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Plan helps city prepare for the worst

  • Written by Bill Lewis

City officials have begun the task of reading through more than 200 pages of material outlining how Woodinville would handle disasters, ranging from earthquakes to terrorist attacks.

A consultant hired to update the city’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan has completed about 90 percent of its work, and submitted a draft plan to the Emergency Preparedness and Public Safety Commission March 13. The effort is intended to help the city comply with state laws that require municipalities to periodically update their emergency-response plans.

The updated plan is designed to direct the city’s response to, among other things, fairly common emergencies, such as severe weather; rarer events like earthquakes; and a number of other singular disasters, including terrorism, cyberattacks and workplace violence. It outlines ways the city can warn residents of an impending disaster, how the city would respond immediately after an event, and longer-term recovery techniques.

“It’s the response phase that gets the most attention –  the time right after an event occurs, when you’re getting everything organized,” said Rebekah Weston of Red Barn Engineering in Brier, the civil engineering firm hired by the city to write the 2017 plan.

The plan designates the Woodinville Fire & Rescue Emergency Operations Center as the hub of the response effort, where the fire department would work in partnership with police, city public works officers and other emergency personnel.

Local agencies should be prepared to handle response efforts for as long as three days, the report says. But, for longer-lasting events, the city would need to rely on outside help.

In those cases, “many emergency functions will be delegated to the King County Office of Emergency Management, as the city has insufficient resources for a large, prolonged response to a disaster and it will be quickly overwhelmed,” the plan says.

In the most severe emergencies, the city will also likely require assistance from state agencies and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to the plan.
The plan envisions that city agencies and the fire department will be partners in emergency efforts, but Woodinville Fire & Rescue would operate under its own plan during an emergency, as a separate entity whose boundaries extend beyond the borders of the city.

Although some emergency preparedness commission members questioned whether the city and fire department’s plans could be joined in one comprehensive document, city officials say that is not possible.

“We do not have jurisdiction over the fire district, but we work closely with the district,” said Kellye Mazzoli, assistant to the city manager. “We’ll have a seat at their table and they’ll have a seat at our table, when it’s an emergency that involves both entities.”

Erik Wallgren, deputy fire chief, told commissioners that regardless of political boundaries, it is important to have cooperation between agencies, and one central command center.

“It’s very important to have police, fire and other departments in one place,” Wallgren said.

Even as it defines the duties of emergency responders, the plan mentions the role of individual citizens in emergency preparedness, and the low-level of preparedness among the general public.

“While it is important that citizens prepare to meet their own emergency needs for at least seven days,” the plans says, “it is generally accepted that fewer than half of the population currently does so.”

Before it takes effect, the plan requires city council approval.

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