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Emergency Management: Eagle Creek Fire offers lessons to improve County readiness for future disasters (5.91 MB)

What We Found

The Multnomah County Office of Emergency Management’s performance in the Eagle Creek Fire was generally well regarded by partners. As most emergency events and exercises do, the experience also revealed areas for improvement. We found that:

  • To staff the Emergency Operations Center, the County drew on assistance from neighboring counties and cities, and some less experienced County staff. Increasing the number of County staff with training and experience, would improve preparedness for future large incidents.
  • The Office did not ensure the federal reimbursement application included expenses from all involved departments. The application did include the largest expenses.

The County faces additional challenges in emergency management. We found that:

  • The Office has set a three-year strategy, but lacks timelines or plans for implementation.
  • Staffing challenges within the Office limit progress towards meeting its goals, including towards meeting nationally recognized accreditation standards.
  • There is no central coordination for continuity of operations planning and some continuity of operations plans are outdated or incomplete.
  • The Office is not using the Emergency Operations Center facility and lacks an alternative.

Why We Did This Audit

The Multnomah County Auditor included Emergency Management on the 2017-18 audit schedule. The Eagle Creek Fire provided a good opportunity to examine the Office’s response to a large incident, and draw lessons for future improvements. While the Office is small, the County’s Emergency Management program has far-reaching implications in protecting life,safety, and property; ensuring equity in disaster preparedness; and building resilience.

What We Recommend

  • The Office should continue to build capacity for staffing the Emergency Operations Center. This can be accomplished by reporting on progress with identifying additional County staff, ensuring staff have adequate training, and establishing a tracking system.
  • The Office should develop procedures to set expectations and clarify roles and responsibilities for expense reimbursement and continuity of operations planning.
  • The Office should also take short-term steps to mitigate long-term challenges, including developing strategies to address turnover; improving short-term action planning; and developing Emergency Operations Center facility plans in line with intended usage.