Jefferson County emergency plan approved at Monday meeting in Port Townsend

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Bob Hamlin characterizes Jefferson County’s emergency strategy in terms that evoke the spirit of cooperation.

“I call it a team of teams,” said Hamlin, the director of the Jefferson County’s Department of Emergency Management.

“It will succeed because we will have many teams working together.”

The county commissioners approved the plan at a meeting Monday.

It was approved by the Port Townsend City Council in December.

Hamlin said the city, the county, schools, utilities, neighborhoods and the media all need to make their own preparations for natural disasters, and the combination of all the resources will result in a thorough overall plan.

“In a major emergency, all county and city offices and departments become part of the emergency management system as needed,” the plan states.

“The emergency response agencies and support partners participate . . . by formal and informal agreements [and] local volunteer, nonprofit and faith based organizations can be mobilized to provide much needed aid.”

Hamlin said the plan was last updated in 2009, and many things have changed since then, including the incorporation of the Jefferson Public Utility District as the electrical service provider.

“Part of having an effective plan is maintaining these active relationships that allow us to work together when an emergency hits,” said County Administrator Philip Morley.

“We hope we will never have a full disaster that we can’t recover from, and this plan will help us recover from these little emergencies.”

Hamlin said that an earthquake is a “when” rather than an “if,” but it is impossible to predict the level of damage and which resources will be out of commission.

As a result, preparations should be made for a failure of electricity, cellphones, water systems and roads.

“You prepare for the worst, and then you are ready for anything,” he said.

The report doesn’t address personal or family preparedness, which Hamlin said is the responsibility of the individual.

By now, he said, everyone should know to keep at least a week’s worth of food, water and fuel on hand because the remote nature of the Peninsula will decrease the possibility of immediate aid.

“The rescue trucks won’t be lining up at your house for a while after any disaster,” Hamlin said.

Hamlin said that each individual needs to understand all of their roles and determine how to manage them in an emergency.

“Obviously, family will come first, but people need to understand which roles are more important,” Hamlin said, adding that his job in emergency management will take priority during a disaster, but he has already taken steps to protect his family.

“I’ve been at this for 43 years, and I give my kids emergency kits for their birthdays. They are always complaining that they don’t need another flashlight.”

Since most people have heard the emergency preparedness message, they aren’t paying attention or taking it seriously, Hamlin said.

“People are saturated. We’ve been on this message for quite a while, since 9/11,” he said.

“The message has to be the same, but we need to find a new hook that will grab people, and we haven’t found that grabber yet.”

Under the plan, the county administrator and city manager will provide a conduit between the incident management team and the respective governing boards.

After a disaster, the DEM will conduct a preliminary damage assessment to determine whether it meets federal criteria for disaster aid.

A cumulative amount of damage across several communities is usually needed to meet that threshold, according to the plan.

Hamlin hopes the plan won’t ever be fully implemented.

“A professor passing out materials says, ‘There will be a test,’ but with this plan, I hope that never occurs,” he said.

“I hope that at the end of my tenure people look at the plan and wonder how it would have worked if we ever had to use it.”


Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or

Last modified: January 13. 2014 6:57PM
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