Hood River County Emergency Management prepares for, coordinates response and logistical support, mitigation and community recovery for natural and man-made disasters and large scale emergencies.
Hood River County Emergency Managment opened its County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The EOC team was a cross-functional group that addressed widespread community needs, augmenting Hood River Public Health Department's COVID Incident Command.
The EOC team included Hood River County Administration, Hood River City Administration, Hood River Public Health Department, Hood River County Emergency Management, The Cities and Ports of Hood River and Cascade Locks, Hood River County School District and our vital local partnership of non profit, health, public safety and social service partners, are all working together in the EOC.
The EOC team met and worked on issues weekly. The EOC Joint Information Center pushed out changing information and managed the https://GetReadyGorge.com website.
The Hood River County Board of Commissioners and Hood River City Council adopted emergency declarations to help us respond to COVID.
This proactive COVID-19 response represents the whole community of Hood River County, across agencies and missions - FISH Food Bank, The Next Door, Meals on Wheels, Providence, One Community Health, Columbia Gorge Food Bank, Oregon Health Authority, public information officers, law enforcement, Fire and EMS, long term care facilities, CGCC and many other partners working to help our community.
The goal of the EOC is to add extra hands and collaborative support for our community when emergency services are overwhelmed.
Pacific Power announced plans to reduce utility caused fires in 2019, by shutting off power in hot weather to Hood RIver County and Mosier, in addition to southern Oregon. These were the first PSPS (proactive power outages in fire hazard weather) plans in Oregon.
HERE IS THE LATEST ON HOOD RIVER PSPS ON THE PACIFIC POWER WEBSITE.
Pacific Power announced PSPS went into effect June 25, 2019.
Our small, rural communities need significant time to prepare for, and significant new resources to add backup power to address the impacts of power outages on vulnerable people and essential community services.
We are working across two Counties (Hood River and Wasco) to advocate for our community's needs with Pacific Power and the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) to begin planning for this new hazard.
Hood River / Mosier and southern Oregon (Jackson/Josephine/Douglas counties) were the first Oregon communities Pacific Power launched PSPS in. PGE in the Portland area also announced PSPS in Clackamas County around the Givernment Camp area.
2021: BPA ANNOUNCES PSPS OUTAGES POSSIBLE IN HOOD RIVER COUNTY
BPA, (Bonneville Power Administration,) the federal agency that supplies much of the power transmission lines to all Gorge utilities announced their own PSPS strategy in 2021, and implemented their first PSPS in rural Oregon.
Pacific Power, Hood River Electric Co-Op, BPA (Boneville Power Adminstration) and City of Cascade Locks utilities supply power to Hood River County.
We worry that PSPS outages would impact the most vulnerable among us, and significantly disrupt business and community services in summer tourist, and agriculture season. We all must prepare for power outages in this new PSPS reality.
Also, there could be significant impacts to the economy and essential public / private services, such as banks, agriculture, businesses, internet, phones, grocery stores, health care and gas stations.
Outages could impact our County's ability to issue (and for you to receive) emergency alerts, such as evacuation orders. If traffic lights go dark, our transportation corridor clogs.
Your home or business door locks, refrigerator, freezer and air conditioner could be affected, amidst extreme heat. Let's all start planning back up power as we prepare for emergencies.
Pacific Power's July 1 power outage maps are HERE of possible power outage areas (PDZ's or Power De-energization Zones) in Hood River and Wasco County (Mosier and Rowena).
Hood River County and City asked Pacific Power to reduce the impacts to Hood River, so the power outage impacts were reduced to smaller areas, and not so widespread.
Pacific Power PDZ (power outage zone) map listed downtown (the City of Hood River) into an "extreme case" PDZ. This is intended to prevent Citywide outages and preserve vital community services located there - such as emergency communications, internet, phones, public warning systems, health care, water, sewer, traffic lights and other essential services in the urban core.
In April 2020, Pacific Power announced that the urban area of Hood River County, in the City limits, would NOT remain a PDZ (potential de-energization zone) - this was to help reduce power outage impacts in a PSPS on critical infrastructure.
We are thrilled that Pacific Power took this step and hope it helps ensure reduced impacts of power outages.
More good news - Pacific Power said they plan to completely remove PSPS as an option for Hood River/Mosier by 2022, after they put utility safety improvements into effect.
Hood River and Wasco Counties and the City of Hood River and our many partner agencies are working together to address power outage planning needs.
Hood River County Emergency Management led this effort and also created a countywide Critical Infrastructure List, to help the utility understand impacts of outages on essential services.
We are writing grants for generators and other needed assets - but we have only just begun..
Disaster preparedness means planning ahead for power outages: Get Ready, Gorge!
what's in your car, Emergency Kits and family evacuation plans
how to prepare for summer heat, a mass influx of visitors and fire season.
To get EMERGENCY NOTIFICATIONS such as evacuation orders, you need to opt in.
It was the #1 fire in the County in fall 2017 - not in a good way. 50,000 acres of pristine USFS land burned in the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area for three months, threatening homes, infrasustructure and businesses in Hood River and Multnomah Counties.
