Oregon Focuses on Vehicle Evacuation Following January Flood

March 2012, Government Fleet - WebXclusive

by Thi Dao - Also by this author

A January 19 flood damaged 160 state vehicles in Salem. Photo courtesy of the State of Oregon DAS.
A January 19 flood damaged 160 state vehicles in Salem. Photo courtesy of the State of Oregon DAS.

A mid-January flood in Oregon damaged about 160 State of Oregon Department of Administrative Services (DAS) vehicles in Salem. Fleet employees saved newer vehicles by moving them to a safer location as water levels rose during the flood, but the fleet is working to improve how it protects State assets in the event of a catastrophe in the future, including conducting vehicle evacuation drills.

At the Scene of the Flood

“We came in on Jan 19th and water started pouring into the parking lot, and it kept coming,” recalled Brian King, fleet manager for the DAS’ State Services Division.

Water levels rose at historically unprecedented rates for the area. There were more than 400 vehicles parked on-site in the flood plain that day, and fleet employees rushed out to move newer vehicles to a safer location as water levels rose. Water reached up to the dashboard in some vehicles.

“We went out and moved all the newest [vehicles] that we could, until it got too dangerous to move anything,” King said.

Although water came right up to the doors of the building housing fleet administration, the building was one of the few properties not damaged. King said the flood damaged the fuel island.

On Feb. 10, King reported things had settled down, with the crew beginning to move back to the fleet facility. The relocated daily rental operation, which fleet had moved to an alternate site for a few weeks, was moved back to the original site by mid-February.

Because of the fleet staff’s efforts in moving newer vehicles to safety first, most of the damaged vehicles were older. Fleet services had slated many of the damaged vehicles to go to surplus sale, and it had put others on hold for seasonal use in the spring and summer. Fleet services contracted with Copart to sell the 60 damaged and 88 totaled vehicles, which are expected to go up for online bidding in early May. King said the fleet determined the damaged but not totaled vehicles that will be sold would not be economical to repair. Another 12 vehicles damaged in the flood were fully repaired and put back in service.

As of March 30, the department had not yet settled whether the State’s insurance policy would kick in and pay for the damaged vehicles or whether it would come out of the self-insurance fund.

A January 19 flood damaged 160 state vehicles in Salem. Photo courtesy of the State of Oregon DAS.
A January 19 flood damaged 160 state vehicles in Salem. Photo courtesy of the State of Oregon DAS.

Planning for Future Catastrophes

The last flood happened in 1996, but it was slower, and there was ample warning for vehicles to be moved from the flood plain. The department based its business continuity plan on that flood and a possible earthquake scenario. The fleet could not apply the plan to the January flood, which, with its extremely rapid water rise, some called a flash flood. To address further flood catastrophes, the fleet division is working to improve vehicle evacuation procedures and relocating vehicle storage locations.

“With the closure of our Portland and Eugene sites a couple years ago due to budget reductions, all of our staging of vehicles for new arrivals, seasonal preparation, and disposition now occur at the one Salem site in the flood plain. We had over 400 vehicles on site when the flood came pouring in,” King said. “To lower the [number] of vehicles to move in a disaster, we have partnered with Department of Public Safety Standards and Training for storage space for staging some of our seasonal vehicles and are working with Department of Corrections for additional space.”

In addition, the fleet is conducting vehicle evacuation drills that involve calling in staff from neighboring state programs to help move vehicles. The March 28th drill called for 30 of the neighboring staff members to move 10 vehicles each to three evacuation sites. King said they’re still working on perfecting the drill but he expects they can move 300 vehicles in 2.5 to 3.5 hours with 50 drivers. The next drill will test the evacuation program with 50 drivers.


  1. 1. Alan Mar [ October 22, 2014 @ 01:16PM ]

    Does the State of Oregon have a written evacuation plan for their fleet that they would be willing to share as a "best practice" for others?

    Thanks, Alan

  2. 2. Thi Dao [ October 22, 2014 @ 01:44PM ]

    Alan, I've forwarded your request to Brian King. If they have it and will share it, he will respond to you directly.


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