State audit finds Oregon's disaster recovery plan lacking

A state audit determined that Oregon might not be completely prepared to recover from a major disaster because of organizational problems and insufficient planning, the Oregon Secretary of State's office said on Monday.

Kate Brown, Oregon's secretary of state, said Oregon's Office of Emergency Management must overcome its organizational issues. The OEM, a division of the Oregon Military Department, is responsible for coordinating emergency preparedness, hazard mitigation and disaster recovery with local and state agencies.

The audit, which was conducted by Brown's office, found that the OEM's incomplete emergency management plan could decrease recovery effectiveness and delay relief efforts. The state could also lose significant federal funds after a man-made or natural disaster because its hazard mitigation plan was downgraded as a result of its insufficiencies.

"The Office of Emergency Management needs to resolve its deep-seated organizational issues immediately and make sure that Oregon is fully prepared for a major disaster," Brown said. "Anything less is inexcusable."

The audit determined that the OEM did not have a strategic plan in place, used incomplete or outdated policies, failed to conduct employee evaluations on a regular basis, used performance measures with limited relevancy and failed to develop a training plan for employee professional development.

Brown's office said new management for the OEM acknowledged internal challenges and is beginning to make improvements to better address the areas of strategic planning and preparing for earthquakes and other disasters.

"I'm encouraged that OEM has a management team in place that recognizes the problems our audit highlighted," Brown said. "The next step is to get the rest of the agency in order so it can successfully support our front-line disaster responders - local governments."