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Portland Bureau of Emergency Management

Readiness. Response. Recovery.

Phone: 503-823-4375

Fax: 503-823-3903

TDD: 503-823-3947

Meet the PBEM Team

Carmen Merlo, Director

Email, (503) 823-4375

Carmen MerloCarmen Merlo has served as the director of the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management since 2007. In her current position she is responsible for planning, implementing and improving emergency management plans, programs, and procedures to ensure a coordinated response to major emergencies or disruptions to continuity of operations in the City of Portland. She leads the City’s disaster resilience planning and builds partnerships with local, regional and state partners to advance disaster risk reduction.

Ms. Merlo previously worked for 10 years at the State Office of Homeland Security / Oregon Emergency Management administering grant funds to improve local, regional and state capabilities to respond to and recover from emergencies. She earned a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, School of Criminal Justice in New York.

Trang Ayers, Accountant

Email, (503) 823-2694

Trang is responsible for managing several government grants and other accounting-related functions, including reviewing reimbursement requests, monitoring grant expenditures, and providing oversight to purchases made by PBEM.

Before joining the bureau, she worked for the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Standard Insurance Company, and the children’s’ clothing company Hanna Andersson. She earned a B.S. in finance and a retail management certificate from Portland State University in 2012. 

Denise Barrett, Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization (RDPO) Manager

Email, (503) 823-5386

Denise joined PBEM in August 2001 to stand-up and direct the Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization, a partnership of government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private-sector stakeholders collaborating to increase the Portland metropolitan region’s resiliency to disasters.  Among her duties, Denise facilitates strategic and program development processes.

Denise has extensive global experience leading multi-sector programs in post-disaster, war and poverty contexts.  She holds a Master’s degree in International Administration from the School of International Training.

Laura Bruno, Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization (RDPO) Project Coordinator

Email, (503) 823-9799

Laura joined the RDPO in 2016 to lead planning for the organization, which includes stakeholders from five counties (Clackamas, Clark, Columbia, Multnomah and Washington). Prior to joining RDPO, Laura worked for more than a decade in international humanitarian relief and development with Mercy Corps. She managed a multi-country resilience program focused on disaster risk reduction and market systems development in Asia. She holds a BA in Political Science and Latin American Studies from Seattle Pacific University, and an MBA Certificate from Portland State University’s Entrepreneurial Leaders program.

Danielle Butsick, Natural Hazard Mitigation Planner

Email, (503) 823-3926

Danielle focuses on engaging underrepresented populations in preparing for natural hazards and finding strategies to make Portland a safer, more equitable place to live for all Portlanders. Previously, she wrote oil spill response plans for Washington State, including one for the Columbia River, and helped manage oil spill drills and responses. Danielle has an M.S. in Regional Planning and Natural Disaster Resilience. She started her career working with communities in Florida to determine their hazard risks and enhance their resilience to those hazards. As a volunteer, she deployed on relief missions in Oso, WA after a massive landslide and in Hilo, HI after Hurricane Iselle.

Keren Ceballos, Business Operations Supervisor

Email, (503) 823-4187

Keren is responsible for directing the financial, business operations and HR areas of PBEM, including fiscal administration of federal grant programs, annual budget development, capital plans, AP/AR, contracts and procurement, payroll, professional development, risk management and audit processes.

She holds degrees in Finance, HR and Management from Portland State University. She has managed people and programs across different industries in the public and private sectors with budgets ranging from thousands of dollars to billions of dollars. In 2010 and 2011, she was part of FEMA’s first two and only Latino summits.

Amy Cole, Grants Compliance Program Manager

Email, (503) 823-4375

Amy Cole joined the bureau in late 2015 and coordinates federal grant management and compliance. Before joining PBEM, she served as a program coordinator at the City of Raleigh, NC where she worked with nonprofits and local governments on homeless systems change and public services.  Prior to that, she ran a statewide homeless services grant program and worked at the local and state levels in affordable housing and community development. Amy earned a Master of Urban Planning and a Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Psychology from Lewis and Clark College.

Dan Douthit, Public Information Officer

Email, (503) 823-3928

Dan Douthit is responsible for conducting PBEM’s media relations, and overseeing the bureau’s Public Information and Communications program.

Dan started working at PBEM in 2008, first as a program specialist focused on regional coordination, and then as public information officer in 2013. He also previously served as a staff member in Portland Mayor Tom Potter’s office. Dan holds an M.A. in Political Science and B.A. in Political Science and Canadian-American Studies from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA.

Daire Elliott, Office Specialist

Email, (503) 823-4375

Daire Elliott has been the office specialist for PBEM since 2007, supporting the bureau via timekeeping, financial, and administrative work.  His efforts help ensure an overall smooth flow of work in the office.  He also chairs the bureau's Diversity and Equity Committee and represents the bureau in the Citywide Equity Committee.

Previously, Daire has worked in jobs ranging from warehouse work to veterinary technician, and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Architecture from Portland State in 2000.

Felicia Heaton, Senior Community Outreach & Information Representative

Email, (503) 823-4614

Felicia Heaton, a native Portlander, is PBEM's primary liaison to schools, neighborhood associations, volunteer groups, disaster aid agencies, and local businesses. She also acts as the bureau's deputy public information officer.

Before joining the PBEM team in 2013, she worked as a news anchor and reporter for Portland's News Radio 1190 KEX, ABC News and The Oregonian covering a wide range of local and national stories including the Clackamas Town Center shooting; the search for Kyron Horman, and the Woodburn bank bombing. She is winner of Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press awards. Felicia continues her work in radio as a weekend on-air personality on Portland music station K103.3 fm.

