PIO lessons learned from the Uintah Fire

Screen Shot 2018-01-17 at 12.30.14 PM
Click the image to play a recap video of the Uintah Fire produced by Weber County

We were fortunate to hear from three PIOs who worked on the 2017 Uintah Fire during the Jan. 17, 2018, Quarterly Meeting. Their presentations are embedded after the notes on each section and are posted on Issuu here.

Holin Wilbanks, Weber County

We had to make sure all of the social media accounts were saying the same thing.

Wins:

  • As we were sending out critical information, we were also telling them about what we were doing well and why we were ready. Residents began to share that information and the Governor shared that information, as well.
  • We established the hashtag #UintahFire early on and that allowed us to track our data, as well.
  • Weber County became the accurate source of  information for residents and the press.
  • We briefed the families first and the press second.

Lessons:

  • It’s not over when the fire is out
    • Community recovery included putting out 10 Dumpsters for green waste, involving USU extension horticulturalist for training for homeowners, taking recovery documentation to homeowners in neighborhoods and posting all info to the county site.
  • Keep a PIO in incident command
    • We had a bunch of PIOs all working in different directions. We finally got together partway through the first day.
  • Keep a PIO assigned as an evacuee advocate
  • Now we have a communication plan with the Wildland Urban Interface Plan.
  • All info should have gone through a single channel.
  • Share your social media passwords.
  • Have your communications form up and ACTIVE for press and constituents
  • Maximize your team members and coordinate.
  • Know your role!
  • Engage with your GIS department. I wish I had a map.

Lane Findlay, Weber School District

  • Initially had no contact from law enforcement or fire
  • So, decision to evacuate Uintah Elementary happened at 11 a.m., more than three hours after the fire started.
  • Parents were picking up students and once we received notification from dispatch, started to evacuate. We got 13 buses to take children to Dee Events Center.

Win:

  • Reunification was complete by 1 p.m.
  • Great leadership team

Lessons:

  • Have a plan in place
  • Build partnerships
  • Be flexible
  • Media were able to get inside the Dee Events Center and take photos of children.

Chris Williams, Davis School District

  • Fire was 500 yards from South Weber Elementary and kids were already there.
  • We have 89 schools, 72,000 kids and we have the ability to change any school website, so we did for South Weber.
  • We moved students to Clearfield High School, huge challenge with geography for evacuating students.

Win:

  • Most parents picked up their kids.
  • Have someone embedded with command post.
  • Contact other agency PIOs – For Davis Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. DeeAnn Servey
  • Stay within my lane.

Thank you to everyone for sharing your insights and a huge shout out to University of Utah Health for hosting us!


Compiled by Joe Dougherty, PIO Association Secretary and
PIO for the Utah Division of Emergency Management
jdougherty@utah.gov | Twitter: @PIO_Joe

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