County reviews earthquake exercise
However, it showed the severity of problems the county could expect to face, Emergency Manager Doug McGillivray told county commissioners last week. As a result, the county not only has better-trained people, but a lengthy list of issues to address in coming years, he said.
He told commissioners, “One of the mayors involved, upon coming to realize how significant the role of an elected is in responding to and recovering from an incident, has requested that Yamhill County Emergency Management facilitate a meeting with as many mayors and city managers as will participate, to discuss the issues uncovered during the exercise.” He said those include:
n How do we get liquid fuel out of the ground to support a response when the area is without electricity?
n How do we communicate when our phones, e-mails and faxes are down? Do we have a Continuity of Operations Plan, and if not, why not?
n Shouldn’t we have in place an expedited permitting process?
n Can and should we suspend normal purchasing protocols during the initial phases?
n What happens when we lack the ability to respond?
McGillivray said it was helpful, during the exercise, to hear from instructors who had lived through major disasters in their own communities, as they could share tips and anecdotes about unexpected problems.
For example, one warned it is vital for people on wells to refrain from using generators to pump water, until the sediment stirred up by the shaking has subsided. Otherwise, he said, the grit ruins the pumps, and it may take weeks or even months to get them repaired.
The review left county commissioners with some questions, such as whether most Yamhill County fire stations would in fact be destroyed in a massive earthquake, as FEMA assumed, or whether the fact that most are up to today’s code standards would enable them to survive. McGillivray said he was unsure.
The county plans to hold a two-day class for training public information officers this summer, he said, because one of the needs in an emergency is for people to disseminate accurate, timely information to the public.
The county Emergency Management Department also is working on reviewing all county response plans, consulting with county officials on developing a project calendar, and “working with a subcommittee of the Oregon Emergency Management Association to champion legislation to ensure the ability of responders to access in-ground fuel supplies in the absence of electrical power,” McGillivray said.