Jay Higgins, Transportation Recovery Planner

Email, (503) 823-3754

Working at PBEM for the next year, Jay is responsible for coordination of a Transportation Recovery Plan that will help Portland evaluate strategies to keep people moving post-disaster. As part of a Federal Transit Administration grant to further the practice of transportation recovery, the plan will be the basis of a training to share with cities across the nation.

Before PBEM Jay worked at TriMet for nine years, first driving buses and then planning Transit-Oriented Development around the Orange Line MAX and at Orenco Station, Hillsboro. He has a Master of Urban & Regional Planning degree from Portland State University.

Ernest "Ernie" Jones, Volunteer Program Development

Email, (503) 823-4711

Ernest Jones joined PBEM in October 2015 to work with the BEECN and NET programs and conduct outreach. He previously served 20 years as a reservist at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in community relations and disaster survivor assistance on approximately 55 federally declared disasters, including Super Storm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, and the World Trade Center in 2001.

Since 2005, Ernest has represented the U.S. as an election monitor for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. He was a Rotary Foundation Graduate Scholar at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, and holds a B.A. from The Evergreen State College and M.S.W. from the University of Washington.

Mark McKay, Program Specialist - WebEOC

Email, (503) 823-3924

Mark McKay has been with PBEM since 2006 and is the System Administrator for the City’s instance of WebEOC. In his current position he provides technical support, contract management, software development and ensures system integrity. Additionally, he oversees the critical communication and technology tools used in the City’s Emergency Coordination Center and mobile communication assets.

Mark previously worked at the Lane County Sheriff’s Office as the Emergency Management Coordinator and served 10 years in the United States Navy. He is working on his B.S. degree in Information Technology from the University of Phoenix and is a member of the Oregon Emergency Management Association.

Peter O'Farrell, Disaster Resilience Planner


As PBEM’s Disaster Resilience Planner, Pete works to ensure Portland and the surrounding communities are not just prepared to withstand a potential disaster, but are primed to rebound quickly and effectively.

Pete brings PBEM experience from the public and nonprofit sectors. He worked for 12 years in South and Central Asia and Africa. He managed agriculture projects in Afghanistan and responded to disasters in Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan. He also served in the Peace Corps in Madagascar. Prior to joining PBEM in 2015, he worked for the Oregon Department of Transportation in Astoria.

Jonna Papaefthimiou, Planning & Preparedness Manager

Email, (503) 823-3809

Jonna joined PBEM in 2013.  As the Planning and Preparedness Manager, she coordinates citywide planning for emergency response, continuity of operations, and hazard mitigation.  She also oversees the training and exercises section, which documents, tests, and teaches City employees skills for emergency management and working in the City’s Emergency Coordination Center.

Jonna has previously worked as a community organizer, land-use planner, and political policy advisor.  She has BS in Urban Studies and in Writing, and a Master in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Courtney Patterson, Emergency Management Operations Manager

Email, (503) 823-3738

Courtney Patterson is responsible for the Portland Emergency Coordination Center, where City employees gather to manage disaster situations. She also supervises the ECC responder, NET and BEECN programs. Prior to becoming operations manager, she spent three years designing trainings, simulating disasters, and writing procedures for PBEM. Previously, she served as a United States Marine planning and conducting humanitarian assistance training in Okinawa, Japan; Pohang, South Korea; and Manila, the Philippines. She evacuated American citizens from Japan following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. She deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan as a battalion Logistics Officer. Her unit built roads and bridges and provided bulk fuel and water. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA.

Laurent Picard, Fire Lieutenant Liaison

Email, (503) 823-7269

Lt. Laurent Picard has worked at Portland Fire & Rescue for 19 years, 14 of which he spent working as a firefighter/paramedic at Station 13 in the Lloyd District.  He is also a long-time member of PF&R’s Dive Rescue Team. As the fire lieutenant liaison to PBEM, Laurent has a wide variety of responsibilities, including: staffing the Emergency Coordination Center, coordinating emergency services for large special events, developing training curriculum, and training volunteers as part of the Neighborhood Emergency Team program.

In addition to his work at PF&R, Laurent previously served on the Hood River City Council for 10 years. He received his paramedic training at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse and has a B.A. in English from Cornell University.

Adrienne Schmidt, Community Service Aide II

Email, (503) 823-4375

Adrienne is the bureau’s Community Service Aide II. She began as a community outreach intern for PBEM in the summer of 2015, just after graduating with an Administrative Office Professional degree from Mt. Hood Community College. After a year-long internship, she was hired to assist the Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization and to further assist PBEM’s community outreach program. In the future, she hopes to work in administrative support for the fire service. Adrienne also works as a part-time caregiver. 

Jeremy Van Keuren, Program Specialist - Neighborhood Emergency Team

Email, (503) 823-4421

Jeremy manages the bureau’s volunteer programs and is a duty officer. He has worked for the City of Portland since 2003. He has been a policy manager in Portland City Hall (advising two mayors and one commissioner), worked in finance, housing, and economic development. Jeremy has graduated from Portland State University with a Bachelor’s in Anthropology and an Executive Masters of Public Administration.

PBEM Organizational Chart

PBEM organizational chart from the City of Portland's FY15-16 proposed budget.

PBEM Director Carmen Merlo

Biography of PBEM Director Carmen Merlo.