Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency in 23 counties on Thursday because of forecast high heat, with temperatures expected to exceed 100 degrees on Friday, July 30.
"As Oregon faces another high heat event, it's important that we make available all needed resources to assist every level of government helping Oregonians stay safe and healthy," Brown said in the July 29 announcement. "We know that these excessively high temperatures are placing a significant burden on local and Tribal jurisdictions, and that they can also impact critical infrastructure, including utilities and transportation."
The declaration was a reversal of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management position that such a declaration was not necessary before the late June heat wave suspected of killing 116 in the state, most in Multnomah County. During a July 2 press briefing, office director Andrew Phelps defended the decision to not declare an emergency, saying it would not have made a difference in how governments responded to it.
"That's part of the review process. Did we have access to all the tools and would an emergency declaration made a difference? At this point, I don't see that it would have. As far as what exactly would have made a difference, that investigation is going on now," Phelps said.
But now Brown said the emergency declaration was triggered by the need for state agencies to assist local and Tribal jurisdictions in providing for the health and safety of their residents.
"The governor has directed the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to activate the state's Emergency Coordination Center, and state agencies to provide any assistance requested by OEM. As part of the declaration, the Oregon Health Authority will activate the State Emergency Registry of Volunteers in Oregon (SERV-OR) — the state's roster of licensed physicians, nurses, EMTs and other health professionals — as necessary to respond to the heat event," the announcement said.
In addition, Oregonians are encouraged to call 211 for information on cooling centers. Unlike the previous heat wave, 211 will be staffed 24/7 to respond to inquiries and requests for assistance.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler also declared a heat emergency on Thursday. The city and Multnomah County are opening cooling centers and announcing library hours to reduce the risk of heat deaths. A previous Portland Tribune story on the can be found here.
A full copy of the emergency declaration, Executive Order 21-26, is available here..
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