The City of Puyallup entered into a six-month pilot agreement in July with the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management for support services following the retirement of the city’s emergency management director and the resignation of its emergency management coordinator.
City Manager Bill McDonald presented a report last week on the findings from a scan report of the city’s current emergency readiness.
“For the amount of money that was very nominal, I thought it was an excellent document that was turned out in about two weeks,” McDonald told city council members Sept. 17. “It does paint a picture in terms of the condition of our emergency management. We are now more outward-focused than inward-focused.”
McDonald said the scan report, conducted under contract, informed city staff members that the organizational structure of the emergency management needs attention; that there are gaps in the operating guidelines for emergency operations responders; that there is an immediate need for training to assure readiness in incidents such as a winter storm; that the relationships between the city and outside agencies need to be formalized and nurtured; and that resource priorities need to be reviewed to ensure efficiency.
“We’re going to take this opportunity to look at how we do business and make sure we have a nice lean but effective organization,” McDonald said.
Priorities include staffing, training emergency operations responders, identifying an alternative location for the emergency operations center and building relationships with partner agencies, McDonald said.
“We have a staffing issue with the departure of the director and coordinator,” he said. “In the short term, I’m going to bring someone in on contract. Probably will be part-time. That person will take a real hard look at some of the priorities that are in the scan report.
“I have built staffing into the budget, and I’ll be talking about that budget by Oct. 8, so it’s not very long over the horizon,” McDonald added. “The person I want to bring in is experienced and really knows Pierce County and local government, and I think will do a good job for us.”
As for training, McDonald said he is working with Pierce County Emergency Management to schedule training opportunities for emergency operations center responders. McDonald said the center is in the “twilight of its life” and that an alternative location needs to be found.
Council member Steve Vermillion suggested South Hill be considered as a location.
“The high ground is better,” he said.
Council member Tom Swanson said it would be nice if Puyallup had an advocate that would “scream at the top of their lungs” to make sure Puyallup is a priority during a countywide emergency.
“I’m still uneasy not having a person representing our city moving forward,” Swanson said.
Council member John Knutsen supported Swanson’s opinion.
Meanwhile, McDonald told council members he will make more frequent reports as decisions are made regarding emergency management.
“I promise that this will be a continuing subject,” McDonald said.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.