Emergency preparedness is a year-round job


Last updated 1/31/2023 at Noon

While the general public often only hears about the activities of Sgt. Nathan Garibay’s Deschutes County Emergency Management and Preparedness office during an emergency, his two-person staff is fully engaged year-round with local and statewide partners to ensure that programs, protocols, and personnel are in place and trained to respond to any kind of an emergency.

Sgt. Garibay, the Deschutes County emergency manager in the Sheriff’s Office, provided an update to the Sisters City Council at their January 21 workshop. He explained the types of potential hazards to which they can respond, including wildfires and smoke events, severe weather conditions, earthquakes, bioterrorism threats, and volcanic eruptions.

According to the 60-page Deschutes County Family Emergency Preparedness Handbook, available at sheriff.deschutes.org/preparedness_handbook.pdf, “Local emergency services have developed an effective and cooperative emergency response system. Throughout the county, agencies work together closely to prepare for any emergencies that come our way.”

Locally, those partnerships include the City of Sisters, police and fire districts in and adjacent to Sisters, Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon Department of Transportation, Deschutes County Road Department, Central Oregon Fire Management, Oregon Office of Emergency Management, Oregon Department of Human Services, Office of the Oregon State Fire Marshal, American Red Cross, and Project Wildlife/County Forester.

Deschutes Country has tested their relationships with their partners on incidents like the Grandview Fire (2021), the Milli Fire (2017), and the total solar eclipse (2017).

Partners also work closely on emergency planning for the Community Wildfire Protection Plan, Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan, evacuation planning, alerts and warnings, responses to the additional needs population (those who might need extra help to evacuate), and traffic management.

Despite all the work being done by public agencies to prepare for emergencies, there is no substitute for personal, individual preparedness. Deschutes County Emergency Management recommends people plan to be on their own for a minimum of 72 hours, and preferably one month. The above-mentioned handbook has all the information necessary to create a plan and includes lists for 72-hour kits and one-month kits.

Garibay highlighted emergency management tools available to residents of Deschutes County.

“About 20-25 percent of community residents have signed up for Deschutes Alerts, which is considered a high percentage,” he said.

He encourages everyone to sign up.

By registering at deschutesalerts.org, a citizen will receive emergency notifications based on their address. More than one way to be contacted can be indicated. Messages are geographically targeted with detailed information. Profiles should be updated every year to be sure information is current and correct. A good time to do that would be when clocks move forward for daylight savings time or when the yard waste cleanup happens each spring. Other online resources include sheriff.deschutes.org, projectwildfire.org, and oralert.gov.

Central Oregon Emergency Information Network has a Facebook page where relevant, timely information is also available.

Everbridge is a free, downloadable application available in both Apple and Google app stores. It is a mass notification, public warning communication platform that helps authorities protect their citizens. Thirty-five of 36 Oregon counties, including Deschutes, are using Everbridge to send out notifications of law enforcement activity, emergencies, and evacuation routes. Notifications can be sent to cell phones and tablets via text, email, or cell phone call. A Spanish language version is also available.

Visitors to Central Oregon can access community engagement modules for temporary text alerts. In Black Butte Ranch and Sunriver, those are already available, and Garibay hopes to work with Explore Sisters to make it available locally for out-of-town visitors. Locals can temporarily access the platform when visiting other areas that have the service.

Analog “old-fashioned” alerts can also be utilized, with public address announcements by officers driving through town or going house-to-house and knocking on doors.

Anyone needing assistance with accessing or setting up the alert system can call the nonemergency DCSO number at 541-603-6911.


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