MICHAEL HARRYMANSALEM — The Oregon Senate on Wednesday unanimously confirmed Gov. Kate Brown’s nominee for the state’s first resiliency officer to develop plans for responding to a major earthquake.

Michael Harryman, former director of emergency operations for Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division, starts his new job Thursday, May 26.

“I am honored that the governor has nominated me for this important position,” Harryman said May 23 during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Rules and Executive Appointments.

Harryman is charged with “directing, implementing, and coordinating seismic safety and resilience goal-setting, which includes working with state agencies to improve Oregon's seismic safety and resilience,” according to a statement from Brown’s office.

Major seismic activity

EO MEDIA GROUPOne of Harryman’s first tasks is to participate in the regional earthquake preparation exercise, Cascadia Rising, June 7 to 10. The event is intended to prepare the Pacific Northwest to coordinate a response to a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami. Participants include state and local agencies from Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, military commands and members of the private sector.

Geologists and seismic experts predict major seismic activity along the Cascadia faultline could devastate communities throughout Oregon, especially along the state’s coastline. Much of Oregon’s infrastructure, such as hospitals, roads, and bridges, remain vulnerable to collapse, according to the 2013 Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission Report. Lawmakers also recently approved a record amount — $50 million — to reinforce the state’s schools against collapse in the event of an earthquake.

'Seismically resilient'

The Legislature created Harryman’s position in 2015 to develop earthquake response and recovery plans for the state.

Harryman is the governor’s second nominee for the position. Brown had to withdraw her previous nominee for the position in February because a majority of senators indicated they would vote against her choice. The previous nominee, Derek Smith, a former chief executive officer of Clean Energy Works, had no experience in disaster response or recovery.

Brown announced May 2 that she nominated Harryman, director of emergency operations at the Oregon Public Health Division, to fill the post. Harryman has a master’s degree in emergency and disaster management and has directed emergency operations at the Public Health Division for the past 10 years.

"Mr. Harryman has the experience and expertise needed to bring our state agencies together to ensure they are well coordinated as we work toward making Oregon seismically resilient," Brown said in a May 25 statement.

Harryman will work out of the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries office in Portland.

By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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