Seattle City (spot)Light: Jerry Koenig

For Jerry Koenig, it’s not a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of “when” an emergency will strike. As City Light’s Emergency Management Strategic Advisor, Jerry oversees the utility’s emergency management program.

Jerry grew up in Eugene, Oregon. He served 20 years in the United States Air Force under the fire department before being trained for emergency management. He received a degree in Fire Service Administration from Western Oregon University and lives in Mill Creek with his wife of 31 years.

Emergency Management Strategic Advisor Jerry Koenig

“Of all the places I’ve lived, I would say that Alaska has been my favorite. It’s awesome and has so much going on—even in the winter. There’s the Iditarod, the Fur Rondy. When we lived there, we spent a lot of time getting out in the woods…hiking…camping…my son and I even did a 20-mile hike together. It’s just an incredible place.”

“I’m really into history and genealogy. I’ve been researching my family since I was my teenager. I talk a lot with second and third cousins all over the country. I also spend a lot of time at the Central Library which has an excellent genealogy library. If I have some time on my lunch, I’ll disappear and head there. I read and do a lot of research in my downtime.”

“In terms of preparedness, the responsibility for taking care of yourself and your family is on each of us individually. One thing I used to teach the Boy Scouts was that if you’re comfortable, you’re doing it right. If you’re warm, dry, fed and unhurt, you’re doing everything right. It’s the same thing in a disaster. If you’re comfortable, you’re doing it right. If you’ve got a problem because you don’t have power or food, well, that’s something that you need to think through ahead of time. Have an earthquake kit, have plenty of food…plan for water and bathroom facilities which are always going to be a big problem. Are you prepared to live on your own without leaving your house for three days? Seven days?” (FYI: and are excellent resources for emergency preparedness).

“One of my favorite initiatives that I help implement is the utility’s training program for emergency responders. It’s to the point now that, when we have an activation, I don’t tell anyone what to do. Our team goes right into motion, and it’s fantastic to watch. I’m proud of the experience and strength of our team.”

“City Light has amazing people with amazing stories and amazing capabilities. I’ve told people for years—I even told my son this when he graduated from college—it’s not about what you do. It’s about who you’re working with, and if you enjoy the people you’re working with, it doesn’t matter what you do. “

Thank you, Jerry, for your service to our country and for being a part of City Light the past eight years.


City Light Dams and Safety

With the severe damage recently caused to the spillway feature of California’s Oroville dam, which forced 188,000 people to evacuate, we spoke with Chief Dam Safety Engineer Kim Pate, who shared insight on City Light dams, their structures and emergency protocols.

Can you explain what happened with Oroville?

The best way to get up to date information from Oroville is to refer to the California Department of Water Resources web site at California Governor Brown is providing updates and transparency to this incident and assessment.

How are City Light dams different/similar to Oroville?

Every dam is different. There are some generalities, but every dam is different in how they operate and how they’re constructed.

Most City of Seattle dams are concrete, except for South Fork Tolt which is an earthen embankment dam like Oroville, though the Tolt is about a third of the size and height. The issues with embankment dams are different than concrete which means we look at different information; not necessarily more or less significant, just different areas to watch.

Tolt also has a different type of spillway—a Morning Glory—which is a big round piece of concrete situated in the reservoir upstream of the dam and not on the face of the dam. When in service, the water pours in like a drain and comes through the concrete channel.

The other difference is that our dams don’t have anything like Oroville’s emergency spillway. We can’t rely on something like that, so we must keep a close eye which means our equipment is well-maintained. In fact, our Morning Glory spillway is going through a rehabilitation this summer just to improve the hydraulics of its lifting and lowering. It’s fine now, but it’s a step to ensure we’re increasing the reliability of our equipment.

We have numerous individual inspections at our projects, and in fact our City crew walks the project daily for a visual inspection.

What procedures does City Light have in place in case of a situation like this?

We have established a comprehensive Emergency Action Planning (EAP) process in concert with our regulators. This includes an annual process review and exercises to test the functionality of the program.

It’s important that people know that monitoring our dams is a daily routine. Our staff is constantly around these dams. If there’s any subtle changes—doesn’t have to be major—we’re actively looking from a civil, mechanical, electrical, operational point of view.

The important thing with an EAP is that it’s not just City staff who can activate it. If anyone sees something unusual they have the power to activate the EAP by contacting their emergency management agency, their local sheriff’s department or even their Mayor’s office. We also have annual meetings with the city of Carnation (located near Tolt) which is built around our emergency action plan. It’s a time where residents can ask us anything they want. We work closely with them. We even have an emergency siren that goes off once a month to check on it. The schools, the city halls, the whole region is very engaged in understanding our Tolt project.

For further information on City Light dams, consider a tour. Kim also suggests visiting FERC for up-to-date information about other projects and resources.

Protect Your Home From Landslides and Earthquakes

The City of Seattle is hosting two upcoming presentations on February 11 to help you prepare for an emergency. Our landslide awareness presentation will explain how you can prevent landslides on your property. Our earthquake retrofit presentation covers what you need to do to help your home survive an earthquake.

Event Details:

Saturday, February 11, 2017
Filipino Community Center
5740 Martin Luther King Jr Way S.
2nd Floor Conference Room
(This venue is ADA accessible.)

