"This experience has been like a baptism by fire,
for all of us."
e've been hearing it for months: Deschutes County will double in size during the eclipse, up to 400,000 people — and Bend isn't even in the path of totality. "Where are they getting those numbers?" you may ask. Here's the answer: Ashley Volz, the Deschutes County Sheriff's emergency services coordinator. On the job since February, one of her first tasks was to track how many visitors Central Oregonians could expect during the Great American Eclipse Aug. 21.
"When you hear 95,000 alone are coming for a solar eclipse event, those are hard numbers," says Volz, who went to the county permitting offices in the tri-county areas to track down licensed events. "The Symbiosis Event at Big Summit Prairie will have 35,000 people alone. Add in the other events, plus motel and hotel occupancies, campgrounds, vacation rentals and family and friends, we estimate 200,000 tourists — in the Tri-County area."
"If you're coming: arrive early, stay put and leave late. Don't try to move right before the eclipse."
With Deschutes County not being in the path of totality, Volz and her team, under the leadership of Sgt. Nathan Garibay, are providing support and infrastructure for Cook and Jefferson Counties, where totality will happen. "I mean, think about Madras which usually only has 7,000 residents," she says.F
ollowing in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, Volz served as a police officer for eight years, starting out in Sunriver on bike patrol. As she puts it, she's a "Bend kid, born and raised." Her proudest moment was when she returned to her old high school — Mountain View — to work as a School Resource Officer.
"When you're on the street you can't build those relationships and follow up on people to see how they're doing. It's such a small snippet of time," she declares. "With Mountain View, I was able to see lasting, positive impact. I made relationships and checked in on kids and was a part of their community."
With a hunger for that community impact, Volz decided to throw herself into emergency services this year, educating herself diligently — taking FEMA courses, attending conferences, events and trainings to better prepare for the worst-case scenarios. "It's great timing to take this job now," she jokes. "This experience has been like a baptism by fire, for all of us."
"Residents should stock up on all essentials — groceries, gas, toilet paper, pet food — by no later than August 16."V
olz says that although tough and time consuming, eclipse prepping has brought about a team-building atmosphere, with agencies at the local and state levels sharing information and working together. "Literally, any organization with a vested interest in safety or public health, we're working with," she says. She points to a virtual file sharing system at Coemergencyinfo.blogspot.com as a great resource for locals, tourists and organizations alike.
Prevention has been at the forefront, with Volz suggesting the biggest mantra is, "If you're coming: arrive early, stay put and leave late. Don't try to move right before the eclipse. Residents should stock up on all essentials — groceries, gas, toilet paper, pet food — by no later than August 16." She also suggests checking on those who don't have access to a vehicle or are disabled.
Apart from common sense approaches, such as, "don't look at the sun without safety glasses," or "stock up on water and don't get dehydrated," Volz says it's crucial to also educate those from out of the area — particularly from overseas — on things deemed common sense to Central Oregonians, such as wildfire prevention.
"Some may not know that we are a wildfire country when they come here, so for example, PSAs on 'don't pull off into the weeds with your hot exhaust because it may start a wildfire,' are important preventative measures."
One of the weirdest things not accounted for during this eclipse prep? "Who's going to pay for all the extra resources put into the planning?" she says. Since it's a collaborative tri-county event, Volz says there will be talk "after the dust settles," on who will pick up what part of the tab.A
nd as for Gov. Brown ordering the National Guard to the region, she says they're still waiting to see in what capacity they will be used. Volz reasons that if an emergency arises, the great thing is: "You're literally standing next to the person who is team leading the response, so you can say to them, 'How can I support you?' ...We have so many of the key players already at the table."
With the operational period beginning Wed., Aug. 16, Volz says she and her colleagues will be prepared from 6 am to "rock 'n' roll" and do whatever is necessary to ensure public safety and health during the week of the Great American Eclipse. "We've got all the pieces in place; now it's a waiting game. We're ready to roll with the punches."
To let Deschutes County know of your Great American Eclipse travel plans, fill out their survey at surveymonkey.com/r/COEclipse.