Understanding Evacuation Levels

July 3rd, 2024

Wildfires in Western Washington have increased over the past few years and continue to be a pressing issue. This is caused by a combination of climate change, dry spells, and rising temperatures.

As summer is fast approaching, it is important to note that we had an unusually warmer and dryer year than in previous years. With this increased risk, staying informed about wildfire conditions in your area, having an evacuation plan in place, and being prepared to evacuate if necessary are all important steps to take to protect you and your family during wildfire season.

Evacuation levels are designed to ensure public safety during emergencies. There are three evacuation level alerts (be ready, be set, go now). When a wildfire occurs, it may become necessary to evacuate your home. First responders and local law enforcement agencies will try to give notice so you can start preparing to evacuate. However, due to how fast wildfire conditions can change, evacuation notices often come with little warning. It is important for you to be aware of the three levels of evacuation.

Level 1 – “Ready” Phase: The “Ready” phase is the initial alert for residents to be aware of the fire situation and to start preparing for possible evacuation. At this time, you should be monitoring local media and checking in on your neighbors. Assemble an evacuation plan or Go! Kit if you do not already have one. Conditions can change suddenly, and you may not receive a Level 2 “Be Set” warning before you are ordered to Level 3 “Go!” Prepare both the inside and outside of your home for fire. Leave if you feel unsafe – do not wait for an official evacuation order.

Level 2 – “Set” Phase: The “Be Set” phase means to be prepared for sudden or short-notice evacuation. This is the time for people who need help or more time to evacuate – people with disabilities, people with small children, people with medical conditions, and people with large animals – to evacuate now. Ensure your evacuation plan checklist is complete and your Go! Kit is in your vehicle. Stay informed and be aware of alerts from local law enforcement and fire departments. Leave if you feel unsafe – do not wait for an official evacuation order.

Level 3 – “Go” Phase: The “Go” phase is the most urgent evacuation notice. It means immediate evacuation due to current or imminent danger in your area. At this stage, there is no time for further preparation, and residents need to leave without delay to ensure their safety. Follow directions from local law enforcement or fire departments and do not return home until officials have determined it is safe. A notification stating that it is safe to return home will be given as soon as possible.

Understanding wildfire evacuation levels is crucial for staying safe during a wildfire emergency. The “Ready, Set, Go” system provides clear instructions for each stage of a wildfire threat, helping residents prepare effectively and evacuate safely.

These evacuation levels are not only used for wildfires but all hazards.

To help you stay informed of the conditions in your area, sign up for Pierce County Alert, a system that will send you accurate and timely information about emergencies that may affect your location. Learn how to sign up at Pierce County Alert.