Working in smoky conditions

Major wildfires are currently engulfing many parts of the western United States and Canada, including our own state, and it is very likely that we will soon experience wildfire smoke in our region.

Wildfire smoke can cause a range of health problems, including chest pain, coughing, fast heartbeat, headaches, and asthma attacks. Some people need to be outdoors for their work or other responsibilities, so now is the time to get prepared. If we experience unhealthy air conditions in King County, it is recommended that you limit your time outdoors. If you are concerned about doing field work in these conditions, please consider these tips and guidance:

  • Talk to your supervisor about possible options to reduce the amount of time you spend outdoors by performing desk work or alternate work assignments on smoky days.
  • Departments should evaluate planned field work to determine whether some work should be postponed, where possible, to a time when conditions have improved.
  • The air quality level can change quickly, so check air quality conditions regularly and if possible, adjust your schedule to avoid travel and working outdoors during periods when air quality is the most impacted by smoke conditions (keep in mind air quality is typically the worst in the middle of the day during wildfire smoke).
  • If you must work outdoors, limit time outdoors to a minimum and find a safe location to breathe filtered air while maintaining social distancing during breaks from outdoor work.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • If you have medical conditions that could be worsened by wildfire smoke, consult with your medical provider and speak with your supervisor to work out the best options for your schedule on smoke days.
  • You may be able to use accrued vacation or comp time when there is wildfire smoke instead of reporting to your designated work location. You may request leave, subject to approval by your supervisor. If you have no leave accrued, your supervisor may approve leave without pay to cover absences. Please refer to HR Bulletin 2011-0009 County Operations During Emergency Situations and Inclement Weather to learn more.

It is not known how much protection cloth face coverings or surgical masks provide from wildfire smoke. N95/N100 masks can provide protection to some people when worn properly but can also worsen conditions for people with existing respiratory conditions. N95 and KN95 masks are available through your agency’s Safety Officer where needed. Safety Officers may contact Fleet Stores for masks at fleetstores@kingcounty.gov.

If you are working indoors, Public Health has provided some guidance on How to Keep Indoor Air Clean on Smoky Days.

More information from Public Health – Seattle & King County about wildfire smoke and your health can be found here. Additional information from WA Department of Health and EPA on indoor air filtration during wildfire smoke can be found here and here.

Additional updates will be provided as conditions warrant.

A ‘how-to’ on promoting Equity and Social Justice

There’s nothing like an old-fashioned Lunch and Learn session for comradery, sharing ideas and learning what your colleagues have been up to. Unless it comes during a pandemic where everyone is working from home and lunch is maybe a can of soup. Despite the lack of in-person interaction, the Water and Land Resources Division (WLRD) has made a success of their Lunch and Learn series on their equity and social justice programs.  

WLRD, affectionately referred to as “Willard” and a division of the Department and Natural Resources and Parks, launched this series in April to spotlight equity and social justice (ESJ) programs and projects within the division.

Engineer Training intern Mirielle Fogang gained valuable experience doing field work.

“The events provide an opportunity to share successful ESJ work and ideas for operationalizing ESJ while building change agent capacity and community to sustain the ESJ effort,” said Janet Credo, an ESJ lead in WLRD.

The ideas for improving ESJ standards within the agency range from the creative to the practical, such as the ESJ Hiring Best Practices Guide developed by the River and Floodplain Management Section to the 1% for ESJ pilot project in the Wastewater Treatment Division.    

One program that has had great success is the ESJ Engineer Training Internship Program. According to Claire Jonson, Senior Engineer in WLRD, who serves as the facilitator of these Lunch and Learns, they were able to fund long-term internships lasting up to two years. Although the pandemic temporarily paused the program in spring 2021, staff and interns were able to adapt in a work-from-home environment by May 2020.

“The program boasts a 100% success rate of all interns finding full-time employment in the field of engineering after graduation, including with King County. We consider that a huge success,” she said.

Besides the increased diverse recruitment focus, there are other ongoing programs and those in development geared toward education and information.

“We’re creating a network of ESJ change leaders across the agency,” Janet said. “And we plan to continue to provide these opportunities to showcase uplifiting, exciting and innovative ideas that will continue our mission of moving toward an equity- and socially-just organization.”  

