Tillamook County emergency manager ready to respond in a crisis situation

Tillamook County Emergency Management Department Director Gordon McCraw is ready for crises. | Photo courtesy of Gordon McCraw

You might say that Tillamook County, Oregon, has had more than its fair share of natural disasters – 17 federally declared ones, county Emergency Management Department Director Gordon McCraw said.

Just 70 miles from a fault zone like the one that struck Japan in 2011, there’s reason for earthquake preparedness. At one time, the state emergency management director called Tillamook his “most disaster-rich county.”

Tillamook is also a hot tourist destination and farming hub – there are more cows than people in the county, McCraw said. As the home of the Tillamook Cheese Factory, Tillamook County draws tourists year-round, producing cheeses and ice cream for retail sale. For all of those reasons, one of McCraw’s main tasks is emergency-preparedness outreach, which he does all year long.
McCraw runs the one-man emergency management department and relies on the local health department for information on potential hazards, such as biological outbreaks or attacks.

“Being a retired military person who still has his law enforcement powers, I would be reluctant to advertise the specific countermeasures the county has or plans to use for such an incident or attack,” McCraw said.

McCraw has an impressive disaster-response resume. During two decades in the Navy, he was stationed in San Francisco at the time of the 1989 earthquake and other areas where significant natural disasters struck.

“I retired in the New Orleans area in 1998 and became a law enforcement officer, staying there until just after Hurricane Katrina, when my wife convinced me it was time to move back to her hometown state, Oregon, and I was ready,” McCraw said.

Tillamook County emergency management is part of the county sheriff’s office, and McCraw said his disaster experience led to a transfer from criminal enforcement to emergency management, where he became the director a short time later.