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Disaster Zone: Coronavirus/COVID-19 Tips and Tidbits


March 4, 2020 by Eric Holdeman
Category: COVID-19

Disaster Zone: Coronavirus/COVID-19 Tips and Tidbits

Likely by now public health officials in every county in Washington have reached out to the many and varied governments that make up Washington State regarding the potential impacts of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. While most citizens first think about “government” as their county and city, there are many other types of special purpose districts that provide a matrix of services to both incorporated and unincorporated areas.

Remember that many citizens don’t understand the complexities of local government and the mix of public agencies that provide them services. Many will think that their city government provides all services.

As you prepare your own government for the possible impacts of a long duration COVID-19 event, remember that coordination with other elected officials who provide services to your jurisdiction would be most appropriate.

Here are some tidbits/hints that you might want to follow up on:

  • ​How about coordinating a conference call for all elected officials/directors who provide services for your government? It would be good to know what each of them are doing to be prepared to continue to provide critical services, even when sickness of employees is impacting operations.
  • What are the infection control measures being put in place? What special policies or procedures are being considered to cope with a widespread outbreak of this disease?
  • Schools are critically important to your own employee’s ability to be at work. Under what conditions will they close a school? When would schools be deemed safe to reopen?
  • If your child’s school or daycare closes for several days/weeks, is there any provision for workplace childcare or perhaps telecommuting for employees?
  • Are there any special infection protocols being implemented for your workplaces?
  • What type of internal personnel policies do you have in place concerning your ability to send people home if they come to work sick?
  • What protocols will you use for the wearing of protective masks?
  • Consider how your own elected body will be able to continue to meet with a quorum of members, when and if social distancing is implemented.
  • What is entailed with social distancing in your respective workplaces?
  • There might still be time to do some limited cross-training of critical positions. Everyone has a Jake or Paula who knows everything about a particular job. What happens when they are not available and there is an issue that needs fixing?

The list above is not an exhaustive one. It is meant to get you thinking about the full range of options that you should consider. Additionally, we function day-to-day with a mix of agencies and services. When there is “a hitch” in just one of them, it can impact many other functions within your community.


MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Eric Holdeman

Eric is a nationally known emergency manager and consultant. He has 28 years of emergency management experience, having served at the federal, state (Washington), and local government (King County) level, as well as in the nonprofit sector. He is the Principal for Eric Holdeman and Associates and serves the Director for the Center for Regional Disaster Resilience, which is part of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER).

He is a prolific writer, authoring numerous articles for professional journals and opinion pieces for local, regional and national newspapers including the Washington Post. He is a Senior Fellow and contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine, where he blogs about emergency management and homeland security at www.disaster-zone.com.

Eric is writing as a guest author. The views expressed in guest columns represent the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MRSC.

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