City officials are updating plans for evacuating residents should that become necessary in a disaster such as the wildfire that leveled Paradise, California. Ashland is already better prepared than Paradise was, given multiple routes out of town — and the controversial “road diet” on North Main Street will not impede an orderly evacuation.
City Administrator Kelly Madding, Ashland Fire & Rescue Chief Mike D’Orazi, Police Chief Tighe O’Meara and Public Works Director Paula Brown made a joint presentation to the City Council last week in which they described changes to the evacuation plans. At the top of the list was changing to a joint staff lead, recognizing that in a large-scale emergency any one of them might be needed to take charge.
One advantage Ashland has over Paradise is that there are multiple routes out of town. Brown emphasized that the best route would depend on the situation, and Siskiyou Boulevard wouldn’t be the only way out.
The city’s Nixle notification system, which has the capability to send alerts to 6,000 cellphones, every landline in town and 2,000 email addresses, will be a powerful tool, coupled with the wireless alert system that will ping every mobile device.
Concerns being expressed by some residents on social media about the “road diet” are misguided. The road diet reduced the number of lanes with new striping, but the roadway itself is as wide as it always was. In an emergency, Madding says, two lanes would be designated for evacuees and one lane for emergency vehicles heading into town.