Are you prepared for a fire, flood, earthquake or other type of emergency situation? Do you know what to pack and where to go when disaster strikes? Do you have a “go bag” in your home or in your car? Are you ready to care for your pets in an emergency?
Though it may be unpleasant to think about, being prepared for emergencies — especially natural disasters that can strike with little to no advance warning — is becoming more important as climate change leads to more extreme weather events.
As NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said during a Jan. 10, 2023, press conference on extreme weather in the United States, “people are seeing the impacts of a changing climate system where they live, work and play on a regular basis (and) with a changing climate … more extreme events are expected.”
In fact, climate scientists said this week that 2023 is on track to be the United States’ costliest when it comes to natural disasters, with extreme weather having already caused more than $165 billion in damages so far this year.
Camas-Washougal residents are not immune from the danger posed by these types of extreme weather events — who could forget the horror of watching much of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area go up in flames during the Eagle Creek wildfires of 2017, or the panic in October 2022, when the Nakia Creek wildfire forced “go now” and “be ready” evacuation orders throughout Camas and Washougal?
“There’s no question about it — people are paying attention to these types of emergencies,” said Nelson Holmberg, Northwest Natural’s Clark County community affairs and customer acquisition manager. “And the spectrum of emergencies people are worried about has changed.”
Instead of focusing solely on the future risk of the “big one” earthquake expected to hit the Pacific Northwest or seasonal flooding, people in Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon are now considering how they might prepare for wildfires, snowstorms, extreme heat and other disasters that have become more common over the past few years.
In recognition of National Preparedness Month, Holmberg’s employer, NW Natural, partners with local fire departments and other public agencies each September to provide free “Get Ready” emergency preparedness events.
“We started with one event and are now up to six,” Holmberg said.
This year’s NW Natural “Get Ready” preparedness events kicked off Sept. 9, with two events on the Oregon coast. Other Oregon “Get Ready” events include two on Sept. 16, in Oregon City and The Dalles, and Sept. 30, in Warrenton.
The company’s one Washington-based “Get Ready” event will be held in conjunction with the Camas-Washougal Fire Department’s (CWFD) annual open house and safety fair, set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, at CWFD’s Station 42, located at 4321 N.W. Parker St., Camas.
“CWFD has a number of demonstrations planned, including evacuations from a car accident and fire-sprinkler safety for your home,” Holmberg said. “And NW Natural will be sharing information about emergency preparedness. We’ll have an interactive activity and free giveaways.”
CWFD will present a kitchen fire demonstrations at 10:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.; interactive vehicle fire suppression demonstration at 11 a.m.; house fire simulation with fire sprinkler demonstration at 11:45 a.m.; vehicle extrication demonstration at 12:45 p.m.; and Clark County Sheriff’s K-9 unit exhibition at 1:15 p.m.
Holmberg said visitors to the Sept. 23 “Get Ready” event can expect to learn how to think “out of the box” before an emergency situation.
“We often hear the same consistent message” when it comes to emergency preparedness, Holmberg said, and many people are already familiar with some of the basics — drinking water, nonperishable food, warm or cool clothes depending on the weather — that should be included in an emergency preparation kit for the home or on-the-go, but forget to include other items that might be necessary during an emergency, such as hand sanitizer, water to clean wounds, bandages, first aid kits, batteries, respirator masks, small air purifiers and rechargeable power banks, as well as water, food, medications and other items for pets.
“Those are some of the things we don’t often think about,” Holmberg said.
For people who are interested in learning more about how to be ready for an emergency, but who cannot make it to the Sept. 23 event in Camas, Holmberg suggested following updates from local fire and police departments and other public safety officials.
He added that NW Natural as a company takes emergency preparedness seriously.
“We have invested millions of dollars so that, when an earthquake does happen — to the magnitude that it would disrupt gas service — our system automatically shuts down … preventing the risk of a house fire because of natural gas,” Holmberg said.
To learn more about NW Natural’s Get Ready campaign and find more emergency preparedness resources, visit nwnatural.com/safety/emergency-preparedness.
IF YOU GO:
What: NW Natural’s “Get Ready” emergency preparedness event in conjunction with the Camas-Washougal Fire Department’s annual open house and safety fair
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23
Where: Station 42, 4321 N.W. Parker St., Camas
Included: NW Natural will have a booth touting emergency preparedness ideas and resources. CWFD will present a kitchen fire demonstrations at 10:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.; interactive vehicle fire suppression demonstration at 11 a.m.; house fire simulation with fire sprinkler demonstration at 11:45 a.m.; vehicle extrication demonstration at 12:45 p.m.; and Clark County Sheriff’s K-9 unit exhibition at 1:15 p.m. NW Natural also is providing free hot dogs and other refreshments.