential evacuation, including a portable toilet and toilet paper at Level 2.
Bozarth explained that each evacuation has its own characteristics and human needs.
“It depends on where you are going to be,” he said of the toilet recommendation.
Most of the time, a portable toilet – at its most basic a toilet seat over a bucket – wouldn’t be needed.
“Our hope is in very short order to have the Red Cross open a shelter for those folks who would have to evacuate,” Bozarth said. But in “an extreme emergency” – if it takes a while to get a shelter open – those fleeing a fire may want a toilet with them.
“It’s a comfort item,” Bozarth said.
What you take also is governed by an individual evacuation plan. For example, staying with a friend or relative will have a different level of need than staying out in open country.
The right collection of items to gather up, Bozarth said, “is really determined at the time.”