It started Labor Day weekend. The first mission: rescue 157 day hikers safely from the Eagle Creek Trail as the fire blew up around them. The City of Cascade Locks was immediately evacuated and I-84 was closed for weeks.
(Photo above: Eagle Creek hikers are reunited in the 2017 wildfire incident. Photo: Kirby Neumman-Rae, Hood River News)
From there, it was one day at a time, for nearly a month, as evacuation orders changed daily.
It was the #1 wildfire priority in the country, and firefighters from all over the US came in to help us.
Hood River County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Management, and our many partner agencies and staffs, were proud to stand by you, and with you - to face the greatest disaster our community has seen in decades (and hopefully, will ever see.)
THANK YOU, FIRST RESPONDERS - local, regional, state and federal firefighters, Hood River Sheriff's Office, US Forest Service, Oregon State Fire Marshall's Office, ODF, law enforcement, 911 and Unified Commanders.
Hood River Sheriff's Office and Oregon State Fire Marshall presentation to OEMA (Oregon Emergency Managers Association) October 2018
In this this panel discussion for Emergency Managers across Oregon, Hood River Sheriff Matt English, Hood River County Emergency Manager Barb Ayers, and Chief Deputy State Fire Marshall Maria Ruiz-Temple teamed up to share three different perspectives on this challenging wildfire.
Sheriff English addressed challenges of Incident Command, communications and evacuations. Ayers shared EOC lessons learned, aiding the community in this long term activation.
Ruiz-Temple spoke about the leveraging of resources that occured in the fire response to this incident - local, county, state and federal first responders.
Hood River County also invited its partner agency, Multnomah County Emergency Management, to share their panel's perspective on this fire at OEMA 2018. The two panel presentations gave attendees a 360 view of the fire, the response, and lessons learned.
Eagle Creek Wildfire
CEM is the only national professional certification in Emergency Managment and requires candidates have at least three years of professional experience in emergency managment, a Bachelor's degree, at least 200 hours of advanced emergency training, and have fulfilled at least six rigorous public service projects, such as public speaking, audio/visual presentation management, volunteer projects, development of training and drills, and other contributions to the field of emergency management.
Hood River County Emergency Manager Barb Ayers was one of 38 Emergency Managers accepted from a field of 187 applicants into FEMA's year-long National Emergency Management Advanced Academy (NEMAA) from 2018, graduating June 2019.
Working for a year with nationally experienced colleagues has been a great asset to our County Emergency Management program.
According to FEMA records, Ayers was only the fifth Oregonian ever to be NEMAA certified.
Here's the Southern California (Riverside NEMAA Cohort) with Ayers, that graduated June 2019:
National NEMAA certification requires members write an 18-page white paper that adds to the Emergency Management industry's body of knowledge. Here is Hood River's contribution from the national FEMA library:
We've benefitted from NEMAA by building an archive of plans and best practices from agencies that face wildfires and emergencies more often than we do. This helps our community plan for future emergencies, and helps other small communities, too.
Many thanks go to our partners, staffs from a variety of local agencies and hard-working EOC volunteers that dropped everything and came in to help.
We opened the Hood River County EOC on Day One of the Eagle Creek Wildfire and kept it open for 20 days, 12 hours a day, to help our community. Our team averaged 31 people per day. Our mission: The Greatest Good for the Greatest Amount of People.
We weren't managing incident response, we were not at the scene of the wildfire - that's an Incident Command role. The EOC is an office setting where community partners gather to coordinate needed support across agencies, for the community. We gather and share vetted information, plan for contingencies and troubleshoot challenges - together. We also help Incident Command as requested.
The need for the EOC arose virtually overnight to help address the rapidly changing, complex incident's impact on our community. It was the second EOC activation for an emergency in 2017 (Winter Storm, January 2017 - four day activation,) and helped demonstrate, in real time, the partnerships we have built together.
Three additional units were activated by the EOC - a Joint Information Center, Public Call Center and our EOC Operations section supported Incident Command with Evacuation Planning for Sheriff English.
The EOC team created one of the State's first Evacuation Plans, supported community shelter needs, navigated rapidly changing hazards and generated new evacuation maps daily, and took time to help some of the most vulnerable among us, working with local hopsitals and care facilities, Hood River County Public Health and Oregon Health Authority.
Our Joint Information Center was staffed with local, regional and state response agencies. Our public call center offered more information to residents and businesses in Spanish and English.
THANK YOU volunteers, partner agencies and businesses that helped, in so many ways.
Partnerships - it's a wonderful outcome that arose from the ashes of this incident. That, and thankfully, no lives were lost and only a handful of structures, despite the fact that the beast of a wildfire burned for three months. Sadly, our magnificent National Forest bore the brunt of this crisis, and will take years to recover.
Our EOC received (free) mutual aid from our neighboring counties and are forever thankful for their help and expertise: Skamania County, WA, Washington County, OR, Clatsop County, OR, Wasco County, OR and Jefferson County, OR.
