Residents and businesses in the Payson area communities stepped up on their own to help the evacuees from the Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002.
It was three days before the American Red Cross showed up and took over. It was not a smooth transition.
As a result, a local unit of the Red Cross was organized and has since been responsible for sheltering the victims of other fires and floods.
Lew Levenson has been active in the Payson area Red Cross since it started organizing, and explained the process to get a shelter up and running.
"If there is a fire, or other emergency, it is the responsibility of the Gila County Sheriff's Office to notify the state Red Cross headquarters," he said.
The GCSO advises Red Cross officials of the area threatened, the number of structures threatened, the number of people in the area and the number of those who have no place else to go, Levenson said.
Once headquarters is notified of the emergency and the needs that must be met, Levenson and his fellow Red Cross volunteers are alerted.
Before there is an actual evacuation, residents are generally given a pre-evacuation notice, Levenson said. That provides a warning to be ready to leave or an opportunity for voluntary evacuation.
"It's preferred that residents take the initiative," Levenson said.
Where a shelter is established depends on the area threatened and what kind of facilities are available, he said.
During past fires, flooding and heavy snows in the Rim Country, shelters have usually been set up in the schools.
The Rim Country has been fairly lucky in regard to fires this year. The most recent, the Kohl's Fire Wednesday morning, was quickly contained and only one or two families evacuated voluntarily.
Now, before being hit by another fire, is the time to make preparations for possible evacuations.
There are a great many resources on the Internet providing information about the things you might need should you be required to evacuate.
The area fire departments and other agencies also have materials available to help residents and visitors prepare for an emergency. Among them is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's www.ready.gov and the American Red Cross, www.redcross.org.
When wildfire threatens, you won't have time to shop or search for supplies. Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit with items you may need if advised to evacuate. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers, such as backpacks, duffel bags or trash containers. Include:
- A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and food that won't spoil.
- One change of clothing and footwear per person and one blanket or sleeping bag per person.
- A first-aid kit that includes your family's prescription medications.
- Emergency tools including a battery-powered radio, flashlight and plenty of extra batteries.
- An extra set of car keys and a credit card, cash or traveler's checks.
- Sanitation supplies.
- Items for family members with special needs (infants, elderly or disabled).
- An extra pair of eyeglasses.
- Keep important family documents in a waterproof container.
Assemble a smaller version of your kit to keep in the trunk of your car.
-- To reach Teresa McQuerrey call 474-5251 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.