HERMISTON - Quick action from the Umatilla County Commissioners and a federal agency is bringing emergency radios to homes and businesses east of town.
The news brought relief to Kathy Lorey, who was frustrated that people living within a mile of her home received the tone alert radios that will emit instructions during an emergency at the Umatilla Chemical Depot, while her family hadn't.
"That's great, I'm really happy about that," she said Friday, the same day the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it would begin delivering the radios to Sector N, where Lorey lives.
Sector N includes an area of Hermiston east of Ott Road north to the Columbia River, southwest of Highway 37 and north of Despain Gulch Road. It incorporates Hat Rock and Cold Springs Reservoir areas.
The sector isn't in the area deemed most likely to be affected by a chemical weapons area; however, homes and businesses in the area received shelter in place kits last year, causing Lorey to make the following statement two weeks ago.
"We all received those shelter in place kits, which seems kind of dumb that they would give us those and then not give us the radios because we would not be alerted to even know when to use them," he said.
Comments from Lorey and others prompted the county commissioners to vote last week to give emergency radios to people in Sector N as part of the ongoing delivery of the radios.
Cheryl Humphrey, the public information officer with Umatilla County Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, said delivering about 1,300 additional radios to some 2,000 people in the sector won't shortchange anyone living closer to the depot.
"The plan has always included that there would be new people moving into the area, new structures being built," she said.
As of July 28, 10,837 radios have been delivered. Another 1,025 homes or businesses had been left with "IOUs" for the radios. Delivery should wrap up in November.
The confusion came because the shelter in place kits - boxes with plastic and more to cover windows and doorways - were delivered via zip code while the emergency radios are being delivered by a contractor.
"It's very understandable that receiving a shelter in place kit sets up an expectation that they would receive a tone alert radio," Humphrey said.
Homes and businesses that have received the tone alert radios are within eight miles of the depot because they have the greatest need to shelter in place during a chemical agent accident. Areas such as Sector N are in the so-called "Protective Action Zone," which includes structures within eight to 25 miles of the depot. People there should listen to personal radios or TVs for instructions during a chemical weapons emergency.
For more information about the delivery of the emergency radios, call Radio Service Company at 1-800-307-7708. Additional information about what to do during a chemical agent emergency is online at http://www.csepp.net