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Residents play key role in Benton County wildfire evacuation drill

Volunteers help Benton County residents check in for a wildfire evacuation drill held on May 18, 2024 in Corvallis, Oregon.

The spring may have been wet, but the long, dry summer wildfire season is right around the corner. As part of an ongoing effort for enhance emergency preparedness, Benton County and the City of Corvallis teamed up May 18 to conduct a wildfire evacuation drill. The drill served as a valuable opportunity for emergency responders and residents to practice wildfire evacuation procedures and test communication systems.

Hundreds of residents, including the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), participated, ensuring a successful drill.

The County’s Temporary Evacuation Point (TEP) was the Kalapuya Building on SW Research Way, Corvallis and the City’s TEP was at the Northwest Hills Community Church on Walnut in Corvallis. The drills involved Community Emergency Response Team volunteers to ensure a coordinated and effective response and service as a valuable opportunity for residents and emergency responders to practice wildfire evacuation procedures and test communication systems. It is part of ongoing efforts to enhance emergency preparedness in Benton County. 

“We are excited to partner with the City of Corvallis on this important drill,” said Benton County Emergency Manager Bryan Lee, prior to the drill. “By working together, we can better prepare our community for emergencies and ensure that everyone is safe and informed.” 

Erin McMahon, the director of Oregon Emergency Management, was on hand from Salem for the drill. She was impressed with the high level of volunteerism displayed by the citizens and CERT.

“It has been impressive to see the whole community come together and display all the hard work that went into this response training,” said McMahon. She also pointed out that the Benton County and Corvallis emergency disaster response effort has been an organized effort from the ground up – not forced down from the state.

Dave Busby, Corvallis Fire Emergency Planning Manager, was very pleased with the results of the evacuation drill.

“It further improved the collaborative effort between the residents, the CERT volunteers, and city and county emergency personnel,” he said.

According to Busby, the drill reminded residents and emergency personnel how quickly a normal day can turn dangerous.

“You always need to be prepared to quickly evacuate, especially during wildfire season,” he said.

Busby pointed out there were three main aspects of the evacuation drill. The first was to provide community members the opportunity to walk through the process of an evacuation. The second was having the CERT volunteers work a temporary evacuation plan, and the third part was testing the Linn-Benton Emergency Alert System.

Preparation is the key to the success of handling an emergency, stated Samaritan Health Services Emergency Manager Howard Ferguson.

“The planning helps agencies to better know where and what their resources are it further improves the coordination amongst participating organizations.”

A key part of the drill was putting the recently completed Oak Creek Evacuation Route to the test. The limited-use service road (through the OSU Sheep Farm) connects NW Oak Creek Drive with NW Ponderosa Avenue, providing an alternative exit path for numerous northwest Corvallis residents in the event of a mass evacuation. The route passed with flying colors as many motorists navigated the corridor during the evacuation drill.

If you haven’t already, residents can sign up for emergency evacuation route notifications with the Linn-Benton ALERT system. After signing up for the alerts you will receive all emergency-related notifications related to your location.

View photos of the event.

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