Puyallup strengthens emergency response

Government: City’s contract for services with Pierce County renewed through end of year

of the HeraldMarch 5, 2014 

A city report released last month says great strides have been made at Puyallup’s Emergency Operations Center.

“We’re at a better state of readiness at the EOC,” City Manager Bill McDonald said.

In July, the city signed a contract for services with Pierce County Emergency Management. That followed the departure of the city’s previous EOC director in June and the resignation of the EOC coordinator in July.

In late September, Bob Bartro, a retired program manager from Pierce County Emergency Management, was hired as Puyallup’s emergency management director.

“Bob really knows his stuff, and I have a lot of confidence in him,” McDonald said. “We’re getting the trainings that are available from the county, so we are in better shape. No doubt we will function well.”

The city signed an agreement in January to continue the contract with the Pierce County through the end of the year.

Bartro’s first order of business was to reconfigure the space.

“The information technology (staff) had been in a little more than half the building,” Bartro said. “The previous EOC was tight with space and tended to be a little noisy because people were so close to each other.”

Now the IT staff has been relocated to city hall.

“Allowing us to reconfigure the EOC has helped us to enhance our response capability,” Bartro said. “This replaces the necessity to find an alternative location (for the EOC). We did look at a couple of other possibilities and decided to stay.”

Bartro said the configuration will bring EOC staff members closer to together for better communication. It also will allow the EOC to bring in new technology and upgrades.

“The EOC is now operable,” he said. “We have work places and telephones in place. We can stand up and function effectively.”

Bartro said the city’s EOC staff participated in trainings the county provided in October and early December. The city EOC will go through more training later this year, both locally and regionally, to test its technology and response capability, Bartro said.

“We’re a viable entity,” he said. “We can stand up and activate the EOC, and serve citizens well and accomplish our mission.

“This is the type of work where you’re never finished. There are always new things that need to be exercised and practiced. I’m going to institute a quarterly training regimen that requires people to be more than slightly familiar with their surroundings.”

Bartro said regular department staff members from city hall support the EOC. The roster includes about 30 people split on two teams, he said. Each team covers a 12-hour operational period during a 24-hour emergency cycle.

Bartro also has established a regular inventory check on shelters and service trailers; auxiliary power for shelters; flood response, such as sand bags and the sand bag machine; and emergency management vehicles.

“I want to make sure that it is tested regularly, and that we can respond with the equipment available,” he said.

Bartro wants to strengthen collaborations with multiple agencies such as the Red Cross, Pierce County, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, local police and fire departments, schools and businesses.

“They all can play an important role when we have to respond and bring resources to bear,” Bartro said.

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