Chemical and Biological DefenseChemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program for Oregon and Washington Gao ID: NSIAD-00-13 October 26, 1999
The Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program was created to protect the public in the event of an accident during the destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile. Since GAO last reported on their preparedness in 1997, the Oregon and Washington communities surrounding the Umatilla Chemical Depot have made progress in preparing for a possible emergency at the chemical weapons stockpile. Additional preparedness equipment and other critical items are now fully or partially in place. For example, Oregon now has a working siren to alert people outdoors if an accident occurs. However, some critical items were still not in place in either state, including tone alert radios and shelter-in-place kits. Planning is extremely critical for effective program management and Oregon's program planning needs improvement. The program in Oregon lacks an overall plan that (1) defines missions, roles, outcomes, and performance measures and (2) includes input from all the key stakeholders, such as local, county, and state emergency response personnel.
GAO noted that: (1) since GAO's report on their preparedness in 1997, the Oregon and Washington communities surrounding the Umatilla Chemical Depot have made progress in preparing for a possible chemical weapons stockpile emergency; (2) several additional preparedness equipment items and other program elements are now fully or partially in place; (3) Oregon now has a working siren warning system to notify people outdoors if an accident occurs; (4) Oregon community officials have also installed over-pressurization systems in the 11 schools most likely to be affected if chemical agents are released into the atmosphere; (5) Washington also has added elements, such as a fully operational integrated communications system that would allow state, county, and local CSEPP participants to communicate during an emergency; (6) as a result of this progress, Oregon and Washington's ability to meet a chemical stockpile emergency has improved; (7) however, some critical equipment items were still not in place in either state, including: (a) tone alert radios, which are intended to notify residents while indoors of an accident and to instruct them on the measures they need to take to protect themselves; and (b) shelter-in-place kits, which residents could use to seal up a room to keep chemical agents out; (8) planning is an extremely critical element for effective program management and Oregon's program planning needs improvement; (9) the program in Oregon lacks an overall plan that: (a) defines missions, roles, outcomes, and performance measures; and (b) includes input from all the key stakeholders, such as local, county, and state emergency response personnel; (10) the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) considered Washington's plans to be excellent and the Army and FEMA considered Utah's program the most advanced; (11) although these programs are not directly comparable to Oregon's because these states have far fewer people close to chemical weapons stockpiles and less complex programs, both have detailed, coordinated, and integrated response plans that have helped emergency responders prepare to meet a chemical emergency; (12) moreover, the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 offers a results-oriented management framework, including setting performance goals and specifying the strategies and resources to be used in achieving goals, that Oregon could apply in its program planning; and (13) following such a framework could help emergency responders be better prepared in the event of a chemical accident and prevent or minimize the recurrence of coordination problems.Recommendations
Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.Director: Team: Phone: