Saturday, May 11, 2013
Clatsop County - WATER, SEWER SYSTEMS FOCUS OF DISASTER RESPONSE EXERCISE
Thursday, May 9, 2013
WATER, SEWER SYSTEMS FOCUS OF DISASTER RESPONSE EXERCISE
How will local cities, utility districts and other public agencies react when a major disaster disrupts water and sewer service on the northern Oregon Coast?
Local officials from Clatsop and Tillamook counties and representatives of state agencies and other organizations – 40 in all – gathered recently at Camp Rilea Armed Forces Training Center in Warrenton to review how well-prepared they are.
The April 17 table-top exercise was organized by Clatsop County’s Public Health Department and Emergency Management Division and facilitated by the University of Washington Northwest Center for Public Health Practice.
“We had participated in previous planning sessions but had never exercised a multi-disciplinary response to water sanitation issues,” Public Health Director Margo Lalich said. “This was a first for us and it was a huge learning moment.”
The exercise simulated a fictional earthquake and tsunami off the north coast of Oregon that would cause severe damage to water and sewer lines and treatment plants, knock out power and flood low-lying areas with contaminated water. Participants were asked to examine each other’s agency plans and policies and discuss ways to coordinate resources in response to such scenarios as handling illness from tainted water, reduced fire-fighting capability and service to evacuation shelters and vulnerable populations.
NWCPHP faculty member, Carl Osaki, developed and led the exercise and was pleased with the group’s progress. “Tabletops are a chance to identify gaps and that can be disconcerting. Most agencies don’t want to expose their vulnerabilities,” he said. “This group was willing to lay out their plans and tackle complicated issues.”
Along with the five incorporated cities, Clatsop County has 11 water districts and five sewer districts providing service to residents and businesses.
Maureen Sheffield-Taylor, Clatsop County Environmental Health Supervisor, said “this tabletop was a great start but it was just the beginning. Now we see how much more work we have to do.”
Released by: Tom Bennett
Community Relations Coordinator