Yakima weighing pulling out of Valley-wide emergency services group

Yakima weighing pulling out of Valley-wide emergency services group »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima Valley's emergency response agency could lose its biggest member. Yakima is considering pulling out of the group. The agency coordinates how to prepare for and deal with a local disaster. KIMA asked whether Yakima's ready to go it alone.

It was two years ago when pressure from a rising Naches River opened small breaches in the levees. The Yakima Valley Office of Emergency Management was there to keep an eye on the scene and coordinate repairs.

It's what the agency does. As well as helping neighbors prepare for the worst.

The agency covers 14 towns and cities throughout the Valley, and all of Yakima County. But, according to a city memo, Yakima might stop paying into the Office of Emergency Management.

"I feel extremely confident that the expertise within the city of Yakima is more than capable of providing this service," said Yakima Fire Chief, Bob Stewart.

Stewart has been studying the matter since last fall. He believes the OEM's staff of three is too small to meet Yakima's needs.

"The public outreach component is what we're missing out on."

Yakima wants to help those who may not know what to do in a large-scale emergency.

"As far as the city of Yakima and their needs, the office has not received any request from the city of Yakima for that type of outreach," said Office of Emergency Management Director, Jim Hall.

Hall is not supportive of a decision to go it alone.

KIMA asked, "Do you think this would be a wise thing for them to do?"

"Well, from a personal perspective and looking at the county as a whole, no I don't," said Hall.

Begging the question, is Yakima ready to take on the responsibility?

"Are we ready?" asked Stewart. "My answer today is not as prepared as we could be."

But, Stewart says if the City does opt out, it wouldn't be until first of January. That would give Yakima time to draft its own emergency playbook.

Yakima's new gang free initiative manager would also serve as the city's emergency preparedness coordinator. A decision hasn't been made, but the issue will be taken up next week.

Yakima City Council plans to discuss the proposal at next week's council meeting.