By editorial board • 

FEMA exercise will spotlight importance of disaster plans

The irony of Yamhill County’s emergency services preparation is that we hope it turns out to be a big waste of money. 

Disasters, with mass injuries, fatalities and property destruction, are something we see and read about regularly but find difficult to fathom occurring in our neighborhoods and communities. That’s especially true in the quiet confines of Yamhill County. But history tells us that disaster can strike anywhere and that we need an emergency services infrastructure prepared to handle every possible scenerio. 

The county’s Office of Emergency Management works steadfastly toward that goal. Headed by Director Doug McGillivray, the office coordinates planning among many jurisdictions and helps update plans to cope with all manner of emergencies. Annual preparedness fairs the past two years have expanded public awareness of those needs.

In three months, the county’s emergency management will be put to the test when the Federal Emergency Management Administration conducts a local disaster exercise. Over four days, myriad aspects and scenerios will be tested, with each city in the county represented. 

Being selected to host the exercise is a testament to the county’s organization in the area. FEMA hosts only four such efforts across the country annually. The federal agency will foot the bill, which would cost the county more than $150,000 to stage on its own. 

By the time FEMA leaves town, the county and cities will have taken a comprehensive look at their strengths and weaknesses in emergency preparedness and can make needed adjustments to disaster plans. 

Various scenarios could cause mass casualties. Of course, the most likely is a massive earthquake that experts predict could occur off the Oregon Coast at any time. The local FEMA exercise will feature a look at the aftermath of a 9.0 earthquake.

Oregonians face possibilities of floods, other major weather disasters, volcanic eruptions, outbreak of disease and other risks, and there is a long list of recommended preparations for each scenario.

We follow the efforts of McGillivray and his office closely, often publishing articles that stress the importance of emergency kits and disaster planning for individuals, families, businesses, institutions and communities.

We can hope that none of those disasters occurs locally and that all the planning exercises and media hype are unnecessary. But the risk of cateastrophic events is real, and the costs of failing to prepare can be truly disastrous.

Like McGillivray, FEMA and many others, we prefer to err on the side of caution.

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