Most of you know that I am inherently optimistic. I look for and hope for the best in people and situations. However, in this job I have had to adjust my approach slightly to “hope for the best but prepare for the worst!”
For example, I am very excited that our local wildland fire season has ended with the fall rains and cooler weather. It was a very mild fire season and we did not have either the fires or smoke in Pierce County like last year. (Please keep our friends in California in your thoughts as they are battling several serious fires and related power outages.)
But as the fire season fades into the background, floods and winter storms step up to take its place!
That’s why I’m especially pleased to see the work we are doing to prepare for natural disasters and other emergencies that may come our way.
I recently attended a new meeting developed by Jody Ferguson, our director of Emergency Management. She pulled together a wide range of people and organizations into what she called the Quarterly Emergency Management Summit – and she took the meeting on the road.
About 50 of us gathered at the City of Puyallup’s Emergency Operations Center to connect, learn and develop the kind of partnerships that will pay huge dividends if, and more likely when, we need them in an emergency.
Pierce County was well represented with folks from Planning and Public Works, Economic Development, Facilities, Human Services, and Communications, as well as our DEM colleagues. We were joined by many representatives for cities in the County and our first responder community. But, would you have expected to see representatives of a food bank and several school districts in such a meeting? Their participation is critically important both from the perspective of who is impacted by AND who has capabilities to respond to an emergency.
The highlight of the meeting was hearing from Kirsten Hofmann from the City of Puyallup’s Emergency Management department. Kirsten walked us through the comprehensive work her team did to launch a recent realistic emergency exercise. The result of 8 months of planning, the day focused on how to shelter people after an evacuation from flooding.
Her drill was so thorough that they had provisions in place for how to shelter people unwilling to leave their pets, communicating with folks with hearing or language challenges, and how to care for people in trauma.
Our own FAST Team (https://www.piercecountywa.gov/995/Functional-Assessment-Service-Teams-FAST) was key to this effort – and drew praise from Kirstin. I saw several in the room furiously taking notes when the FAST team was being discussed!
Our Human Services department also provided “actors” for the simulation, based on the kinds of clients they work with and care for daily.
It was chilling to hear Kirsten talk about how they prepared for and intentionally had “sex offenders” and other threats come to the shelter to see how the team would manage through those challenges.
The result of the 5-hour intense exercise was an 80-page after action report filled with important lessons learned and areas for improvement. I’m grateful to Kirsten and her team for their skillful work, and to Jody for bringing together a critically needed network of collaborators and partners. I’m looking forward to attending the next Quarterly Summit.
Before I move on, I want to encourage each of you to make sure you and your family (and pets) are prepared for an emergency. Have you reviewed your emergency plan? Refreshed your emergency kit in your car? Office? Home? Signed up for PC WARN and ALERT? Remember, our residents are counting on us to help them in an emergency, and that starts with us making sure we are personally prepared! (https://www.co.pierce.wa.us/945/Personal-Preparedness)
One of the best parts of being the County’s Executive is seeing firsthand the amazing work our employees do and the challenges they face. And you know I like to share these experiences through this blog. This week, I had the chance to see one of our Sheriff’s units in action, but sadly can’t tell you everything I saw.
Lieutenant Cynthia Fajardo invited me to see some of the work our Special Investigations Unit (SIU) does. Among other things, the SIU spearheads our drug investigations and arrests – hence why I can’t blog too freely.
Last Tuesday, I had the chance to see the team “bust” an illegal marijuana operation in Parkland. Some of you may be thinking, “Marijuana is legal in Washington. Why would we be ‘busting’ it?” Because not only are they violating our laws around marijuana production and many other laws, but they are using harmful chemicals that will make the end-user sick and potentially kill them. Interestingly, our SIU team believes the marijuana in this “grow” is intended for sale outside Washington.
So, what can I tell you?
- The location of the “bust” was in a normal Parkland neighborhood.
- These illegal growers can turn nearly any home into a full production facility (only a small portion of the house was used by the “tenders” to sleep and eat).
- The operation was huge and sophisticated. While the team knew the details that identified this home as a likely grow from the outside, I would never have picked it out.
- I was extremely impressed with the teamwork of the SIU – from the initial “takedown” of the house and arrest of the two “tenders” to the processing of such a significant crime scene.
- The specialized expertise our deputies brought to the unit was amazing. For example, Detective Darrin Rayner specializes in surveillance equipment – in addition to breaking down doors!
- But I was particularly impressed with Detective Chad Dickerson, who headed up this operation. His detailed knowledge of botany, chemistry, construction, utilities, business, not to mention psychology and criminal codes, was astounding! If I am ever trapped on a deserted island, I want Chad with me!
I’m grateful to the men and women of our SIU who carry out their duties with such professionalism and skill!
This week’s blog wouldn’t be complete without a few photos from Halloween at the County.
You can view the entire collection of photos here.
As is their tradition, the Clerk’s Office went all out in creating an amazing scene. This year they created Super Mario Land in their offices.
You will see from the video clip below that they gave me a good jolt as a super-sized Mario greeted me! Good job, Kevin and crew!
Enjoy your weekend, and don’t forget to turn back your clocks this weekend!