New plan outlines how West Linn will respond to major emergencies

Are you prepared for when disaster strikes? That is the question the West Linn Police Department is asking itself and the public.

According to Capt. Ron Schwartz, “It’s not a matter of if West Linn will experience a major disaster. It’s a question of when. ... It could even be tomorrow.”

In response to that question, the police department has given its 12-year-old emergency operations plan a major overhaul, which the city council adopted during its Monday meeting.

The emergency plan was originally drafted and adopted in 2000. A new draft was written in 2002 but was never adopted. Last November, according to Schwartz, the police decided to rewrite the plan completely.

During his presentation to the council, Schwartz said, “When a disaster threatens or strikes a jurisdiction, citizens expect their elected leaders to take immediate action to deal with the situation.”

“The idea of an emergency is pretty fresh for us,” Councilor Teri Cummings said, recalling the 2009 winter storm.

The goal of the plan is to ensure all government entities respond to emergencies efficiently and effectively.

The 400-plus-page plan addresses all major emergencies, such as an earthquake, severe weather, flood, fire, terrorism and volcanic activity. It is designed to fall in line with county, state and national emergency plans.

The plan outlines the roles and responsibilities for city employees during any given emergency. Currently, city hall acts as the emergency operations center for the city. However, when the new police station is complete, the new facility will act as the operations center.

“It’s not a perfect plan, but it’s a good starting point,” Schwartz said.

Now that the plan is completed, it is time to start exercising it. Schwartz said the city has not conducted any emergency drills for the last five to six years.

“We need to maintain this plan,” Schwartz said, adding they plan to conduct annual exercises, including some with other jurisdictions.

City council members expressed the desire to be part of the emergency operations plan, including the practice drills.

“I’m very pleased to see this plan and the amount of work that goes into it,” Councilor Jody Carson said.

“I’m looking forward to all the practice drills because practice makes perfect,” Jenni Tan, council president, said.

As part of its adoption of the plan, the council dictated that an emergency exercise needs to be performed sometime in the next nine months.

Schwartz said the plan will be regularly reviewed and updated at least every five years.

Map Your Neighborhood

Schwartz also stressed the importance for West Linn residents to be self-reliant in case of an emergency. In the event of a major disaster, such as an earthquake, first responders may not be able to reach all of those in need. He recommended that residents have 72 hours’ worth of supplies for such occasions.

He also recommended the Map Your Neighborhood program. The national program teaches residents how to identify special skills and equipment in neighborhoods, how to create a map identifying locations of gas and propane lines, how to compile a contact list of those with special needs in the area, and how neighbors can work together in times of need.

“It’s probably one of the better programs I’ve come across,” Schwartz said.

West Linn resident Grant Oakes, a public safety advisory committee member, volunteers to present this program to neighborhoods. Contact the city for more information.

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