By Marcy Stamper
Okanogan County is reorganizing its approach to emergency management, moving the job back under the county commissioners instead of the Sheriff’s Office.
The change was prompted by a reevaluation of the county’s emergency procedures and coincides with the resignation of Scott Miller, the county’s emergency manager for the past decade, according to Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers. Miller took a new post as head of emergency management for Yakima County this month.
Until 30 years ago, emergency management was run out of the commissioners’ office and, in a small county where everyone wears a lot of hats, the system had worked, said Rogers. But because many of the emergency manager’s responsibilities require close cooperation with the commissioners, who have the authority to declare a state of emergency or to appropriate funds for road repair, it makes sense to reorganize, he said.
Under the new system, the emergency manager — who coordinates first responders and others who assist in a disaster — would be based in a central office in Okanogan and would focus on planning and making sure everything flows efficiently, said Rogers.
The emergency manager coordinates the emergency and disaster needs of the county, towns and cities. This follows a four-step process involving mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. The manager works with all county departments and levels of government as well as volunteer organizations and the private sector.
The emergency manager also oversees training and response drills for fire response, serious accidents and medical crises like a bird-flu outbreak, said Rogers.
“You need somebody who knows the Incident Command System. You’ve got to like doing it [emergency response],” said Rogers. “Scott loved doing it — he loved being in the middle of it.”
As part of the restructuring, the commissioners are considering a quick-response team for wildfires, which would incorporate close coordination with local fire districts, state and federal agencies, law enforcement and dispatch, said Rogers. The commissioners could not be reached for more details about the plan.
New chief criminal deputy
In other changes at the Sheriff’s Office, Steve Brown, who has worked for the department’s drug task force for the past 14 years — the past four as sergeant — will take over the duties of chief criminal deputy starting Feb. 1. Brown replaces Dave Rodriguez, who resigned from the post when he was elected county coroner.
The chief criminal deputy oversees all deputies and detectives and manages the sergeants who run special programs such as search and rescue, the special-response team, the K-9 program and the drug task force.
“Steve’s really squared away,” said Rogers, who said there has been a month-long transition as Brown worked with Rodriguez and others in the department.