Episode 33: Oso to opioids with Shari Ireton and the Sheriff’s Office
Usually, the phrase is, “Baptism by fire.”
For Shari Ireton, Director of Communications for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, her introduction to emergency management was baptism by mud.
It was March 22, 2014, a Saturday, and Ireton was out with the family shopping for science fair supplies when she got a message about a slide that had closed Highway 530. “I didn’t think much of it because slides happen all the time,” Ireton said.
What was unusual is that she heard nothing else for the next several hours. “Usually, there’s a flurry of activity, but this was completely silent,” Ireton said. “A couple of hours later, I called.”
Starting that afternoon and for the next five days straight, Ireton was the on-site public information officer for the massive Oso landslide that claimed the lives of 43 people.
And Ireton, still relatively new to her job, had not yet been through the training provided by the Federal Emergency Management Administration that virtually all public agencies use manage responses to such events. “I was on the waiting list,” Ireton said.
“There were lots of others helping,” she said. “And, I have to give a shout-out to the Everett Herald … those reporters; we walked through it together from day one.”
Ireton notes that she is not a commissioned officer, doesn’t carry a gun and can’t arrest people.
What she can and does do is interact with the media and public and tell the stories of the Sheriff’s Office.
“The role is changing,” Ireton said. “Deputies are doing more social work, mental health work that we’ve ever done before.”
Ireton made note of effort that started in 2015, pairing a deputy with a social worker. Together, they visit homeless camps and make other contacts with the goal of addressing underlying causes. Ireton said that almost always they find a combination of untreated mental health and addiction issues. The approach, she says, “has been really successful.”
Episode length: 47:20
- Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office
- Sheriff’s Office on the opioid crisis
- Sheriff’s Office on Twitter
- Oso landslide resources at Sno-Isle Libraries
- Sno-Isle Libraries support during Oso event
- Linda McPherson dedication event
- Oso landslide wiki
- “Check It Out!” podcast on “Finding Fixes”
- “Finding Fixes” podcast
- University of Idaho
- Gonzaga University
Ken Harvey is Communications Director for Sno-Isle Libraries. Ken brings broad professional experience from his service with Community Transit, Sound Transit, Reno, Nev., and several positions in radio and TV.
Jim Hills is the library district’s Assistant Communications Director, Communications & Marketing. Jim is a storyteller who claims to still have some ink in his veins from familial connections with, and previous-career infusions from, the newspaper biz.
The Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation proudly supports the innovative work of Sno-Isle Libraries through private donations.