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.
Here is information about PSPS (Public Safety Power Shutoffs) on the Pacific Power website. This is a significant change in reliability of elecrical power for the majority of our County's residents and businesses.
Pacific Power announced PSPS went into effect June 25, 2019. Our small, rural communities need significant time to prepare, and significant new resources to add backup power to critical infrastaructure and essential community services. You need more time as a resident or business.
We are working across two Counties (Hood River and Wasco) to advocate for our community's needs with Pacific Power and to begin planning for this new hazard.
Hood River County and Mosier are the first of two Oregon communities Pacific Power has launched PSPS in. Pacific Power is the only utility proposing non emergency PSPS outages in Oregon. Hood River Electric Co-Op, BPA, City of Cascade Locks electric utility and PGE (Portland, Clackamas) are not proposing PSPS.
Hood River Board of County Commissioners and Hood River City Council, Hood River and Wasco County Sheriffs, Public Health officials, Emergency Managers, County and City leaders and our many partner agencies are concerned that PSPS outages would impact the most vulnerable among us.
Also, there could be significant impacts to the economy and essential public / private services, such as banks, agriculture, businesses, internet, phones, grocery stores, gas stations and public safety.
Outages impact our County's ability to issue public warnings and emergency communications, such as evacuation orders; when traffic lights go dark, our transportation corridor clogs.
Your home or business refrigerator, freezer and air conditioner could all be affected. 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 section off parts of Hood River into smaller zones, so the power outage impacts were reduced to smaller areas, and not so widespread.
In December, Pacific Power announced a new PDZ (outage zone) map that puts downtown into an "extreme case" PDZ. This is intended to help preserve our most vital community facilities and services from outages - such as emergency communications, internet, phones, public warning systems, health care, water, sewer, traffic lights and other essential services in the urban core. There are now four seperate Pacific Power PDZ's, not two.
We are thrilled that Pacific Power took this step and hope it helps ensure reduced impacts of power outages. We hope there is more good news to come.
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 with the utility.
Hood River County Emergency Management led this effort and also created a countywide Critical Infrastructure List, to help with power outage reinstatement priorities. We are writing grants for generators and other needed assets - but we have only just begun.
We hope that businesses and the public can review the Pacific Power PSPS Plan, understand the risks, get questions answered, and begin to prepare for summer wildfires - long before the power (potentially) goes out.
We wholeheartedly support Pacific Power's other wildfire prevention measures, such as power pole improvements and tree clearing around power lines, to prevent utility caused fires, and escalating fire risks.
This fall, a series of national media stories highlighted the recurring high impact of PSPS power shut offs across California in wildfire season.
Power outages would have significantly complicated our Eagle Creek Wildfire emergency response, impacting our ability to warn the public, keep public agencies open and active, evacuate residents, keep food and fuel supplies available, fight fires, keep emergency shelters open, and recover economically from two problems at the same time.
What's in your kit - a visual guide (no words needed - what's in your Go-Kit)
HERE'S AN IN-DEPTH SUMMER EMERGENCY PLANNING GUIDE created for the total Solar Eclipse - what you need to know, and how to prepare for the heat of summer, 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 persepctive on this fire at OEMA 2018. The two panel presentations gave attendees a 360 view of the fire, the response, and lessons learned.
Hood River County's Barb Ayers was one of 38 Emergency Managers accepted from a field of 187 applicants into FEMA's four-week National Advanced Emergency Management Academy (NEMAA) starting in fall 2018, graduating June 14, 2019. Working alongside such experienced colleagues has been a great asset to our County Emergency Management. According to FEMA, only five Oregonians have ever been NEMAA certified.
Here's the Riverside NEMAA cohort that graduated June 2019:
We've benefitted by building an archive of plans and best practices from agencies that face wildfires and other emergencies more often, and have larger staffs to generate plans we don't have access to in Oregon.
National NEMAA certification requires graduates create an 18-page white paper that adds to the Emergency Management industry's body of knowledge. Small Town, Big Emergency - Eagle Creek Wildfire lessons learned - Evacuation and Shelter Planning for small and rural jurisdictions, is housed at FEMA for other jurisdictions to use. This not only helps our community plan for future emergencies, but also helps other small communities, facing similar small town emergency challenges, 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
- 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 October 2017 to July 31, 2018. Hood River Emergency Management was successful in bringining in the SBA economic injury disaster loan program to help local businesses recover lost cash flow - SBA offered loans for up to 30 years with 2.5% interest.
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. For 2019, 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
Nicolia Mehrling, RARE program, University of Oregon
Mikel Diwan, Hood River County Public Works
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
Barbara Ayers, Hood River County Emergency Management
Tricia Sears, Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD)
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 address key projects identified in the NHMP, such as Evacuation and Shelter Planning, updating our Community Wildfire Protection Plan, 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 96 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.