Unified Wildfire Preparedness: North Bend and the Regional “Ready, Set, Go!” Initiative

With the alarming increase in smoke levels and ongoing fire evacuations in Washington State, comprehensive efforts are being launched across the region to ensure community safety.

Climate change has amplified the threat of wildfires, extending even to the west side of the Cascades, an area historically not prone to frequent wildfires. Once a rarity, wildfires now loom annually, emphasizing the need for preparation and public outreach.

Brendan McCluskey, director of King County Emergency Management, notes, “In an era where the threat of wildfires and other emergencies is ever-present, the ‘Ready, Set, Go!’ Evacuation Campaign represents a proactive step towards safeguarding the residents of King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Thurston Counties.”

This joint initiative between multiple counties, emergency response agencies, and community organizations exemplifies the power of collaboration.

Four counties in Western Washington – King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Thurston – alongside key partners, have unveiled the regional “Ready, Set, Go!” Evacuation Campaign. This initiative is designed to offer clear and straightforward messages to the public about evacuating during emergencies, initially emphasizing wildfires.

Highlighting the importance of this effort, Lucia Schmit, director of Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management, recalls, “When I was a young child, my family had to evacuate our home to escape a wildfire. With the ‘Ready, Set, Go!’ messaging, we hope to alleviate some of that stress.”

Eastside Fire and Rescue, the King County Office of Emergency Management, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, and the King County Sheriff’s Office concentrate their efforts in North Bend, ensuring the community is primed for wildfire evacuation. Their approach is underlined by the “Ready, Set, Go!” evacuation plan, detailing three response levels:

1. Ready Phase: Be vigilant about potential danger. Monitor local media, check on neighbors, prepare to evacuate, and leave if safety feels compromised.

2. Set Phase: Ensure preparedness for immediate evacuation. Checklists should be complete, and emergency kits should be ready. Depart if you feel the risk, even before an official order.

3. Go Phase: Immediate evacuation is imperative due to imminent danger. Comply with directives from emergency services and only return when deemed safe.

Jody Ferguson, director of Pierce County Emergency Management, expands on the broader applications of the campaign, “The Ready/Set/Go message is important for all of us to learn and make a part of our plans so we can survive and recover from emergency events, including the threats like lahars and volcanic eruptions due to Mt. Rainier.”

Beyond the evacuation guidance, North Bend residents can tap into resources such as the Wildfire Safe Eastside Home Assessment Program. This program empowers homeowners to reduce the risk of igniting during wildfires by assessing their homes and surrounding structures.

Additionally, the ALERT King County system offers a platform for residents to stay updated with emergency notifications through various communication channels.

In times of escalating emergency threats, community participation is paramount. As the region rallies behind the “Ready, Set, Go!” campaign, the shared goal remains a well-informed and resilient population ready to face the challenges that may lie ahead.

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