PORT ANGELES — Clallam County is overhauling its Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan after the state Emergency Management Division recommended more than 100 changes to the document.
The Clallam County commissioners, emergency management officials and disaster preparedness advocate Jim Buck discussed the current draft of the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) — which includes those revisions — during a work session Monday.
“The one thing you really need to understand is what you do here is going to drive the standard operating procedures and your department procedures … for the future,” Buck told commissioners. “This is your guidance for how you want things to operate when things go south.”
The Board of County Commissioners adopted the 2016 revision of the plan in January 2017. In December 2017, the state Division of Emergency Management reviewed the plan and made 106 recommendations.
Of those recommendations about a quarter are required by law, according to the document. The Division of Emergency Management said the plan needs to follow new standards set in the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act and new state laws.
The current draft CEMP addresses the changes the state recommended. Much of the new language was borrowed from Snohomish County’s plan, which was developed following the Oso mudslide in 2014.
A committee will be working the draft to tailor some of that language to better fit Clallam County’s needs before bringing it before county commissioners again in the coming weeks, Buck said.
The draft as written warns that “damage to infrastructure spanning geographic barriers may divide the county into twenty isolated communities during a disaster or catastrophic event.”
Each of those areas have been organized into each of the five Area Commands, which report information and coordinate local responses within the assigned micro-islands.
Buck, a former state representative, has been warning Clallam County residents that when a 9.0 earthquake hits the Cascadia Subduction Zone it will cause catastrophic damage, mass casualties and split the county into micro-islands.
He said the county needs to provide enough direction for how Emergency Management will operate.
“It’s important for you to let the citizens know that the basic concept for the National Incident Management System is that people are responsible for taking care of themselves until they have met a disaster or emergency that’s beyond their ability … and then it’s time for government to step in,” Buck said. “We’re not showing up with bottles of water and boxed lunches just because the power went off.”
Among the recommendations from the state Emergency Management Division is that citizens need to be prepared to survive for 14 days, not three days.
“Clallam County residents, businesses, and industries will need to utilize their own resources and be self-sufficient following a disaster or catastrophe for a minimum of thirty days or possibly longer,” the draft currently says. “The County may be unable to satisfy all emergency resource requests during an emergency or disaster [and] will be unable to satisfy many emergency resource requests during a catastrophe.
Commissioner Bill Peach questioned what the county’s liability is in the event of an emergency and if some citizens disapprove of the quality of the county’s response.
“If a citizen says ‘you didn’t park a container full of stuff on my driveway and I want to take action,’ do we have a liability that could result in a decision that says we didn’t take proper action and we don’t have to put a container in everybody’s driveway, but every 100th or 10th?” Peach asked.
Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Alvarez told commissioners there would likely be broad discretion in the event of an emergency and that he doesn’t foresee a court ruling the county didn’t do enough.
Buck said state law is clear about requirements for responsibilities. He said he has not seen any laws that require the county to provide anything, but said the county is required to have a plan.
“In every one of these that I’ve reviewed there’s always a statement that says we in no way guarantee that there will be a response that will meet everyone’s needs,” Buck said.
Buck, who is heading an effort to prepare Joyce residents so they can survive during a catastrophe without help from the government, said citizens will have different expectations for what the government should provide. He recalled talking to someone who was “irate” that there are not shipping containers filled with food for when there is an emergency.
“You end up with the whole spectrum,” Buck said. “You have those who expect us to be able to do everything and those in Joyce who are gong to do it themselves.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].