King County is #1 for tech!

We’re tops in tech! King County has been named the nation’s #1 Top Digital County by the Center for Digital Government and the National Association of Counties. The group surveys public IT departments around the country annually for effectiveness.

This year, technology played a vital role fighting the pandemic as a rapid digital transformation from King County Information Technology’s (KCIT) and IT leaders around the County helped keep people safer. “It was…one of the best examples in the survey of both recovery from and response to the pandemic,” said the Digital County judges.

“It’s about digital transformation and merging the physical and digital spaces,” said Tanya Hannah, Chief Information Officer for King County and Director of KCIT. “If COVID taught us anything, it’s that people want to connect with government wherever and whenever, using whatever technology they have available.”

Here’s a small sample of how King County leveraged technology to better serve the employees and the public:

  • Better collaboration and productivity. The County moved from Skype to a more stable, collaborative communications platform, Teams. This has allowed onsite, mobile or teleworking employees increase collaboration and better productivity of teams using features like IM / chat, meeting and provides a one-stop” location for SharePoint, OneNote and Office tools. A whiteboard feature will soon be available!
  • Improving employee experience. The Business Resource Center rolled out a more efficient travel and expense tool, Concur. This tool allows employees to electronically submit receipts, seek reimbursements and schedule travel. In addition, new capabilities were introduced such as the ability to use any mobile device to update personal information and benefit enrollment choices.
  • Future of Work. KCIT developed a Future of Work site to support employees in whatever way they may be working, including fully remote, hybrid or in-person. Conference room technology updates, and County facilities updates support new ways of working, including hot-desking/hotel style reservations for employees working in a hybrid model.
  • No-contact virtual services. King County residents can now access a number of online services such as Zoom for Telehealth; video conferencing for jury selection and witness testimony; and virtual plumbing permitting inspections.
  • Paperless transactions. More than 92% of King County’s paper permits moved online.
  • Senior Tax Exemption. Seniors, veterans or disabled homeowners can check if they’re eligible for property tax breaks easily online, which improves tax equity.

Congratulations to KCIT and fellow King County employees whose hard work and innovation are reflected in this award!

Youth Sports Grants program salutes employee volunteers

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommends youth engage in 60 minutes of physical activity a day, yet in King County, only 19% of youth meet these recommendations. Many barriers such as rising costs, limited transportation options, along with policies and practices result in inequities of access to physical activity disproportionately impacting youth of color, youth living in poverty, and immigrant and refugee youth. King County Parks’ Youth Sports Grants aim to invest in programs and capital projects that will reduce barriers youth face to participating in physical activity.

“Physical activity is vital to youth development, physical health, mental health, and social emotional learning, and is also associated with better educational outcomes.” – Youth Sports Grants

These Youth Sports Grants have supported programs as diverse as All Girl Everything Ultimate Program (AGE UP), which partners with schools in south Seattle to provide no cost ultimate frisbee to youth of color, Cham Refugee Community providing sports and recreation opportunities to youth of Cham and East African descent, and Baseball Beyond Borders, which mentors and develops young black athlete leaders by instilling baseball fundamentals.

King County employee volunteers make it possible

The process of evaluating applications to inform how the County invests public funding is made stronger through the participation of many County employees who volunteer their time to review applications by serving as evaluators. 

“We really appreciate the expertise and lived experiences they bring to the process to inform how King County Parks invests in the community,” said Sarah Margeson, Program Manager. “Their input is vital to supporting more equitable access to sports and recreation for youth furthest from play equity.”

It is a program priority to recruit evaluators who represent communities most impacted by inequities. The Youth Sports Grants team is grateful for all the employees across the Departments of Community & Human Services, Public Health, Metro, Adult & Juvenile Detention, and Natural Resources & Parks who give their time to review applications.

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity, it has been a wonderful experience” – Abdirahman Hashi, Program Manager, Public Health (Evaluator)

Below are the King County employee volunteers who have participated in the grant review process.

