Be prepared for emergency evacuations: Sign up for alerts and create a grab bag

EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON

Looking west toward the Horseshoe Bay airport from Mountain Dew Road, smoke can be seen Aug. 25 from a 400-acre fire in the city limits. Residents in the area are being advised to evacuate to Quail Point Lodge. Staff photo by Jared Fields

Looking west toward the Horseshoe Bay airport from Mountain Dew Road, smoke can be seen Aug. 25 from a 500-acre fire in the city limits. Staff photo by Jared Fields

HORSESHOE BAY — It was a text message Aug. 25 that jolted Horseshoe Bay resident Dana Rushing from her nap.

“You calmly look down at the text, expecting someone to ask if you’re going to the town hall this afternoon,” said Rushing, which was what she was going to do that Saturday.

But this text made her immediately reconsider her plans.

It was a message from the Horseshoe Bay Police Department advising her to evacuate her home because of a brushfire.

She darted upstairs to the upper deck to assess the situation, where she saw a lot of smoke. It was time to go, so Rushing grabbed her dog, a few things, and raced out the door.

Before she left, Rushing checked on her neighbors to see if they had received the message. Most had not.

“When I was going door to door, only one person had got the text message,” Rushing said. “And I had to wait 20 minutes for (one household) to get the things they needed. They kept going in and out of their house because they forgot something or didn’t know what they needed.”

Rushing and about 100 other homes evacuated that day due to the 311-acre wildfire. Authorities allowed them in later that night, and, fortunately, no homes were damaged, but it made Rushing wonder how people should prepare for emergency evacuations.

“I’m lucky. It’s just me and my dog,” she said. “I have a few things ready, grab it, the dog, and go. But others, they need to be ready.”

Marble Falls Fire Marshal Thomas Crane agreed. With the recent spell of dry weather, the Highland Lakes endured several brush fires. Two required evacuations. In case of evacuations, Crane said the first thing to know is that they are happening.

The best way to stay knowledgeable of evacuations or emergency warnings for your area is by signing up for alerts through WarnCentralTexas.org.

After registering on the website, you will get alerts by text, email, or phone — or all — in the event of an emergency.

It’s a service like this that alerted Rushing of the evacuation.

“I’m connected to the city (of Horseshoe Bay), and, if you give them your phone number, they’ll send you notices,” she said. “People really need to do this. It’s a great service.”

Through WarnCentralTexas.org, you can sign up for alerts and tailor them to your needs and area. You can add multiple addresses or locations, so if you work in Marble Falls but live in Granite Shoals, you can sign up for both. That way, if something is happening in Granite Shoals, you’ll be alerted even if you’re at work in Marble Falls, and vice versa.

These alerts cover natural disasters, weather warnings, evacuation notices, missing child reports, boil water notices, and more.

But once you get an alert to evacuate, whether for a fire or another reason, what do you take?

The key, Crane said, is assessing what you need on a daily basis and planning for a few days.

“It’s mainly trying to sustain a two- to three-day period if you were evacuated,” he said. “Simply put a box aside and put things in it you’ll need like flashlight, batteries, food and water, a radio, and medicines. Look at what you use every day: credit cards, even cell phone chargers. Don’t forget personal items like changes of clothes. Put those in something you can just grab as you head out the door.

“You’re looking for something to get you through two to three days if you’re evacuated or at an evacuation center because, if it gets passed that time period, usually Red Cross or other organizations have arrived to begin helping,” Crane added.

In many cases, the cause for evacuation, such as a brush fire, will probably be over in a day or two, and authorities will let people return to their homes.

Crane said a good way to assess what you need for those few days is to make an attentive effort over the course of a day to see what you regularly use.

“You may be surprised at what you need,” he added.

The key is planning ahead.

“The best way to avoid disaster is to be prepared,” he said.

That’s something Rushing wholeheartedly believes.

“If you wait until it’s time to evacuate, it’s too late really,” she said. “This time, we had time, and fortunately, nobody lost a home. The next time, it could be different. Get signed up for the alerts and have something set aside you can just grab if that alert comes.”

Call Crane at (830) 693-4060 for more information. Go to ready.gov/build-a-kit for ideas on building an emergency kit as well as other emergency preparedness information. Go to txforestservice.tamu.edu for more on wildfire preparation.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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