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Chair Tootie Smith teams up with CEO Maria Pope to provide public safety tips ahead of wildfire season

Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith teamed up with Portland General Electric CEO Maria Pope to release a pair of disaster preparedness videos on YouTube this week.

In the first video, titled "Be Prepared for a Disaster with an Emergency Kit," Smith and Pope take viewers through the components of an effective emergency kit for any disaster. In the second video, titled "Wildfire Preparedness," they explain what do to in the specific case of a wildfire. Both videos have a runtime of roughly four-and-a-half minutes.

Smith began the emergency kit video by explaining that having an emergency kit ready to go was crucial when she had to evacuate her home at a moment's notice during last year's Labor Day wildfires.

"It's so important that we are prepared, we are preparing ourselves and we ask you to join us. Today we are packing our emergency kits," Smith said."These kits supply the essentials we need if we have to shelter in place or evacuate."PHOTO COURTESY: CLACKAMAS COUNTY - Tootie Smith and Maria Pope give tips about disaster preparedness in a newly released video.

Smith began with tips regarding basic necessities such as food and water.

"Keep nonperishable food in both your home emergency kit and go bag. If you're packing canned goods, don't forget a manual can opener and have one gallon of water per person, per day," Smith said.

Pope added that other important items include a "portable radio and flashlights, spare batteries, an extra set of car keys, cash and credit cards, backup charging for a phone or laptop, and any special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members."

Smith concluded by emphasizing the importance of medical items such as small kits for hygiene, sanitation, first aid and medications. In the event of a power outage, she added, it is advisable to carry paper maps, a list of emergency phone numbers, and a binder with bank insurance and medical info.

Smith and Pope's second video continued with the theme of disaster preparedness, this time focusing specifically on what to do in case of a wildfire. They set the stage by explaining the growing wildfire risk.

"Clackamas County has experienced three disasters within 11 months, and we'll be dealing with the effects of all of them for the next several months. As a community we need to work together to prepare for when the next disaster strikes," Smith began.

"Even in historically wet and mild Oregon, our summers are getting hotter and drier with longer, more prolonged fire seasons," Pope said. "The overall risk of wildfires is increasing. As we saw in September 2020 wildfires can hit suddenly and grow quickly. Today, we're doing more than ever before to reduce the risk of wildfires, but we're only part of the picture. When it comes to wildfire prevention and mitigation, it will take all of us working together."

Pope said PGE will be working closely with the county board throughout the wildfire season to keep residents as safe as possible. She began the video with three important things everyone should be doing to prepare: Make a plan, create defensible space around their property by clearing away brush, and update your contact information with PGE so you can be notified in the event of an emergency.

PGE sends phone alerts to residents during emergencies, so Smith emphasized the importance of carrying battery backups for phones and wifi routers so you won't miss any potentially life-saving information if electricity is interrupted.

"If extreme weather conditions threaten our ability to safely operate the electric grid, we will turn off power to high-risk areas. With this in mind, all Clackamas County residents should have an outage preparation kit on hand," Pope added.

At a policy meeting earlier in July, PGE Director of Wildfire Mitigation and Resilience Bill Messner updated commissioners on year-round wildfire preparations and communications for 2021, including specified Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) zones, a proactive measure to mitigate wildfire risk with deliberate power shutoffs in certain areas.

"Emergencies can happen at any time, and you are your best and first defense for helping yourself and your loved ones," Pope said. "There's no better time to prepare for an emergency than right now."

"Preparing for a disaster takes a community. We are doing our part and hope you will do yours," Smith said. "Please start making plans now for wildfire season. Sign up for public alerts, have a go kit if you're evacuated and please plan for power outage."

To learn more about wildfire preparedness, visit video or video.

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