Abdirahman Hashi
Alejandra Calderon
Allison Speicher
Andy Boland
Ashley Mareld
Avreayl Jacobson
Brandy Rinck
Craig Page
Cynthia Adams
Darlene Sellers
Desiree Hodge
Emily Hart
Erin Sy
Gabe Avila-Mooney
Hannah Faires
Heather Ahndan
Jennifer Stebbins
Jody Addicks
Joe Inslee
Jose Romo-Ramirez
Julie West
Kaleigh Mitchell
Kendi Rossi
Kerren Buchanan
Ladna Farah
Lara Penny
Lee Anne Hughes
Lilia Wong
Lina Rose
Lorrie Alfonsi

Mari Gregg
Miesha Vaughn
Minda Mattox
Mirela Pencheva
Ngoc Nguyen
Reginald Cole
Richelle Rose
Sahar Arbab
Saybre Locke
Scott Thomas
Seth Schromen-Wawrin
Tiffany Kalfur
TJ Davis
Tri Ong
Tsengyang Vang
Wojciech Maciejewski

Future of Work intranet site offers resources and tools to support you

With the end of mandatory telework for Executive Branch employees on July 5, King County departments have begun to implement their Future of Work plans for how they will operate and serve customers in a post-pandemic environment.

For some employees, this means moving to a new location or a new model for delivering services. Some will accomplish their work primarily in person, others primarily remotely, or they make work a hybrid of both.

To help you during this transition, King County has built a centralized Future of Work intranet site (employee access only) to provide resources, tools, news, and answers to your questions.

The site is divided into five subsites, each with a range of resources for you:

  • What to expect returning to in-person work
  • Technology and workstations
  • Moves and space consolidation
  • Health and safety expectations at work
  • Personal safety at work.

This site will be regularly updated with new information and resources, so please bookmark the site, and check back often for updates and answers to your questions.

KCIT Partners with Koa Club, Brings Leadership Training to King County Women

by Lindsay Prior, Communications Manager, Department of Information Technology

Women in government are gaining confidence and leadership skills thanks to a unique partnership between KCIT and the Seattle-based Koa Club. Recently, more than 70 King and Snohomish County employees participated in the second-annual Mentorship Huddle challenge. The competition showcased participants’ leadership skills and knowledge gained through the Koa Club’s FollowMyLead training program for women in government.

King County CIO Tanya Hannah approached Koa Club founder Susan Seah in 2020 to design a curriculum focused on women’s career development. “Tanya was instrumental in seeing this need and advocating for implementing the program for the women at KCIT and eventually, other women at King County,” said Susan.

During the pandemic, the program quickly adapted to online workshops without missing a beat. “That turned out well and allowed us to expand the offering to more women,” said Susan. The program has grown rapidly; in 2020, the FollowMyLead program had about 40 participants, and has expanded this year to nearly 70 women.

Participants are assigned to a Mentorship Huddle of 6-8 women and attend a series of 10 online workshops together throughout the year. “Our huddle group has been the best surprise ever. Each one of these women is a true gem,” said Claire Christian, Real Property Agent for DNRP Wastewater Treatment Division and Huddle Mentor for this year’s winning team. “For me, the amazing women in our huddle group have been the icing on the cake. And the filling. And the sprinkles.”

Mid-way through the program, the huddle teams test their knowledge and skills in a fun, collaborative competition in which each team is given a realistic workplace scenario and asked how they would handle the situation; a panel of judges – all impressive women leaders themselves – evaluate each team’s response. Special thanks goes to this year’s contest judges including Tanya Hannah, King County Chief Information Officer; Whitney Abrams, King County Chief People Officer; Kathryn Fugere, Snohomish County Department of Public Works Technology Manager; Lorraine Patterson, King County DNRP Chief Administrative Officer; Devinder Sandhu, Snohomish County Human Resources Operations Manager; and Caroline Whalen, King County Chief Administrative Officer.

“Everyone did an amazing job during the contest,” said Chris Jaramillo, Cable Communications Manager for KCIT. “For me, the program has been really fun and helped me be more productive at work. I’d tell any woman in King County that you should join because of the networking aspects of the program. You’ll come out of it with a few more friends. I think we all need to have some fun in the workplace.”

Congratulations to all the women who participated in this year’s Mentorship Huddle challenge! For more information on applying to next year’s FollowMyLead women in government leadership program, contact Susan Seah at sseah@thekoaclub.com.

