Agencies review Angora Fire response: 911 calls to Truckee CHP still being probed |

Agencies review Angora Fire response: 911 calls to Truckee CHP still being probed

Just over two weeks after the Angora fire was fully contained on July 1, a panel of representatives from the agencies involved with the emergency response to the disaster convened to review their effectiveness.

Their goal was to reinforce aspects of the response that went well, while taking a look at what could be improved.

Notes from the review, released late last week, describe the response to El Dorado County’s largest disaster as going “exceptionally well.”

Evacuations organized by the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol were noted as being especially successful, a finding reinforced by the lack of deaths or traumatic injuries during the fire.

But a faster implementation of a joint information center, to coordinate more than a dozen agencies spread across all levels of government taking part in the emergency response, would have been helpful in the initial stages of the Angora fire, according to Marty Hackett, a lieutenant with the El Dorado County’s Sheriff’s Office who is also in charge of the county’s Office of Emergency Services.

Such a center facilitates communications between agencies as well as with the news media.

“What we found was that we really needed to have representatives who can speak for their agencies be present, who have a front-line role in this,” Hackett said on Friday.

With the fire starting on a Sunday afternoon, the joint information center was in the works on Monday, but was not up and running until Tuesday, according to the lieutenant.

The rapid implementation of an information center would aid communication and decision-making among emergency responders during a future disaster.

Also, memorandum of understanding, which would allow trained individuals from agencies a certain degree of freedom to speak for other agencies that are stretched thin, would also be helpful, Hackett said.

Emergencies such as the Angora fire require a level of “depth” not necessarily available from local resources who may be directly affected by a disaster or exhausted by dealing with day-to-day emergencies on top of a disaster scenario.

The review will act as an aid for disaster planners locally and elsewhere, according to Hackett. It is a “living document” and assessment of the response to the Angora fire will be ongoing, Hackett said.

A follow-up report on the improvements is due by May 2008, but the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office expected the actual improvements to be completed sooner.

“Progress has already started on all these things on the list,” Hackett said.

“We’re going to implement these things before the next fire season or sooner.”

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