SALEM, OR -- About 30 city, county, state and tribal agencies and organizations from across the state took part in a special training at the Oregon Office of Emergency Management in Salem on Tuesday, to learn how to best get necessary information out to the media and the public in the days surrounding the August 21 eclipse. Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Manager Nathan Garibay was one of the facilitators at the event, helping other Public Information Officers (PIOs) prepare for what's to come.
Sgt. Garibay tells KBND News, "We’re planning that there will be a statewide information center that will be working with several sub-geographical Joint Information Centers (JIC). So, those geographical regions in the state would be Central Coast, Central Willamette Valley, Central Oregon and then Eastern Oregon." The local JIC will be set up the week before the eclipse at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond, alongside a temporary multi-agency coordination center.
He admits that many of the communities within the path of totality are not used to the media attention they're now receiving, which adds to the need for disseminating information quickly and accurately. "I think the biggest challenge, particularly for rural areas, is just the depth and limited number of staff that can support all the different needs associated with managing a large incident. Fortunately, a lot of these communities are really experienced with wildland fires. A lot of those skills that these communities deal with every summer with wildland fire [are] transferable to the eclipse event," says Garibay. "Also, just the fact that an event like the eclipse could bring multiple small events that kind of cascade into very complex environments where you have a lot information needs that we need to get out to the community, and sometimes those could be conflicting messages - we want to make sure we get the right message out."
Tuesday's training was a chance for PIOs and others to practice various scenarios that might arise with hundreds of thousands of visitors. Garibay says they're ready. "I would put the Central and Eastern Oregon communities up against any community. I think they have a really good understanding of what their community needs and capabilities are. They’re really good at communicating with their local communities all the time. And, I think that if we just continue to do what we do well, we’ll fair just fine."
Eclipse Coverage on KBND is supported in part by Awnings Unlimited. Shade yourself from the sun with Awnings Unlimited at 5541-389-1619 and awningsunlimited.net.