How to provide verification of vaccine status

King County recently updated its requirements for wearing masks for Executive Branch employees and launched a new process to voluntarily provide vaccination information for verification.

If you choose to do so, you have a couple of options for providing proof that you are fully vaccinated:

  • Initiating the COVID-19 Vaccination Declaration process through your NEOGOV Dashboard (click on Dashboard > Forms > COVID-19 Vaccination Declaration) and attaching a copy of an official document (see list below), OR
  • Showing one of the following to an HR professional or other designated department representative:
    • your actual vaccination card, or a photo or a copy of it,
    • a copy of your state vaccine record, or
    • a verified medical record.

Departments will not keep copies of vaccination cards, state vaccine records, or vaccine medical records; however, they will document that the employee has been vaccinated, which vaccination was received (Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson), and the last date of the vaccination. 

As a reminder, the County’s updated mask requirements for Executive Branch employees are:

  • If you have provided verified proof of full vaccination to your HR Manager or their designee, you are not required to wear a mask when working indoors or outdoors, unless you are required to wear masks while working under the state and CDC guidance due to the nature of your work. Employees who are still required to wear masks in their work settings include those in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, schools, public transportation, long-term care, and healthcare settings. 
  • If you have not provided verified proof of full vaccination to your HR Manager or their designee, you are required to wear a mask when working indoors, outdoors, and in an enclosed space with others (for example, multiple people in a vehicle). The only time you do not need to wear a mask is if you are working at least six feet from others outdoors.

If you have any questions, please contact your department’s HR Manager.

July is Disability Pride Month

By Taryn Farley,  Disability Specialist, Office of Equity and Social Justice

July is Disability Pride Month, a growing movement to build awareness of the pride people with disabilities feel in themselves. This pride movement recognizes what people with disabilities offer to society through their history, culture, and unique experiences.

Disability Pride Flag

Disability Pride Month coincides with the celebration of the anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, better known as the ADA. The ADA has created civil rights protections and better access for people with disabilities. Disability Pride builds upon the legacy of the ADA with the demand for visibility, acknowledgement, and acceptance from society.

Much like other Pride movements, Disability Pride began as a counterculture movement to reclaim one’s disability as a positive aspect of oneself and reverse society’s generally negative views of disability. Zack Siddeek from the Arc of King County and a new member of the King County Equity Cabinet says Disability Pride is “Self-acceptance. Accepting who you are, being OK with who you are, and celebrating our differences.” Society typically views disability under a medical model where disabilities are defects.

Kimberly Meck, the Executive Director of the Alliance of People with disAbilities explains the medical model as perpetuating an idea that “in order to have a high quality of life, defects must be cured, fixed, or eliminated”. To thwart society’s harmful perceptions, the Disability Pride movement promotes and values disability as a natural part of human diversity. Disability is something to be embraced and celebrated without erasing or “fixing”.  

One in four adults in the United States lives with a disability and King County is home to approximately 563,000 people with a disability. Disability can be something people are born with or acquire at any time in their life. At some point in their lives, most people will either have a disability or know someone who has a one. Disability spans all races, genders, ages, socioeconomic status, religions, and geographic regions. “The intersection of disability with other marginalized identities compounds experiences of discrimination and creates even greater barriers in achieving equity” says Kimberly. Intersectionality and disability are another critical aspect of Disability Pride because it is an opportunity for people to be proud of all their identities and carrying themselves, wholly, as individuals who can celebrate and love all their unique parts.  

Challenging Ableism through Pride

“Ableism is discrimination and prejudices against people with disabilities based on the idea that being non-disabled is superior. In order to combat this, pride must be because of disability and not in spite of it. We must embrace disability as part of a person’s identity and reject the concept that some groups of people are less valuable than others. Disability Pride boldly promotes acceptance and inclusion of difference and celebrates those differences,” says Kimberly.

Disability Pride combats ableism people with a disability experience on a daily basis through affirmation of their self-worth in an ableist society. Disability is more than just a medical diagnosis —  it is part of their identity. ­The Disability Pride movement emphasizes that people with disabilities are proudly living their lives in plain view in the unique way that only they can which brings power perspectives, stories, and voices.

