Ex-BI assistant fire chief to help improve Poulsbo’s emergency plans

The Poulsbo City Council approved Wednesday to have an outside expert help update and identify areas of improvement for the city’s Comprehensive Emergency Management and Emergency Operations plans.

The expert is former Bainbridge Island assistant fire chief Luke Carpenter, who runs his own company called Carpenter Northwest, Inc. According to its LinkedIn page, the business “provides a range of consulting and training services specializing in marine safety, marine firefighting and helping schools, businesses and places of worship prepare and respond to active shooter/hostile events.”

Carpenter added: “The CEMP focuses very much on community preparedness and community involvement. History has shown us that it’s the communities that become the first responders in their own neighborhoods.”

The cost for the work will be about $9,600, which will be used from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds. Poulsbo, like other jurisdictions in Washington state, is legally required to create and maintain these two plans in compliance with federal and state guidelines.

“I see Carpenter as a fresh set of eyes and to make sure we’re taking all the steps we possibly can to be prepared,” Mayor Becky Erickson said. “One of the things that keeps me up at night is are we ready for some kind of really huge event? I have a level of discomfort about that.”

Carpenter Northwest’s scope of work will include: 1. Obtain background information; 2. Analyze the current situation; 3. Identification of hazards; 4. Determine Poulsbo’s “Concept of Operations”; 5. Determine CEMP structure, format, content; 6. Identify and solicit input from key participants in emergency management; 7. Develop an ESF “primary/support” responsibility matrix; 8. Design EOC organization chart (the basis for the city’s incident management system); 9. Establish computer protocols, i.e. central control, backup system, etc; 10. Begin writing the plan; 11. Produce a first draft for review by city staff; 12. Produce a second draft with comments received about the first draft; and submit it to the city for comment; 13. Prepare final draft, making changes as per comments received from city staff ; 14. Produce and submit final electronic copies of the plan.

“The first thing to look at is what you have,” Carpenter told the council. “Where are you now? What documents do you have? Are they still relevant? Look at what we need and where we need to go in the future using guidance that is provided by the state and federal government.”

The final agreement will be placed on a future council agenda.

The council also approved the creation of a community support specialist position for the city.

Council documents say the city partners with the Poulsbo Fire Department and Olympic Peninsula Community Clinic to operate the Poulsbo Fire CARES Program. PFD provides a firefighter/EMT trained in crisis intervention to work on the team, and the city subcontracts with OPCC to provide a community support specialist position. The goal is to connect people with behavioral health issues to appropriate care and services, thereby improving residents’ quality of life and reducing the unnecessary use of emergency systems.

The CARES Program has been without a full-time community support specialist since December 2021. OPCC has been unable to staff the position despite months of job postings and recruitment. As an alternative, council was asked to authorize the Housing, Health and Human Services Department to create a new city community support specialist position.

Bringing the position “in-house” will allow the city to offer a competitive salary and benefits package that will attract high-quality candidates, documents state. The creation of the role will have no fiscal impact. $71,057 has already been awarded from the County Treatment Tax to fund the position, and council has designated $50,000 in ARPA funds for this purpose. The state operating budget includes $200,000 that can be used in 2022 and 2023 to fund the position.

The job description states “the community support specialist responds to people in the field with mental health, substance use, and other behavioral health needs. Job duties include considerable public contact and are intended to bridge the gap between emergency medical response and/or law enforcement and the needs of people with behavioral health issues. The community support specialist does not provide treatment, and this is not a clinical position. The position is funded through December, 2023 with the possibility of continuing thereafter.”

“This is not uncharted territory for the city,” HHHS director Kim Hendrickson said. “We used to contract with an outside agency for our police navigator back when we started the program. A few years in, we made the decision to bring those positions in-house, and the result has been terrific.”