WARM SPRINGS, OR -- State emergency managers are back in Central Oregon this week for the third annual Prepared! Workshop. Andrew Phelps, Director of Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management, says this is the first time the Oregon Health Authority has co-sponsored the event. "Most emergencies, and certainly every disaster, have a pretty big public health component. I don’t think we’ve always looked at emergencies and disasters from that lens. Certainly, emergency management’s involvement in the H1N1 response, back in 2009 was an eye-opening moment for a lot of us in the emergency management community, realizing it’s more than just vaccination and medication that’s needed to combat a pandemic or an epidemic. There’s sheltering issues; there’s mass care issues; there’s communication and public information and warning issues."
For the last two years, the conference has been held in Sunriver. Phelps says his agency has dealt with a number of big incidents, in the past year – from catastrophic wildfires and other natural disasters, to manmade events like the mass shooting at UCC
. "Very often, the public doesn’t care why the lights went out – whether someone hacked the electrical system, or there was a car crash into a telephone pole, or there were severe winds that knocked down power lines. We don’t look at specific hazards and say that those are the hazards we’re going to deal with. We really take an ‘all hazards’ approach and deal with the consequences and try to prepare and respond to and recover form those consequences, regardless of the cause." He says the annual conference allows less experienced emergency managers to learn from their more experienced peers.
This year’s topics include disaster myths, collaborating with volunteer agencies and even how to monitor and control social media rumors during a big event. "A lot of our emergency managers, when they’re going through a disaster, for the most part, it’s the first time they’ve experienced that and they don’t always know what to expect and what they’re going to need," Phelps tells KBND News. "So, using this conference to share some information from emergency managers who have been through these processes, have worked with the Red Cross, have worked with the State Fire Marshall’s office and some of the other partners we utilize during a disaster, and sharing some of those lessons learned with those emergency managers that don’t have that level of experience – that’s where I see this conference really paying off."
Nearly 300 emergency management leaders are expected to attend this year's Prepared! Workshop
, which takes place all week at the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort
. Phelps says continuing to hold the annual event in Central Oregon is important to ensuring communities from all corners of the state can participate.