Zack points out that “Independence shouldn’t come with the cost of pain. For Disability Pride to exist, non-disable people have to accept that it’s OK to do things in a different way.” Disability Pride is recognizing that the systems and cultural norms that we exist in don’t allow for people with disabilities to live a good and happy life, he continued, “and that needs to change.”

Disability Pride is an opportunity for everyone to look at their own biases. When a person with a disability expresses pride and self-love, how does that affect individuals and communities to examine how they think about disability and people with a disability? Perhaps this July, there is an opportunity to look at the systems and attitude that try to “fix” or “dismiss” disability and shift the thinking to something of beauty and an asset.

How to Celebrate Disability Pride as an ally

Disability Pride is an opportunity for everyone to stand up in solidarity and allyship with people with disabilities. Here are ways you can do that this July:

1. Call out ableism: Ableism exists throughout society and can take many forms including physical and attitudinal inaccessibility or condescending or abusive attitudes (micro-aggressions) towards people with a disability; it is perpetuated by systems, policies, and personal biases. Take some time to think about ableism, and where you may see it being played out in yourself and your community. Have a conversation about ableism and come up with a way that you can counteract it.

2. Educate yourself on Disability History in the US: People with disabilities have always existed, yet we have not been taught about that history in mainstream education. The Disability Civil Rights movement was fought for decades before the passing of the ADA. Seek out resources and educational materials that are created by people with lived experience and learn something new about disability history.

3. Look through an intersectional lens: As stated earlier, disability is beautifully intersectional but people with disabilities can also experience compounding oppression based on multiple marginalized identities. How can you acknowledge and honor all of a person’s identities and not just see disability?

4. Don’t be a Hero: To be an ally is not to “rescue” people with disabilities. Support the autonomy and voice of people with disabilities and look at the policies and practices in place that perpetuate discrimination.

Sheriff’s drug dog is on the case

Courtesy of the King County’s Sheriff’s Office Facebook page

Fury, a King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) drug detection K9, is rightfully proud of this bust. His specialized detection skills helped sniff out the perps. 

Detectives from multiple King County Sheriff’s Office Special Emphasis Teams (SET), with the support of TAC-30
(SWAT) and Bomb Disposal Units (BDU), executed a search recently in southeast King County.

The work was the result of a months-long investigation into narcotics distribution and firearms-related crimes. The results in this case are impressive and include the seizure of 3.6 pounds of heroin, 5.5 pounds of methamphetamine, 6,471 fentanyl pills and 21.7 grams of crack cocaine. The street value of these narcotics is estimated to be $250,000.

They also recovered 14 firearms, including multiple handguns, shotguns and rifles, which is equally impactful.

The suspect in this case was booked into the King County Jail for multiple felonies including being a felon in possession of stolen firearms.

We congratulate all of our detectives for their work. Every gun, gram and pill the Sheriff’s Office recovers is potentially a life saved. With overdoses and gun violence touching too many of our neighbors, we know this case made White Center, Burien, Skyway, Maple Valley, Covington, and other communities throughout south King County safer.

Future of Work – what tech to expect back in the office

For employees returning to the office (full time or occasionally), KCIT is committed to making your transition as stress-free as possible. The Future of Work may look a little different for each department, but KCIT is launching new technology to bridge the distance between colleagues and foster greater collaboration. Here are some innovations you can expect in the coming months:

  • Reserve your workspace in the office

For employees without a permanent desk, KCIT will offer a new drop-in desk reservation system. The new system, ESRI Indoors, will launch this fall for agencies in Chinook and King Street Station. If you’re part of the initial launch, you’ll receive detailed instructions soon.

  • Connect seamlessly in smart conference rooms
    More than 125 conference rooms in the Chinook building and King Street Center are scheduled to be fitted with standardized tech hubs that streamlines connectivity and provides a shared experience for employees in the office, in the field, and working from home. To get started, view these Microsoft Surface Hub training videos.

  • New KCWeb Intranet functionality
    King County’s KCWeb intranet homepage is getting a makeover. The new modern SharePoint design will bring timely and relevant information to the forefront, giving you access to your favorite apps, web pages and King County newsfeeds. This will reduce the need for browser bookmarks and email newsletters crowding your inbox.

Look for more detailed updates as each of these new technologies is implemented, or visit King County’s Future of Work intranet site.