Presentation Schedule:

  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. – Earthquake Retrofit
    Earthquake retrofit expert Tony Holder will give an overview of how Seattle’s geology can make your home vulnerable to damage during an earthquake. The presentation will discuss how to assess your house to see if it needs to be retrofitted. We’ll also explain how to retrofit your home, including a brief overview of the permitting process.
  • 11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. – Landslide Awareness
    Senior Geotechnical Engineer, Dean Griswold, P.E., will explain why landslides happen and where landslides typically occur in Seattle.  He will explain how to determine if your property is in a landslide-prone area, preventative measures you can take to protect your property from landslides, and who to call in case of a landslide.


These presentations are part of the South Seattle Home Fair (February 11, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., at the Filipino Community Center). In addition to the above presentations, the City, along with local organizations, are offering free one-on-one Q&A sessions to discuss services and answer questions. We’ll have information about emergency management, rental housing, affordable housing, raingardens, building permits, building and electrical inspections, code requirements, and much more.

Habitat for Humanity, Home Sight, Rebuilding Together Seattle, Southeast Seattle Tool Library, Office of Emergency Management, the Seattle Emergency Communications Hubs, and many others will also be on hand to answer questions.

For more information about this event, view the calendar description at

South Seattle Home Fair

You’re invited to a South Seattle Home Fair on February 11, 2017, hosted by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections. This event is your chance to ask questions about your planned remodel and our permitting process, code requirements, and rental housing and tenant assistance program. City staff will also be available to discuss housing, emergency preparedness, energy rebates, landslide awareness, and rain garden information.

Whether you’re a homeowner, landlord, renter, or potential homeowner, this event has something for you.

Saturday, February 11, 2017
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Filipino Community Center
Ballroom & Conference Room #201
5740 Martin Luther King Jr Way S
(The Filipino Community Center is ADA accessible.)


We will have several staffed information tables in the Ballroom. We will also have three presentations in a conference room on the second floor*:

  • 10:30 – 11:30 – Earthquake Retrofit (protect your home in case of an earthquake)
  • 11:45 – 12:45 – Landslide Awareness (help prevent landslides near your home)
  • 1:00 – 1:30 – Rental Housing (learn about new rental housing rules)


Information tables will include the following topics:

  • Affordable Housing Information
  • Building Code
  • Building Inspections
  • Building Permits
  • Earthquake Retrofits
  • Electrical Inspections
  • Emergency Communication Hubs
  • Emergency Management
  • Energy Rebates
  • Energy-Saving Tips
  • Home Repair Assistance
  • Home Ownership Assistance
  • Land Use Rules
  • Landslide Awareness
  • Landlord / Tenant Information
  • Raingardens and Cisterns
  • Rental Housing Rules


Other City departments and local organizations will also be available to answer questions.

  • Habitat for Humanityis recruiting for its home repair program! Are you a homeowner that is looking for an affordable repair? Check out our booth at the South Seattle Home Fair.
  • HomeSightwill provide information about Prepurchase Education classes, Homeownership Counseling, First mortgage lending for refinance, and purchase and down payment assistance.
  • Office of Emergency Managementwill provide information on how to prepare your home and family for disasters. This will include information on area hazards, basic preparedness guidance, information on unreinforced masonry buildings, and the City’s alert and notification system, Alert Seattle.
  • Office of Housing,a City department focused on affordable housing programs and policies, will have information about free energy efficiency improvements for your home, home repair loans, help in purchasing your first home, or assistance in finding affordable housing.
  • Rebuilding Together Seattleis a nonprofit that provides free health- and safety-focused home repairs for low income homeowners. They will answer any questions about their program and will have applications and information available at their table.
  • Seattle City Lightwill have information about energy-saving tips, available rebates for your home, and how to buy the right LED bulb and take advantage of in-store instant discounts on LEDs.
  • Seattle Department of Neighborhoodswill be providing information on the new Community Involvement Commission and how to apply, along with soliciting project ideas for the Your Voice, Your Choice: Parks & Streets participatory budget program.
  • The Seattle Hubstable will be staffed by Rainer Beach Ready volunteers who will describe how the Emergency Communications Hubs function, where the Rainier Beach Hub is located and have quick tips and multi-language brochures on how to be prepared and communicate during an emergency, as well as information on establishing new hubs in other South Seattle neighborhoods.
  • Seattle Public Utilitieswill discuss their RainWise program. RainWise provides rebates to cover most or all the cost of installing cisterns and rain gardens. To receive a rebate, you must live in an eligible combined sewer overflow basin. Seattle Public Utilities will help you determine if your property qualifies.


For more information about the South Seattle Home Fair, contact:

Moon Callison
(206) 615-1486


*There is a lift to help those who need assistance accessing the second floor.

How Should the City Spend Your Money on Hazard Reduction?

The City of Seattle is looking for your input on what hazards worry you most. Earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, snow and ice storms, terrorism are just a few of the hazards that the City can experience. How should the City use limited financial resources to reduce the impacts from the City’s natural and man-made hazards? There are many ways to reduce the impacts, such as regulations, slope stabilization, and public education. The Seattle Office of Emergency Management is updating the existing 2009 Hazard Mitigation Plan. We want to know what you think. There are three ways to tell us:

What you think matters to us. With your participation we can identify the hazards we should plan for and take actions to reduce the impacts when the hazards strike.