About the Seattle Office of Emergency Management

Preparing for and responding to major disasters are two of the most critical and difficult functions of local government. The Seattle Office of Emergency Management is dedicated to reducing the amount of harm, preparing our citizens, and speeding recovery when a disaster strikes. Local government is the first line of defense for citizens confronting the overwhelming power of a disaster. Because disasters are so complex, the effective exchange of information is critical in dealing with them successfully. This office was created to facilitate this exchange. Our work begins by educating community members about how to protect and prepare themselves. It continues by organizing city agencies and critical community partners into an effective team. Finally, it acts as catalyst and advocate during the recovery process. Our job is to help people achieve self-sufficiency and the community to become resilient in its ability to get through difficult times together. We invite you to join us in the effort.

Barb Graff, Director of Emergency Management

OEM Mission

We partner with the community to prepare for, respond to, mitigate the impacts of, and recover from disasters.  

Principles of Emergency Management œ 


We consider and take into account all hazards, all phases, all stakeholders and all impacts relevant to disasters. œ 


We anticipate future disasters and take preventive and preparatory measures to build disaster-resistant and disaster-resilient communities. œ 


We use sound risk management principles (hazard identification, risk analysis, and impact analysis) in assigning priorities and resources. œ 


We ensure unity of effort among all levels of government and all elements of the community.


We create and sustain broad and sincere relationships among individuals and organizations to encourage trust, advocate a team atmosphere, build consensus, and facilitate communication.


We use creative and innovative approaches in solving disaster challenges. œ 


We value a science and knowledge-based approach based on education, training, experience, ethical practice, public stewardship and continuous improvement.


Service Oriented, Collaborative, Continuous Improvement 


Public Education

After a big disaster disables the elaborate support systems upon which we depend, the public will have to be self-sufficient until the systems can be restarted. We offer services to those who live, work or visit the city to help them better prepare to take care of themselves while the City is getting back on its own feet. Please check out our Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare (SNAP) Program for residents, workers and visitors or our business program aimed at business owners.

Organizing City Response

We want to ensure the City of Seattle operates as effectively as possible after a disaster to minimize the time the public has to exercise its self-reliance. Accomplishing this task requires a huge amount of work before a disaster strikes. Our office writes the City's disaster plan, coordinates training and exercises and maintains the city's emergency operations center. Our office's job is not to lead the city's response, but rather to support the agencies and elected officials that do.


After a disaster has occurred, our office facilitates getting the city and public help. In a federally declared disaster most of the funding comes from the federal government. The city assists the public first by documenting damage to make a case for a federal declaration. Once it has been declared, we help the public access federal resources. Often the city goverment has received damage, too. We apply for federal assistance to fix services that were broken by the disaster