Fall is a beautiful time in Oregon, especially this year as we turn the corner from the pandemic and close out the wildfire season without any major fire incidents.
This fall also delivers a thorough report to Clackamas County about how we fared in our wildfire and winter storm emergency response last year. An independent review team reviewed our response, solicited feedback from our partners and helped us create an improvement plan following these historic incidents. The report issued this month recognizes strengths, identifies areas for improvement and helps point the way to building a stronger system for the future.
It is inevitable that our systems will be tested again, and this review is an investment in our future readiness. Improvements are well under way in several areas:
We are focusing on increasing resiliency and response capabilities in our 21 disaster zones, including pre-positioned shelter supplies, evacuation planning and training local volunteers.
We are working closely with PGE to strengthen the electricity grid and identify federal funds to move more power underground.
We have partnered with the state to increase the capabilities of the emergency alert system.
Clackamas Fire District #1 has launched a hand crew that will increase the district's ability to extinguish wildland fires.
We are working with the American Red Cross to increase training of volunteers.
We are in more frequent leader-to-leader conversations with our federal, state and local partners in order to mobilize resources as quickly as possible in the future.
Our county-centered Emergency Preparedness Council is about to launch and this key group of volunteers will help refine our response plans and help us build deeper systems.
We have many successes from the past year, including the one that matters most: no lives were lost in Clackamas County during the 2020 fires due to the excellent work of our public safety and disaster management staff. Our county staff and first responders performed admirably during a time when many of them were directly impacted themselves. Many were evacuating their homes or working without power while responding to these incidents.
We have proven we are creative and resilient. We will continue to be. The human elements will endure, such as: door-to-door evacuations; Clackamas County Sheriff's Office and National Guard wellness checks; delivery-to-home medical and basics needs supplies; quick-start warming and cooling shelters; and community-based resource centers with bilingual support.
We will also learn and grow from the constructive feedback. As your chair, this is among my highest priorities given where we have been and what the future will likely hold. I look forward to the Emergency Preparedness Council's launch and its contributions to continue on the journey to a resilient and prepared Clackamas County.
Tootie Smith is the chair of Clackamas County's elected board of commissioners.
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