PREPARE: What to do if you have to evacuate for wildfires

OKLAHOMA CITY – Many Oklahomans have been faced with fire evacuations over the last few weeks.

Just Monday morning fire crews battled a large grass fire close to a nursing home at Hefner and Rockwell forcing them to considering evacuations.

Instead, crews made a “protect in place” order to keep people inside while firefighters battled the blaze.

22 Oklahoma counties under burn ban

In case of an evacuation, fire officials suggest homeowners pack a safety bag with items like water, clothing and food.

Public Education Chief Kevin Berry said, “We suggest people don’t wait until they get a warning.”

Chief Berry said if you’re threatened by wildfires, an evacuation warning gives people time to gather personal items like medications and important documents.

However if there’s an “immediate evacuation,” that’s a different story.

Chief Berry said, “If we tell people to evacuate, we believe there’s an immediate threat to the lives of people so at that point, you do have to leave.”

How to help protect your home from wildfires in high fire danger

With the dry weather and heavy winds, Chief Berry asks residents to pay attention to burn bans and have a plan.

Berry said, “Disasters can strike at any time while we’re at school, while we’re at work so the important thing is to have a plan of action in case these things occur.”

What to do if you must evacuate:

(Info from ReadyForWildfire.org)

  1. Review your evacuation plan.
  2. Make sure your Emergency Supply Kit is in your vehicle.
  3. Cover-up to protect against heat and flying embers. Wear long pants, long sleeve shirt, heavy shoes/boots, cap, dry bandanna for face cover, goggles or glasses. 100% cotton is preferable.
  4. Get your pets and take them with you.

When to Evacuate:

Leave as soon as fire crews tell you to evacuate to avoid being caught in fire, smoke or road congestion.
You don’t wait for authorities to tell you to go either.
Evacuating early also helps firefighters keep roads clear of congestion and lets them move more freely to do their job.
In an intense wildfire, they will not have time to knock on every door.
If you are advised to leave, don’t hesitate!
  • Officials will determine the areas to be evacuated and escape routes to use depending upon the fire’s location, behavior, winds, terrain, etc.
  • Law enforcement agencies are typically responsible for enforcing an evacuation order. Follow their directions promptly.
  • You will be advised of potential evacuations as early as possible. You must take the initiative to stay informed and aware. Listen to your radio/TV for announcements from law enforcement and emergency personnel.
  • You may be directed to temporary assembly areas to await transfer to a safe location.
Evacuation orders can be “Voluntary” and “Mandatory.”
You should follow all evacuation instructions from officials.
Do not return to your home until fire officials determine it is safe.
Authorities will notify you as soon as possible about when you can return.

When you return home:

  • Be alert for downed power lines and other hazards.
  • Check propane tanks, regulators, and lines before turning gas on.
  • Check your residence carefully for hidden embers or smoldering fires.