Audit: Oregon Must Do More To Prepare For Catastrophic Disaster

Jan 25, 2018
Originally published on January 25, 2018 5:23 pm

Oregon is not prepared for a catastrophic disaster, according to an audit from the Secretary of State’s office released Thursday. 

The audit, which looked at state and local emergency management efforts, found the state failed to meet national baseline standards for emergency management, and that planning efforts lack on all levels of the state’s emergency management system. 

That’s due in part to “inadequate” staffing statewide, including understaffing at the Office of Emergency Management.

“OEM in particular is understaffed, despite repeated budget requests to the Legislature, which inhibits the agency’s capacity to coordinate emergency management efforts in the state,” the report states.

The Secretary of State’s audit was based on interviews with OEM staff and surveys of local and state emergency management programs.

The report comes at the heels of a year of disasters, from Hurricane Maria in Dominica and Puerto Rico to devastating wildfires in California and Oregon.

Earlier this week, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Alaska prompted officials to issue a tsunami watch along the Oregon coast, putting local emergency management systems to the test.

But when it comes to “the big one,” – specifically, the well-publicized prospect of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone along Oregon’s coast, the audit says Oregon should “do more” to prepare.

According the report, state planning efforts for mitigating, preparing for, responding to and recovering from disasters are “incomplete.”

More specifically, the state is at risk of losing federal emergency funds if it can’t maintain an “enhanced status” for its emergency plan.

The report also found that the state’s preparedness plan is both incomplete and still in draft form. It includes undeveloped details that define actions for organizing resources, training personnel and exercising disaster scenarios.

Additionally, more than a dozen annexes in the Emergency Operations Plan are not up-to-date. Such annexes include transportation and public works action items during emergencies.

The state’s recovery plan, meanwhile, has not been signed by Gov. Kate Brown, who is responsible for the emergency management system per state statute.

The office also offers recommendations for improving the state’s emergency response network. Recommendations include continuing to advocate for funds through the state budget and clearly defining responsibilities for preparedness, response and recovery efforts.

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