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3.6 Communication

3.6.1 Communication Between Agencies

Main Means of Agency Communication

Early in the incident, the El Dorado Fire Department established an incident command. At the incident command, representatives from the various entities involved such as the El Dorado Fire Department, El Dorado Police Department, ProMed Ambulance Service, Teris, Arkansas Department of Air Quality, and EPA had “a seat at the table” and were provided information, which they, in turn, communicated to their respective staffs.

Receipt of Initial Information on the Incident

People such as the Union County Emergency Coordinator and one of the nursing home staff were contacted at home or paged by either the police or fire department informing them of the incident. Others had heard the explosions and saw black clouds coming from the Teris facility.

Once the incident command was established, a phone tree was used to alert other emergency management entities and the LEPC.

Types of Communication

Radios, landlines, and cell phones provided the backbone of the communication system.

The El Dorado Police Department, El Dorado Fire Department, and 911 system share radio frequencies and have a single dispatch system. The ambulance service has its own radio frequency, but they monitored the shared radio system. No mention was made of a breakdown in communication or a need for additional equipment.

3.6.2 Communication to Evacuees and the Public

Means of Communication

The primary means of communication to the evacuees and the public was through the media, both television and radio. However, during the initial response actions, officials attempted to contact local radio stations to broadcast precautionary measures for residents. Due to the day and time, the stations were operating automatically and were not staffed. The closest television station is 3 hours away and, by the time the information was provided to the public by television, the evacuation was completed.

In addition, the El Dorado Police Department went into the evacuation zone and, with the use of a public address system, communicated the need to evacuate to “stragglers.”

The incident occurred early on Sunday morning while churches were in session. During the services, it became apparent that an incident was occurring and church services were terminated with people being allowed to evacuate from that location.

Joint Information Center

Initially, Teris established a communication center at a local hotel and the incident command established one at another location. Eventually, the two communication centers were unified into a single information center.

After the media was engaged, regular briefings were given at a local hotel starting every 2 hours, but eventually the briefings were further spread apart since it was felt that one briefing would finish and another would start up immediately. Officials at the Teris facility and the State Department of Air Quality eventually joined the briefings to communicate actions to be undertaken.

An officer from the El Dorado Police Department served as the public information officer for the El Dorado Police Department, El Dorado Fire Department, and LEPC. One unified voice provided public information.

At some point in the evacuation, citizens attended the briefings to ask when they could return home. People were frustrated that they could not return home immediately.

February 6, 2006
Publication #FHWA-HOP-08-014