Five questions with Brendan McCluskey, Director of the King County Office of Emergency Management 

Why did you start in your role with King County, and what is your official title?

I am the Director of the King County Office of Emergency Management. I started with King County March 2019. I came to the County from New Jersey, where I was the State’s Director of Public Health Preparedness. Previously, I had been the Deputy State Emergency Management Director for Maryland. I also participate as a volunteer assessor and assessment team leader for the Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP). King County is an accredited emergency management program, and I served as the team leader for the week-long on-site accreditation assessment in 2017. I became familiar with the program then, and when the position opened in late 2018, I decided to apply.

What do you do in your role?

I lead a team that is responsible for emergency preparedness throughout King County, including county agencies, partner cities and jurisdictions, other entities, the private sector, and the public. I also lead the County’s efforts during emergency operations, coordinating within and outside of the County at all government levels, including with the private sector. What this means is that during non-emergency times, me and my team work on emergency plans, assess risk of natural and human-caused hazards, develop capabilities to deal with the various threats and hazards, train responders and the public, test and exercise our plans and equipment, and then go back and revise and update based on the lessons we learn. During emergencies, my team and I staff the County’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), where coordination of the response to and recovery from the emergency takes place.

Why did you choose this field as your career?

I think it was accidental.  I started as a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician in New Jersey when I was 16 years old, and eventually became a professional paramedic in an urban environment. I then trained on and became involved in specialized responses, such as hazardous materials releases, urban search and rescue, and mass casualty events. As I was promoted within the Emergency Medical Services department, I gained more responsibility for some of these areas, and was looked upon for my expertise. It was a natural progression from there to the field of emergency management, and the rest is history, as they say.

What is the biggest challenge of your job?

The biggest challenge is staying updated on trends, best practices, and innovations in the field. Emergency Management is a relatively young field, and much has changed even in the short time it has been a profession. Keeping an open mind and being receptive to collaboration are the keys to staying ahead in this field.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I have a great team, so being able to work with them on a daily basis is what I most enjoy. I want to be sure to let you know this team includes the other staff members at KC OEM, and it also includes partners in DES and King County Government, the cities, and other emergency management professionals throughout Washington (and the rest of the country).