A new state audit found that Oregon might not be fully prepared to recover from a major disaster because of insufficient planning and organizational problems at the Office of Emergency to Management.
The incomplete emergency management plan could delay relief efforts and decrease recovery effectiveness. Oregon also stands to lose significant federal funds in the event of a disaster because its hazard mitigation plan was downgraded due to its insufficiencies.
The Office of Emergency Management (OEM), a division of the Oregon Military Department, coordinates emergency preparedness, disaster recovery and hazard mitigation with state and local agencies.
Significant management turnover and vacancies in recent years have contributed to the organizational problems. For the first time in nearly four years, all of OEM’s management positions are now filled.
“The Office of Emergency Management needs to resolve its deep-seated organizational issues immediately and make sure that Oregon is fully prepared for a major disaster,” said Secretary of State Kate Brown. “Anything less is inexcusable.”
The audit found internal shortcomings at OEM. The division did not have a strategic plan; performance measures had limited relevancy; policies and procedures were not current or complete; employee evaluations were not regularly conducted; and there was no training plan for employee professional development.
The audit recommends OEM develop clear and specific expectations for employees, improved policies and work processes, better communications strategies and feedback to improve its performance.
New management has acknowledged internal challenges and has started taking steps toward making improvements to better address the Adjutant General’s top priorities of strategic planning and preparing for how Oregon will manage a Cascadia earthquake event.
“I’m encouraged that OEM has a management team in place that recognizes the problems our audit highlighted,” said Secretary Brown. “The next step is to get the rest of the agency in order so it can successfully support our front-line disaster responders -- local governments.”