Emergency Management coordinator addresses council on state of program, COVID-19 response

Program has made strides in local partnerships since its inception

At this week’s Bainbridge Island City Council meeting, the city’s Emergency Management coordinator, Anne LeSage, gave a brief update on the state of the program and COVID-19 response plans.

“We are in the middle of (an) unprecedented wildfire season combined with COVID,” LeSage said.

LeSage went over the origins of Emergency Management, which began in 2016 when the council decided that Bainbridge Island should be a leader in preparedness in the state. Two years later, the city made LeSage’s role full-time, which led to a reduced level of service needed from Kitsap County’s Department of Emergency Management.

“There are a number of cities in similar size that may have a part-time person, if anyone, really working on emergency management,” she said. “I do think it’s really important to recognize the commitment that the city has shown to emergency management and preparing this community.”

According to LaSage’s presentation, the investment in a full-time emergency management position has allowed the city to leverage several local partnerships, such as: Bainbridge Island Fire Department, School District and Metro Park and Recreation District, along with Bainbridge Prepares, Kitsap Regional Library, Rotary Club of Bainbridge Island and other community nonprofits

“Having that partnership is absolutely critical for our ability to quickly respond and start ordering resources and getting messages out to our community so if we do have a small brush fire that turns into something bigger, we have our plan in place. We have those relationships developed,” LeSage said.

The full-time position has also allowed the program to organize significant volunteer efforts through a coordinated registration, credentialing, training and activation process, along with serving as a force multiplier for resources in the community. The program has also nearly doubled its size in volunteers from 2019 to 2020, going from 138 to 346.

COVID-19 response

While Kitsap County patiently awaits approval to move into Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan, LaSage said at this time, there is no way to really plan for it besides playing the waiting game.

“There’s just no new indication on what that new timeline will look like, especially coming out of Labor Day weekend and kids going back to school,” she said. “I believe we’re just going to wait and see what these next couple of months look like and then hopefully we’ll hear more from the governor’s office on when those phased applications might resume.”

LaSage mentioned that the Emergency Operation Center, which was activated from the beginning of the pandemic in March through August, is now on standby.

“I am currently monitoring the situation, staying in coordination with the city manager, with the fire chief, with the police chief, and our communications coordinator so if things change we can ramp back up and either have a partial or full activation, depending on how the situation changes,” she said.

Per LaSage’s presentation, the Emergency Management Program’s COVID-19 priorities include: Support public health efforts to reduce rate of transmission, support essential community services as broader range of activities resumes, support procurement of PPE for essential community workers and newly reopened businesses and retailers, support economic mitigation for local businesses and non-profits, manage fiscal impact to city services and budgets, and implement physical changes to city facilities to support staff and customers.

The presentation also indicated that total volunteer hours for COVID-19 response has exceeded 1,200 hours and have received numerous PPE donations such as N95 masks, surgical masks, safety goggles, face shields, hand sanitizer, hand-sewn masks and hundreds of gloves.

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