Oregon must be better prepared

Our community was reminded of an important truth last week: we are all responsible for doing what we can, while we can, to prepare for the unexpected – to be ready for catastrophe, crisis, and disaster.

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Thankfully, this recent lesson was the result of a relatively small-scale crisis. While the algae blooms at Detroit Lake impacted many of our regional water systems, steps can, and will, be taken to mitigate the impact. 

The state of Oregon, in partnership with the cities, counties, and nonprofit organizations, has implemented actions that provided at least temporary relief for our most “at-risk” populations. I firmly believe important lessons have been learned over the past week that will better position us for future challenges.

We learned that more work must be accomplished in refining our emergency warning systems. 

We also learned that our communities may be overly dependent upon the flexibility of the “private sector” during the initial hours of a potential disaster. 

And we learned that pre-staging of life-critical supplies warrants our attention; that we must transform an inherently reactive structure of crisis-management into a more proactive, seamless, streamlined approach to execution. 

As the chairman of the Committee on Veterans and Emergency Preparedness for the Oregon House of Representatives, a member of the Oregon Homeland Security Council, and a former senior advisor on emergency management, I am keenly aware of the challenges we face. 

Our emergency response/recovery structures are perpetually underfunded, understaffed, and often pushed aside in favor of “flashier” policy objectives.

However, the most important function of our government is the protection of our people and our place. I believe this latest water crisis underscores the necessity of investing in the baseline elements of a successful emergency response/recovery strategy at the local, county, and regional levels.  We can and must do better.

To begin this process, I am scheduling a series of roundtable discussions regarding our regional “resiliency.”  While we must prepare for the seismic event we know is coming, we must also be prepared for the myriad of smaller-scale dangers we know are as likely, or more likely, to be coming our way in the future. 

Together we can refine our approach, together we can stretch scarce resources, and together we can ensure a significant increase in our ability to recover from catastrophe – but only together.

Rep. Paul Evans, Oregon House District 20

Reprinted from the Statesman Journal, 6/5/18