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Public health assists with response to statewide flooding
Car in flooded street

The Health Security, Preparedness and Response (HSPR) Incident Management Team (IMT) responded to a severe winter weather system that reached the Northwest on Wednesday, Jan. 18, resulting in heavy rains, flooding, high winds, and ice storms that overwhelmed the response capabilities of multiple counties. Throughout the course of the 2012 winter storm event the Oregon Coast was ravaged by rain and high winds, ice storms crippled towns and infrastructure down the Gorge, high elevations experienced heavy snow fall, and many rivers flooded as a result of the rain.

The Health Security, Preparedness and Response IMT conducted a threat briefing in the Portland State Office Building (PSOB) Agency Operations Center (AOC) informing staff and partners of the situation and possibility of activation on Wednesday, Jan. 18, at 1400. On the morning of Thursday, Jan. 19, the HSPR public information officer (PIO) facilitated a PIO meeting in the Portland AOC presenting a draft of the risk communication toolkit and discussing a toolkit distribution and communication plan. At 1000 that same day a HAN alert was sent asking all hospitals’ emergency preparedness coordinators and other key hospital staff (210 individuals total) to update their core fields in HOSCAP. By 1300 that afternoon, 15 rivers had experienced heavy flooding, flooding or were expected to flood. The Oregon Public Health Division AOC was activated at 1300. The PIO distributed the risk communication toolkit to emergency-designated public health PIOs and liaisons.

Lincoln, Tillamook, Columbia, Linn, Lane, Coos, Polk, Curry, Clackamas, and Marion counties’ Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) were in limited activation. Benton County’s EOC was in full activation. Multiple hospitals activated their Emergency Operation Plans (EOPs) as well. Heavy rain totals (3”-15.5”) fell within 24 hours throughout much of the state. One-half inch of ice covered highways in Central and Eastern Oregon, closing roads including I-84. Winds hitting110 miles per hour were reported at the Oregon Coast.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber declared a state of emergency due to severe winter weather for Marion, Coos, Benton and Lincoln counties. In addition to those activated the day before, on Friday, Jan. 20, Hood River and Yamhill county EOCs were also in limited activation and additional hospitals activated their EOPs. The HSPR public information officer sent out a press release, developed talking points for media calls to OHA, updated website content, and created social media and plans for outreach to individuals with limited English proficiency. The HSPR IMT logistics section updated the public health action requested by the Oregon Department of Administrative Services (DAS) for environmental health technical assistance. Public health subject matter experts communicated with DAS regarding state-owned buildings contaminated with sewage. They helped develop plans to clean the facilities making them safe for workers and scheduled follow-up testing. Public health remained available for technical assistance as needed.

No additional resource requests were received. Public health continually monitored the event via HOSCAP, partners and subject matter experts, and in turn provided a minimum of daily situational status reports.