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With no working radio hub, Keizer risks isolation & confusion
Emergency planning a “hot potato” leaving Keizerites underprepared
Keizer City Manager Adam Brown recently presented to the City Council a plan to revive long-dormant emergency management planning in the city.
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In his presentation, Brown described emergency planning as a “hot potato nobody wanted” when he first stepped into the City Manager role in April 2022. Keizer had let emergency management go largely ignored for decades, with significant portions of the plan (created in 1993 and last updated in 2009) antiquated when compared to modern-day preparedness standards.
Presumably, the neglected emergency planning effort was hot-potatoed at least in part by rootin-tootin* former Keizer City Manager Chris Eppley. It’s unclear what specific role Eppley would have played in neglecting core emergency planning duties, but his role as city manager would have put him centrally located to any emergency management planning.
(*this isn’t just a random nickname assigned to Eppley. Although that might be fun - just popping random made-up nicknames into stories. Anyway, Eppley was the former city manager dude who brought his loaded weapon into City Hall in Keizer and accidentally fired it, after which he and some other folks engaged in behavior commonly viewed as an attempted cover-up that ultimately failed. So…yeah, rootin-tootin. I guess it’s humor?)
But Brown’s presentation to Keizer City Council came with an unsettling detail…
Keizer has no staff emergency communications capability until it finds the cash to fix the city’s radio hub. According to Brown’s report, the shuttered radio hub requires around $7,200 in repairs. From the presentation:
Let’s pause for a second and talk about emergency management planning. I am not an expert, but I have looked at several local, regional and state level examples of planning for government-facilitated, emergency response to a natural disaster or some type of catastrophic attack.
Guess what core capability serves as the foundation for every single emergency planning document and exercise on planet earth?
If you guess communications. You get a sticker.
Seriously, there’s no such thing as emergency response to anything on any scalable level without the ability to communicate. It’s so baked into these plans, it’s referenced almost as a no-brainer prerequisite.
Here’s the Marion County 2020-2024 “Emergency Operations Plan.”
Here’s the “Salem Emergency Management Plan (SEMP).”
And FEMA’s 2010 “Developing and Maintaining Emergency Operations Plans (EOP)” resource.
All show communications as a core function of any emergency response.
And when you dig a layer deeper in any of these planning docs, you see that communications hierarchy is paramount for success in emergency response. Direction of resources and response needs to cascade down through the proper channels to reach what ends up being a network of government, quasi-government, non-profit, community and religious groups that are often administering front-line services.
Now let’s turn back to Keizer and think about what that broken radio communications hub means for the city’s ability to respond in the event of a mass emergency. Brown’s presentation describes the inability of key emergency management officials to communicate with city staff in the event cell phone networks were compromised.
That would represent, by standards set forth in most modern emergency response planning documents, a critical communications failure.
That’s a big deal, no?
It’s great that Keizer City Manager Adam Brown was willing to…grab the potato? I guess? There’s got to be a better way to say that. Or maybe it’s perfect?
Anyway, Brown seems committed to getting Keizer current on emergency planning. And he should be - it’s one of those things that really keeps our entire community safer.
But it’s worth at least wondering about how we got here. Like, seriously - part of why the government exists at all is to serve its people in times of crisis. Keizer officials, current and former, didn’t seem to share that concern until recently.
It kinda makes a fella wonder…what other hot potatoes are getting swatted around Keizer City Hall? And why? And when did potatoes get such a bad rap? Maybe it’s not the hotness of the potato, but our own impatience in needing to hold the potato that drives this confusion? Mind blown. You’re welcome.
Oh hey, just a reminder that most of the Keizer City Council is up for election soon, including the Mayor. We don’t have to accept incompetence as status quo!
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