City of Spokane hopes to run its own department of emergency management

After being part of an agreement with the County’s Department of Emergency Management, the City of Spokane wants to run its own department of emergency management.

The windstorm in 2015 was a joint effort, with the Spokane County Department of Emergency Management urging residents to stay indoors.

That department works with others within the community to support and help give resources in times of emergencies and disasters.

“What we are, is who we are, are the resources that we have,” said Chandra Fox, the deputy director of the county department of emergency management.

She says it’s important to have good relationships with all the agencies they work with.

Now that the city wants to have its own department, it might make things a little more difficult.

“Of course, we want to work with the county on county-wide events and other neighboring jurisdictions. That will not change. It’s really about how are we prepared to manage emergencies within our city core,” said Marlene Feist, the city’s spokesperson.

The city believes that having their own department will better their coordination within Spokane, between public safety, police, fire and public works.

Feist says quite a few other cities in the state run their own department of emergency management.

The city currently pays the county’s department of emergency management $200,000 a year. The DEM gets about $180,000 of that. This makes up about 43 percent of what the county’s department receives for their local budget.

If the city creates its own emergency management department, they think it will cost about $250,000. That budget still needs to be approved.

“We believe in the regional planning, but we know that our planning needs are much more intense for city only events or concentrated city events,” Feist said.

The county’s DEM has to rethink its budget now, too.

“The county general fund will be making up that discrepancy, but the interlocal agreement is going to need to be renegotiated with the remaining partners to determine how they want to move forward,” Fox said.

County officials believe this is a bad move.

“If the city is solely focused on business continuity, that’s truly not emergency management and I have not seen any indication that the city actually understand the full function of emergency management,” Fox said.

The city said getting their own department of emergency management won’t change the way they respond to emergencies. Rather, it would better prepare them to respond.