My View: Interim director says not to worry, despite report

The Portland Tribune's recent news story and editorial concerning a report critical of Multnomah County's Office of Emergency Management might have left the impression that the county is not equipped to respond to potential disasters, natural or man-made. That is not the case.

The report found that the office needs more resources for additional staff, a Web site, citizen education, training of county staff, direction to county departments, improved strategic planning and better record keeping. We agree on all counts and will take these and other recommendations from the report to heart and look to begin implementing changes quickly.

While we work to make needed improvements to the office, I want to make clear that the county's ability to respond to emergencies is in no way compromised. While our two-person Office of Emergency Management is important, it is not - in and of itself - the heart of the county's on-the-ground response in the event of a crisis.

Our employees are in place and ready to go should the need arise. Our health department is well-equipped to respond to public health threats that might develop. Our transportation department has a sound strategy for bridges and other transportation needs. Our facilities department has a master plan regarding all county buildings and property. These are only a few examples of our preparedness.

On Monday, Multnomah County Chairwoman Diane Linn convened a meeting of county officials with Riley Caton, principal consultant of Emergency Services Consulting Inc. and author of the recent program evaluation of the Office of Emergency Management.

The meeting involved key personnel from across the county who are engaged in our emergency management system, including representatives from facilities, information technology, bridges, roads and health. The group reviewed the evaluation in detail with Caton, and discussed both his findings and recommendations for the Office of Emergency Management and emergency preparedness within the county at large.

Linn has asked our human resources staff to begin the recruitment process for a permanent director. In the meantime I have been appointed interim director of the office. For the past six months, I have been taking care of daily operations; serving as the point person with the Portland Office of Emergency Management and state and regional emergency management officials and partners; and overseeing completion of critical work plan objectives.

Linn has been in regular contact with Chairman-elect Ted Wheeler to update him on our intentions for strengthening the county's Office of Emergency Management and to ensure a smooth transition as he prepares to take office in January. We want to ensure his involvement in responding to the recommendations.

I look forward to working closely with the chairman and others at the county to strengthen the Office of Emergency Management in the coming months.

Steve Bullock is the interim director of the Multnomah County Office of Emergency Management.

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