Get Ready, Be Set, Go: evacuation levels explained

Law enforcement officials may ask residents to prepare to evacuate an area at risk of a disaster such as a wildfire. Officials use a three-level system to warn residents that it’s time to Get Ready, Be Set and Go!

Make sure to sign up for Public Alerts to receive emergency notifications: PublicAlerts.org/signup(link is external)

Learn more about the three levels of evacuation below or download this PDF to save and share(link is external).

Level 1: Get Ready

Possible evacuation for your area

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office works closely with fire agencies and other counties to determine if residents need to leave an area for safety. Conditions can change suddenly. You may not receive a Level 2 “Be Set” warning before you are ordered to Level 3 “Go! Evacuate now.”

Monitor public safety and news sites for more information and start preparing for possible evacuation.

Consider accommodations for children, seniors, people with mobility limitations, and pets, horses, and livestock.  People who need help or more time to evacuate — people with disabilities, people with small children, people with medical conditions and people with large animals — should consider evacuating at Level 1.

To “Get Ready”, and if time allows, follow these Pre-Evacuation Preparation Steps:

Pack a Go Kit

Assemble your valuables, essential medications and medical equipment. Include important documents such as passports, birth certificates and insurance information. Make sure you have your computer and phone, a credit card and copies of personal items such as family photos. 

Due to COVID-19, make sure to pack face coverings for every member of the household, as well as hand sanitizer if you have it.

For more ideas about what to include in your Go Kit, visit Ready.Gov(link is external)

Inside

  • Shut windows and doors

  • Remove flammable window shades, curtains and close metal shutters.

  • Remove lightweight curtains.

  • Move flammable furniture to the center of the room, away from windows and doors.

  • Shut off gas at the meter; turn off pilot lights. Only a certified technician from your local gas company can turn the gas on again.

  • Shut off the air conditioning.

  • Leave your lights on so firefighters can see your house under smoky conditions.

  • If time allows, take a video of your home for insurance purposes, focusing on expensive items and serial numbers.

Outside

  • Gather flammable items — patio furniture, children’s toys, doormats — from outside the house and bring them inside or place them in an in-ground pool.

  • Turn off propane tanks.

  • Move propane BBQ appliances away from structures.

  • Connect garden hoses to outside water valves or spigots for use by firefighters. Fill water buckets and place them around the house.

  • Turn off sprinklers and running water. They can affect critical water pressure.

  • Leave exterior lights on so your home is visible to firefighters in the smoke or darkness.

  • Put your Go Kit in your vehicle.

  • Back your car into the driveway with doors and windows closed. Carry your car keys with you.

  • Have a ladder available and place it at the corner of the house for firefighters to quickly access your roof.

  • Seal attic and ground vents with pre-cut plywood or commercial seals.

  • Patrol your property and monitor the fire situation. Don’t wait for an evacuation order if you feel threatened.

Animals

  • Locate your pets and keep them nearby.

  • Prepare farm animals for transport and consider moving them to a safe location early.

Neighbors

  • Check on neighbors and make sure they are preparing to leave, especially neighbors who may need extra assistance, such as people with medical needs, people with disabilities, children, seniors.

Level 2: Be Set 

Short Notice Evacuation likely of your area

Monitor public safety and news sites for more information as you prepare for possible evacuation at any moment. 

Conditions can change suddenly, so finish preparations for sudden evacuation and consider leaving the area now and going to a safe place if possible.  

People who need help or more time to evacuate — people with disabilities, people with small children, people with medical conditions and people with large animals — should evacuate. 

To “Be Set,” make sure you do the following:

  1. Review your Level 1 Plan. Make sure your evacuation Plan Checklist is complete and ensure your Go Kit is in your vehicle.

  1. Don’t wait to be ordered to leave. Leave as soon as evacuation is recommended by fire officials to avoid being caught in fire, smoke or road congestion. Evacuating the forest fire area early helps firefighters keep roads clear of congestion, and lets them move more freely. In an intense wildfire, they will not have time to knock on every door.

  1. Promptly follow directions of law enforcement.  Law enforcement agencies are responsible for enforcing an evacuation order. Officials will determine areas to be evacuated and escape routes depending on the fire’s location, behavior, winds, and terrain.

  1. Stay informed and aware. Listen to the news for announcements from law enforcement and emergency personnel and follow social media channels for your local law enforcement and fire departments as well as Columbia County and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

Do not return to your home until fire officials determine it is safe. Notification that it is safe to return home will be given as soon as possible considering safety and accessibility.

Level 3: Go! 

Evacuate immediately from your area

Leave the area immediate and take your pets with you. No matter where you go, information will be provided about resources and support.  And be sure to follow the directions of law enforcement.  

Do not return to your home until fire officials determine it is safe. Notification that it is safe to return home will be given as soon as possible.

When you leave, cover-up to protect against heat and flying embers. Dress in:

  • Long pants and long sleeve-shirt (100-percent cotton is safest)

  • Heavy shoes or boots

  • A  cap covering your head

  • Dry bandanna for face cover 

  • Goggles or glasses

If you become trapped in your vehicle

  1. Stay calm

  2. Park your vehicle in an area clear of vegetation

  3. Close all vehicle windows and vents.

  4. Cover yourself with wool blanket or jacket

  5. Lie on vehicle floor

  6. Dial 9-1-1 and inform authorities of your location 

If you become trapped while leaving on foot

  1. Stay calm

  2. Go to an area clear of vegetation such as a ditch or depression on level ground, if possible

  3. Lie face down and cover up your body

  4. Dial 9-1-1 and inform authorities of your location

If you become trapped in your home

  1. Stay calm and keep the household together

  2. Stay inside your house

  3. Dial 9-1-1 and inform authorities of your location

  4. Fill sinks and tubs with cold water

  5. Keep doors and windows closed, but unlocked

  6. Stay away from outside walls and windows

Wildfire Evacuation Protocol for People Quarantining or Isolating Due to COVID-19

During Oregon’s wildfires and safety evacuations, it is important to take precautions to avoid spreading COVID-19, particularly for those in isolation or quarantine due to a positive diagnosis or exposure to the virus.

The first priority in wildfire situations is responding to the evacuation and safety instructions of local and state fire officials – and heeding their warnings. Regardless of disease status, if you are asked or ordered to evacuate, you should do so. 

If you or a household member are quarantining or isolating to prevent the spread of COVID-19, please take the following precautions:

  • If ordered to evacuate, do so immediately. Follow all instructions from fire officials.
  • If you have time, reach out to your local public health authority, who should have already been in contact with you about your isolation/quarantine. They may have solutions to help you continue to isolate/quarantine if you are evacuated.
  • Should you be directed to a shelter or other evacuation space, please let officials know you are in isolation/quarantine so that they can take steps to keep you distanced from other evacuees. 
  • Wear a mask at all times when outside your home, or if you may come into contact with people who do not live with you.
  • If you are an older adult or a person with disabilities, reach out to the Aging and Disabilities Resource Connection for information about resources 1-855-ORE-ADRC(1-855-673-2372).
  • Practice physical distancing to the greatest extent possible, if you must travel outside your home for any reason, including evacuation.
  • More information about wildfire safety and your health is available on healthoregon.org/wildfires.
  • Additional resources can be found by calling 2-1-1.
Emergency Management Quick Links
230 Strand St.
Columbia County Courthouse Annex
St. Helens,
OR
97051
Fax: 503-366-3904

Monday - Friday
8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Director
Steve Pegram
Deputy Director
Shawn Brown