Be Emergency Ready During Wildfire Season

As most of us in the Pacific Northwest are well aware, wildfire season can have a devastating effect on families, businesses and communities. That’s why there’s so much emphasis on preparation well in advance for a potential emergency—from packing disaster kits to keeping emergency “go” bags close by. This wildfire season, Umpqua Bank is sharing tips for financial preparedness in the event of an emergency, in addition to what you’ve already packed in your disaster kits.

Be Emergency Ready: Financial and Insurance Considerations During Wildfire Season

Keep Important Documents Close By – Effective disaster preparedness includes the safe storage of—and easy access to—critical financial and insurance documents you may need in an emergency. Consider keeping these important items in a lockbox you can easily grab and go in a disaster. Or, better yet, check with your bank about their safe deposit box offerings for proper safekeeping. Safe deposit boxes are specifically designed to withstand natural disasters such as floods, fires and tornados.

Documents to consider storing securely in one place include:

  • Copy of your passport (or the original if you travel very infrequently)
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage license
  • Death certificates
  • Social Security card
  • Copy of your driver’s license
  • Titles to your home and vehicles
  • Copies of wills, trusts, powers of attorney and medical directives
  • Insurance policies
  • List of bank accounts, investments and credit cards
  • Storage device with photos of belongings and/or an inventory list
  • Some cash

If you choose to go the safe deposit box route, “Keep your safe deposit box key on your car ring,” says Heather Seppa, Umpqua Bank Region Manager for Northern Oregon and SW Washington. “A key in a desk drawer can be lost in a natural disaster. Also, consider adding a trusted co-lessor to your box. This person will be able to access the box when and if you can’t.”

Make Sure You’re Insurance Ready – Now is also a good time to check with your insurance agent to ask about the documentation they recommend to have on hand should you need to file a claim. This will likely include things like:

  • Detailed photos of expensive items and their serial numbers
  • Photos and a list of jewelry, furniture and anything else of greater value or importance
  • A video of your home or business and its contents

Remember to back up your photos and videos in the cloud and on a storage device you keep in your safe deposit box.

You may also want to ask your insurer whether your homeowner’s insurance covers your safe deposit items. While bank accounts are covered by FDIC-insurance, the contents in a safe deposit box are not.

Check with Your Trusted Financial Partners – It’s also smart to know ahead of time what types of assistance your financial institution may offer in the event of an emergency. Assistance could include things like the ability to pause payments in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, mortgage assistance if your ability to pay has been impacted or even rebuilding assistance for damaged homes.

If you live in a higher risk area, check with your bank now to see what they offer and what steps you would need to take to access this assistance. Don’t wait until a fire, earthquake or other natural disaster strikes to understand what options may be available to you.

Making sure you’ve considered all of the financial and insurance possibilities can help you move quickly in the event of a disaster, when time is critical for recovery.

Red Cross Cascades Sees Busy Start to Wildfire Season

Download the FREE Emergency App, build a disaster kit, know evacuations levels

The Red Cross Cascades Region is on pace to open more wildfire evacuation shelters this summer compared to last. Shelter openings are four times what they were in June/July 2022. Last summer, 90% of wildfire shelter responses happened in late August/September.

Wildfire Evacuation Shelters Summer 2023

  • June 13 – Hat Rock Fire, Umatilla County
  • June 14 – Milepost 87 Fire, The Dalles
  • July 2 – Tunnel Five Fire, Skamania County, WA
  • July 17 – Flat Fire, Curry County
  • 7/22 Red Cross Opens Evacuation Shelter for Golden Fire NE of Klamath Falls

—- Red Cross Cascades has opened an evacuation shelter in response to the Golden Fire burning northeast of Klamath Falls. Shelter location is: Bonanza Schools, 31610 Mission St, Bonanza, OR, 97623

For up-to-date information and alerts about emergencies in your area and shelter locations, download the Red Cross Emergency App from your app store. It’s free and available to both iPhone and Android users.

The Red Cross urges everyone to be prepared should a wildfire occur in your area.

“Disasters can happen anywhere,” says Dawn Johnson, Communications Manager, Red Cross Cascades. “It’s important to take the time now to get your family and home prepared. If you are able, you can also register to become a trained Red Cross volunteer to help those in your community.”

Follow the steps below to keep your family safe.

  • Gather your family or household members and delegate responsibilities.
  • Assemble an emergency kit to take with you when you evacuate. For a detailed list of items to include visit
  • Prepare an information kit with important documents like medical, banking and insurance records.
  • Save a list of emergency numbers on every cellphone.
  • Plan ahead for your pets and livestock. Ask local officials where you can bring them.
  • Identify a place to meet in case you are separated.
  • Plan and practice several evacuation routes from your neighborhood.

If an evacuation is imminent:

  • Tune in to local radio and television stations for updated emergency information.
  • Limit exposure to smoke and dust. Keep indoor air clean by closing (but not locking) windows and doors. Close curtains, shutters, and blinds. Use the recycle mode on your air conditioner.
  • Turn on exterior lights.
  • Remove flammable items from decks and porches.
  • Open gates for animals that cannot be evacuated.
  • Connect a hose to an outside spigot, mark any water sources on your property, and leave a ladder for firefighters.
  • Put your emergency kit in your car. Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape, with windows closed and keys in the ignition.
  • Put your best driver at the wheel. Turn on lights, drive slowly and watch out for emergency vehicles.
Oregon Wildfire Response and Recovery : Evacuations : State of Oregon

Evacuate as soon as the order is given. Don’t delay.

Evacuation Levels – What Do They Mean?

Level 1 – “BE READY!“ for potential evacuation.

Level 2 – “BE SET!” to evacuate. You must prepare to leave at a moment’s notice.

Level 3 – “GO!” evacuate now. Leave immediately!

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood and is the primary blood supplier to 65 hospitals throughout Washington and Oregon; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross. —- American Red Cross – Cascades Region

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