Know the difference between wildfire evacuation alerts and evacuation orders

In Canada, and elsewhere in the world, communities are facing a record-setting wildfire season in 2021. In the province of British Columbia alone, as of August there have been 1275 fires recorded, scorching more than 5,800 square kilometres. Already two entire communities have been destroyed.

In these conditions, it is crucial to understand the difference between a wildfire Evacuation Alert and an Evacuation Order.

An Evacuation Alert means that you should be ready to leave on short notice.

According to Fire Smart BC, if you’re under alert, you should take the following steps:

  • Gather your grab-and-go bags, emergency plan, copies of important documents and cherished mementos. Have them at the front door or already packed in your vehicle.
  • Ensure your vehicle has fuel. The tank should always be at least half-full.
  • Move patio furniture, cushions and door mats indoors.
  • Take down flammable curtains and window treatments.
  • Connect garden hoses and fill large containers with water, such as pools, hot tubs and garbage cans. This can assist firefighters and help slow advancing flames.
  • Ensure your house number is visible. This will help firefighters locate your home quickly.
  • Disconnect automatic garage door openers so doors can be opened by hand if you lose power.

An Evacuation Order means you are at risk and must leave IMMEDIATELY.

  • On your way out close doors and windows and turn on both interior and exterior lights so your home is visible to firefighters in heavy smoke.
  • Follow all directions from officials and evacuate using the route(s) they’ve identified.
  • Only return home when the evacuation order is rescinded by officials.
  • Continue to stay tuned for other possible evacuation alerts or orders.

For those living in areas at risk of wildfire, it is incredibly important to be prepared for Evacuation Alerts, and to obey Evacuations Orders. As Tracy Hughes with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District told the Times Columnist, homeowners may think they are helping by staying, but they make the loss of their property more likely by impeding the work of firefighters.

“(Crews) cannot use water bombers, they can’t use helicopters, if they know there are people in those areas.”

“So, for goodness’ sakes people, get out. If you are on an evacuation order, your life is in jeopardy and you need to leave now.”

For communities that use Alertable, downloading the Alertable App, and signing-up for other Alertable channels is a great way to be notified of Evacuation Alerts so you’re prepared to evacuation, and to be notified of Evacuation Orders, so you know when to get out!

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