Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Adams County Commissioners consider changes to emergency management job

Staff Writer | April 7, 2021 1:00 AM

RITZVILLE — Adams County Commissioners will make changes to the emergency management director position, as Commissioner Jay Weise, who had the job before he won his commission seat, said times have changed and the job needs to change with it.

“We’ll have to jump through a few more hoops than we’ve done in the past,” he said. “It’s a whole new experience for us.”

Adams County has been required to have emergency management plans since the 1980s due to its proximity to the Columbia Generating Station, a commercial nuclear reactor, near Richland.

Therefore, the successful candidate should have emergency management experience, he said, which hasn’t always been the case.

The county’s original emergency management director had law enforcement experience, but not in emergency management, Weise said. Over time, emergency management became the job of the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. Weise took over the job during his tenure with the sheriff’s office, he said.

Experience matters, he said, because emergency management involves getting a number of different agencies to figure out how they will work together before they are forced to work together. An emergency could mean multiple agencies would cooperate and integrate their operations: multiple fire departments, law enforcement and EMS, and possibly state and federal agencies, responding to a major wildfire, as one example. There should be a clear understanding of each agency’s part of the response, Weise said, rather than trying to work that out in the middle of the emergency.

Weise said commissioners will look for someone who can bring together representatives from each agency. The commissioners also want somebody who can write some of the plans, he said.

For now, the director will be the only employee in the emergency management department, Weise said, but his goal is to expand.

“I would like to see at least two people in that department,” he said. Two people reviewing the plans will have a better chance of finding weak spots, he said.