How to Hold a Practice Evacuation

A practice is an activity that is repeatedly or regularly performed in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency. Our goal is for all Marin residents to be prepared to immediately evacuate if ordered by public safety agencies. This means residents should have an evacuation plan, understand our system of alerts and warnings, have a go bag, know the evacuation route options, know how to properly secure their home prior to departure, and be able to evacuate quickly.

Evacuation practices are not designed to test traffic flow because it is impossible to duplicate the traffic volume of a real event. We all know the roads will be crowded. Instead it is meant to encourage residents to review their evacuation plan and ensure that things are in place to facilitate a quick departure. Practice makes perfect.

Organizing a basic evacuation practice does not need to be difficult. Below are several scaled approaches to holding an evacuation practice. Every Firewire site should hold an annual evacuation practice. If you need assistance or have questions, please contact your Firewire Liaison firewise@firesafemarin.org who will guide you through the various options.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please let your local Fire and Police Department know that you are holding an evacuation practice. They may want to participate, but if resources are not available, they will be glad to know that you are preparing your community.

A Successful Practice Requires a Lot of Promotion

  • Involve block captains if you have them
  • Place signs at neighborhood entrances
  • Place door hangers or fliers advertising the event
    • You can also use this to add residents to your contact list
  • Email and/or text residents
  • Make short reminder phone calls to each resident in the week/ or days prior to event

Practice for Individuals

  1. A firewire community schedules a week during which families conduct their own practice.
  2. Families report to firewire leadership when practice was held, who participated, how long it took, lessons learned
  3. Family chooses day and reviews evacuation plans, go bags, etc. in advance
  4. Set an alarm to serve as start
  5. Time the practice from the start to getting into vehicle
  6. Goal is 15 minutes or less
  7. Drill starts by dressing appropriately
  8. Grab go bags/go kits and throw inside the vehicle along with anything else that has been preplanned to include
  9. Once everything packed and in the car, stop the timer.
  10. How long did it take – report to firewire leader

The Photo Practice

  1. Residents are asked to take a photo of themselves and their family participating in an evacuation related activity.
  2. This could include:
    1. Review the Fire Safe Marin Evacuation Checklist (https://firesafemarin.org/ prepare-yourself/evacuation-guide/evacuation-checklist/)
    2. Prepare a Go Bag (https:// firesafemarin.org/prepare-yourself/evacuation-guide/evacuation-go-kit/ ),
    3. Sign up for Alert Marin (https://www.marinsheriff.org/services/emergency-services/alert-marin), 
    4. Review the family communications plan (https://firesafemarin.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ Family_Comm_Plan_508_20150820.pdf )
    5. Load the car, etc.
  3. Schedule a weekend for the practice
  4. Residents are given an address to email or text photos
  5. Consider prizes for best photos

Evacuate Check In

  1. Firewire Leadership chooses a date and time to hold the practice
  2. Consider holding this practice on an evening. Weekend day time practices often conflict with family activities
  3. Residents are informed that they will evacuate to a check in point at a given period of time (typically 1-2 hours)
  4. Residents drive, walk or bike to check in site for quick check in and return to home
  5. Have wildfire safety literature available to handout at checkin
    1. Residents register when arriving
    2. Get updated contact information
    3. Encourage residents to signup for Alert Marin
    4. Get feedback on the exercise:
      i)  Was communication okay?
      ii)  Suggestions to make it better?
      iii)  Time it took you to get ready?
      iv)  What were the issues?

Evacuate to a Site for Wildfire Safety Presentation(s)

  1. Firewire Leadership chooses a date and time to hold the practice
  2. Consider holding this practice on an evening. Weekend day time practices often conflict with family activities
  3. Residents are informed that they will evacuate to a specific site
    1. Consider holding organizing a social activity at the site to attract more residents: food, etc
  4. Residents drive, walk or bike to evacuation site
  5. Residents register when arriving at the site
  6. Plan one or more wildfire safety presentations led by Firewire leadership for residents when they arrive
  7. This is also an important opportunity to:
    1. Get updated contact information
    2. Encourage residents tosignup for Alert Marin
    3. Get feedback on the exercise:
      1. i)  Was communication okay?
      2. ii)  Suggestions to make it better?
      3. iii)  Time it took you to get ready?
      4. iv)  What were the issues?

Full Scale Exercise with Safety Fair

  1. Firewire Leadership works with local public safety agencies to choose a date and plan the exercise
  2. Consider holding this practice on an evening. Weekend day time practices often conflict with family activities
  3. Work with safety agencies to determine how to start the exercise. It may be possible to have Marin County OES send an Alert Marin “This is an Exercise” message via landline to residents to launch the exercise
  4. Public Safety agencies may choose to use this as an opportunity to test communications between police/fire, review evacuation routes, road closures, method of alerting residents, etc.
  5. This exercise requires lots of preplanning and extensive outreach to residents to ensure good participation.
  6. Residents are informed of start time, method of notification and evacuation site
  7. Consider holding organizing a social activity after the exercise at the site to attract more residents: food, etc
  8. Residents drive, walk or bike to evacuation site
  9. Residents register when arriving at the site
  10. With preplanning, it may be possible to have disaster agency representatives staffing information tables to create a safety fair. This might include Marin OES, Fire/Police, Red Cross, CERT, NRG, Fire Safe Marin, etc.
    1. This is also an important opportunity to:
    2. Get updated contact information
    3. Encourage residents tosignup for Alert Marin
    4. Get feedback on the exercise:
      i)  Was communication okay?
      ii)  Suggestions to make it better?
      iii)  Time it took you to get ready?

Practice Tips from Racquet Club Estates

The Hi-Lo siren

All Sheriff patrol vehicles are now equipped with the Hi/Lo siren, a European style 2-tone siren, that will only be used to alert residents of an immediate evacuation during emergencies such as wildfires, floods and other disasters.

Napa County Sheriff’s Office debuts warning siren

Tuesday October 9, 2018

Important Educational Tips

  1. Evacuation is most likely to take place on a “red flag” day when you should be on maximum alert
  2. If you receive and evacuation order leave immediately
  3. If you receive an evacuation warning, leave as soon as possible
  4. Know how to open your garage door if there is no power
  5. Park your car in your driveway facing out
  6. Have your Go Kit packed
  7. Have your pet and pet carrier ready to go
  8. Dress in protective clothing
  9. If time, check on neighbors to make sure they are prepared and ready to leave
  10. Assist elderly or disabled neighbors if you can.

Evacuation Training for Residents