The first phase of Emergency Management is PREPAREDNESS, then MITIGATION. When something bad happens, it's time for RESPONSE.
State and Federal disaster recovery assistance was available - Hood River Emergency Management was successful in bringining in the SBA economic injury disaster loan program to help local businesses recover lost cash flow. Hood River led the state in number of businesses interested, and that also helped neighboring counties get the program activated as well.
This was the second time in 2017 that we were able to bring the SBA program here (also winter storm January 2017.)
Recovery grants - Hood River County Emergency Management continues to pursue state and federal grants to help increase our community's resillience and address gaps in our readiness identified in incidents. Recent applications include:
Winter storms, earthquakes, wildfires, landslides and flooding. They can happen at any time. Get READY, Gorge!
Click here to learn about winter preparedness:
Hood River Emergency Management created this in depth guide to help YOU and YOUR FAMILY prepare for emergencies and disasters.
In 2018, Hood River County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Management updated our County's Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan (NHMP.) This plan outlines community risk for natural hazards and actions local agencies can take to reduce risks BEFORE the next wildfire, winter storm, flood or earthquake.
Our greatest natural hazards are:
- Wildfire #1
- Winter storms #2
We partnered with FEMA, OEM, DLCD and University of Oregon's RARE program, and many local agencies to create the comprehensive plan, from the ground, up. Oregon's land use planning agency, DLCD, administered a FEMA Pre Disaster Mitigation Grant to cover out of pocket expenses and we generated our plan in sync with our partner counties in Gilliam, Sherman and Wasco Counties.
Barbara Ayers, Hood River County Emergency Manager and Nicolia Mehrling, RARE program, University of Oregon.
Mikel Diwan, Hood River County Public Works Director; Michael McElwee, Port of Hood River; Gordon Zimmerman, City of Cascade Locks; Paul Koch, Port of Cascade Locks; Dustin Nilsen, City of Hood River; Mike Schrankel, Hood River County GIS; Loretta Duke, US Forest Service; Theresa North, Columbia Area Transit; Mike McCafferty, Hood River Fire Defense Board; Mike Matthews, Hood River County Public Health; Catherine Dalbey, Hood River County School District; John Roberts, Hood River County Community Development.
Tricia Sears, Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) and Michael Howard, Oregon Partnership for Disaster Resilience
Board, Commision and FEMA adoption
The 2018 Hood River County NHMP was adopted by Hood River County Board of Commissioners, Hood River City Council and the City of Cascade Locks in fall 2018. FEMA approved this multi-agency plan November 13, 2018 without changes and cited the collaborative planning process.
Two Port Commissions in our County, Hood River and Cascade Locks, adopted the plan with specific updates from their jurisdictions in winter 2019. FEMA adopted this multi-agency update on March 19, 2019. Having five local agencies plan, write and adopt the plan reflects the true multi-jurisdictional partnership that is at the heart of our community -- and emergency management. We partner before, during and after, disasters. This plan also ensures that local public agencies are eligible for Federal and State mitigation grants and other funding:
Where to from here?
Since then, Hood River County Emergency Management has been writing state and federal grant applications to help us address key projects identified in the NHMP, such as Evacuation and Shelter Planning, updating our Community Wildfire Protection Plan, seismic retrofitting, enhancing public warning, creating a mobile Emergency Operations Center (EOC,) adding auxilliary emergency communications, and obtaining generators for emergency shelters.
Hood River County Emergency Management is a regional resource - we partner with Cities, Counties, Fire Departments, 911, schools, medical, health and other first response agencies Gorge-wide, to prepare our region for large scale emergencies and disasters. We are staffed by trained volunteers and partner staffs that are not responding to the incident.
The Hood River County EOC (Emergency Operations Center) activates in large scale emergencies and disasters, to help the community and augment first responders.
We are the direct link to partner with, and access additional regional, state and federal support.
We manage grants, disaster planning and programs that enhance our county's readiness and response. We help citizens and businesses prepare for emergencies and disasters.
We are the whole community FEMA talks about.
We won a competitive national grant to host a community-wide training, IEMC (Integrated Emergency Management - Community specific) in Hood River, December 2016. Our whole community came together to prepare together at IEMC Hood River. The four day academy was attended by 98 local leaders.
Do we get Winter Storms here? Or what!
Right after that, Snowmeggadon occured - actually, snow started heavily on day one of IEMC Hood River, and continued for three months, at Columbia River level, closing I-84 and isolating our community. A four day ice storm occured January 17-21 and became a Presidentially declared emergency.
Nine months later, our second national emergency, the Eagle Creek Fire, came to town. It was a national fire conflagration declaration.
CLICK HERE to download our After Action Report/Improvement Plan from the IEMC academy. We are dedicated to continuous improvement in Emergency Management!
Citizens and businesses are encouraged to be self-sufficient for up to 3 weeks, should an emergency or disaster occur.
We are here for you - and we also appreciate you doing your part to prepare your family for emergencies.
"When, not if, the magnitude 9.0 quake strikes - let alone the accompanying tsunami, Oregon will face the greatest challenge in its history" - Oregon Earthquake Commission.