State homeland security grants fund local preparedness projects

Some emergency planners have questioned the utility of tsunami sirens.

Clatsop County has secured almost $69,000 in state homeland security grants to fund emergency preparedness projects.

Three grants will fund updates to emergency operations plans, support a credentialing system for county emergency volunteers and provide $30,000 to install two tsunami sirens in Warrenton.

In March, the Warrenton City Commission approved an agreement with the county for the sirens, pending funding.

Some communities on the coast, like in Tillamook County, have questioned the utility of sirens. In 2012, officials chose to dismantle around 30 pole-mounted, 1960s-era tsunami sirens, arguing other communication methods like mass texts or automated reverse 911 calls are more effective warning systems.

“One of the arguments against sirens is that ground shaking should be the warning,” Tiffany Brown, director of Clatsop County Emergency Management, said. “But I think in Clatsop County that having a redundant method in place isn’t a bad thing — especially with so many people from out of town.”

Another $30,000 will go to revamping emergency operations plans in Warrenton and Gearhart. Warrenton’s last full update occurred in 2010, and Gearhart’s back in 2009.

The cities have provided reviews of the plans, which outline the roles and responsibilities of a city during an emergency, but the time has come to conduct a full-scale rewrite, Brown said. There has been a large amount of turnover in staff and elected officials in both cities.

“The greatest conversations happen during these updates,” Brown said. “When (the cities) drafted these, they were consultant driven. They didn’t really have emergency management programs. Now we are looking at them with our programs in mind.”

The third grant — $8,860 —will go toward building a Citizen Corps system, a database that will help track hours and coordinate credentials for volunteers through Community Emergency Response Teams and other disaster response teams throughout the county.

The project is designed to improve verification capability by providing identification badge printing and volunteer management software.

“Let’s say a disaster happens and you can’t physically get to your community,” Brown said. “This would allow a sponsoring agency to know if you’re a county volunteer.”

Brown said grant dollars will be available to use starting this fall.

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