Saturday, July 30, 2005

DES. Is it worth it? From Bill Jackman...

The Spokane County Department of Emergency Management (also called Department of Emergency Services DES) is the Spokane County version of FEMA. It also includes Dave Byrnes (the former SFD EMS officer) who is the Region 9 director of Homeland Security for the ten counties in Eastern Washington. The State of Washington is divided into nine regions, based upon population.

The only three significant events that DES was involved in from my memory were:
1.) Mt. St Helens 5/80
2.) Fire Storm 10/91
3.) Ice Storm 11/96

Mt St. Helens was an inconvenience, Ice Storm, was managed by Avista and the folks with chainsaws and as for Fire Storm – it never even came close to the city. If the City spent an average of $75,000 a year for DES for the past 25 years, that only averages out to $625,000 per emergency. Did Spokane get it’s $625,000 in value from County DES from any of these events? Add to this a $500,000 emergency situation room in the new SFD training center.

I didn’t realize the City of Spokane funds about half of DES. In reality, I think there are many of us on the SFD that could generate a pretty good report as to why DES could be significantly reduced in size. It’s not like we live in Florida where disasters are common. The real crisis here is how to best spend the limited financial resources of the city.

DES also helps distribute FEMA grant money for training and equipment. The City of Spokane Fire Department has received 2 – 3 grants for equipment, each grant was based on a 70/30 split (FEMA/local). This was after our twenty-plus million dollar, 1999 Fire Bond for new equipment and facilities.

DES is great for retired people working a second career. They have ties to local agencies, which in turn support their efforts but also don’t question their actual worth or value. The 2004 city share of $158,727.21 was no bargain for Spokane. The only true emergency management service in Spokane - is the Spokane Fire Department.

Bill Jackman