July 3, 2018

EM Quarterly Presentation Topics

We had several excellent presentations during our most recent EM Quarterly meeting.  Chris Voss, Director of Multnomah County Emergency Management, MCEM discussed Alert and Warning Systems, including Everbridge, IPAWS, WEA, EAS.  See the flyer  WEA updates (316.97 KB) regarding the upcoming changes to the WEA system.

Chief Deputy Jason Gates, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office gave a briefing regarding summer safety in the Gorge, including information regarding Oregon Department of Transportation’s, ODOT phased reopening of Columbia River Scenic Highway. If you have questions about this project please contact Terra Lingley at 503-731-8232 or terra.m.lingley@odot.state.or.us. ODOT is hosting an open house on Tuesday, July 10 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Mt. Hood Community College's Town and Gown Room. Drop ins are welcome to come listen to a presentation at 5:45 or 6:45 p.m., view displays and ask questions. Getting to the Meeting: Mt. Hood Community College is located at 26000 SE Stark Street in Gresham, OR. Use entrance "C" off Kane Road/257th. Park in Lot "A." Accessible parking is available in lot "B" and an elevator is located in the Student Union. Accommodations will be provided to people with disabilities. To request an accommodation to participate in this meeting, please call 503-731-4128 or call statewide relay at 7-1-1 at least 48 hours prior to the meeting.

Amy Haase, Emergency Management Planner for MCEM provided updates regarding our Damage Assessment Planning and the Regional Recovery Workshops

Tyree Wilde, from The National Weather Service, NWS provided a great overview EM Health HeatRisk Outreach (5.21 MB) of their newly developed "HeatRisk" forecast tool. HeatRisk is a science based approach that highlights heat events in a climatologically based manner versus a ‘one size fits all’ heat index number. Heat risk is portrayed in a numeric (0 - 4) and color (green, yellow, orange, red, magenta) scale which is similar in approach to the EPA Air Quality Index. In a similar way, it provides one value each day that indicates the approximate level of heat risk concern for any location.

Thresholds are based on seasonality, and take into consideration several criteria designed to localize the forecast.  HeatRisk recognizes that high temperature and duration are the primary driver of heat impacts, with overnight lows and humidity playing a role. HeatRisk uses historical information specific for each area taking into consideration complex and diverse climate results.

This new tool has now been incorporated into Multnomah County’s Excessive Heat Standard Operating Procedures as thresholds for action across Multnomah County.  We are also working to develop our response on a regional level.

Heat is the leading cause of weather related deaths in the US, so it's important for the to be ready when heat waves are on the way. Several county departments, city partners, private industry, non-profit, and non-governmental organizations across Multnomah County continue to be engaged in developing communications and offering guidance to other agencies regarding their response. For example, Multnomah County Environmental Health Services recently developed guidance for organizers of large athletic events taking place during the warm season, encouraging them to consult online resources found at Help for When It’s Hot to determine how to protect participants as temperatures rise.

With an eye to climate change, EHS informs planning and response by tracking long term patterns in extreme heat events and poor air quality days. During extreme heat events, EHS staff updates an interactive map of cool spaces and monitors trends in emergency department visits for heat related illness.

Multnomah County Department of County Human Services, DCHS serves as the Emergency Support Function, ESF 6 (Mass Care and Sheltering) Lead. They also provide robust services to many of our traditionally underserved populations and those who experience barriers to services. DCHS has put together extensive response actions to provide for life safety during anticipated excessive heat events, including (but not limited to):

  • Email option to sign up for cooling spaces alerts. Alerts link users to the Multnomah County “Help for When It’s Hot” website, which includes resources such as: Splash Pads, Pools, Parks, Senior centers, Libraries, County Lobbies, And other cooling resources include safety tips.  

  • Development of Cooling Kits: Water bottles, Chapstick, Cooling towels, Ice Packs, Hand held fans, Helpful hints - help for when it’s hot.  

  • All DCHS locations will open their lobbies to folks needing to cool down, as long as posted behavior rules are maintained.  Water and Cooling Kits are available.

  • Enhanced public information and outreach with impacted populations, including contacting clients not enrolled in residential services and not living with family (as they are determined to be the most vulnerable individuals and therefore the highest priority for initial contact). If an at-risk individual cannot be reached by phone/text or email, staff will attempt to visit the individual at their home. Not all individuals have known addresses.

Help for When It’s Hot (HWH)

Article contributors include: Bill Schneider and Tyree Wilde, National Weather Service; Brendon Haggerty, Multnomah County Health Department - Environmental Health; Jennifer Masotja, Multnomah County Department of County Human Services; Kate Willson, Multnomah County Communications Office; Alice Busch, Multnomah County Emergency Management

Because NWS heat advisories, watches, and warnings are issued for larger areas or "forecast zones" the HeatRisk level indicated at any point on the map may be higher or lower than indicated in standard heat advisory, watch, and warning text products.  In this way, HeatRisk is supplementary to the official NWS heat advisory, watch and warning program, and is meant to provide continuously available heat risk guidance for those decision makers and heat sensitive populations who need to take actions at levels that may be below current NWS heat product levels.