Office of Operations
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5.6 Communication

5.6.1 Communication between Agencies

Initial Communication

Railroad workers contacted 911 and informed them of the situation. 911 in turn contacted the HazMat teams (both police and fire), and the fire department in turn activated the call-down list, which included the police department, the highway patrol, the South Salt Lake City Valley Health Department, and the Red Cross.

Main Means of Communication

The main means of communication between the entities were radios (800 MHz) and cell phones. Both police and fire in the valley utilize an 800 MHz radio system.

Fire departments within Salt Lake Valley (except South Salt Lake City) have a joint dispatch facility (Valley Emergency Communications Center), and they utilized this to communicate during the incident. The law enforcement liaison used the police department’s own communication system to contact other law enforcement entities.

Law enforcement also has the ability to communicate with each other utilizing laptop computers located in patrol cars and the command center. These computers were also used to communicate with the media during the incident.

5.6.2 Communication to Evacuees and the Public

Means of Communication

The main means of communication to the general public was the use of Reverse 911®, local broadcasts on television and radio, and police officers going door to door to notify residents of the evacuation. There was an attempt made to contact open businesses with employees, but businesses open on Sunday in the incident zone were “rare.”

The media was contacted through the Emergency Alert System. The media was considered helpful in providing information on road closures and the evacuation. One media firm offered the use of a media helicopter if needed.

Joint Information Center

When the evacuation order was called, a police department public information officer, provided information to the media from the incident command center, while later in the day (17:00), a Joint Information Center was established at the highway patrol dispatch center.

When the freeways were closed down, a press conference was set up on the freeway with the fire department, the police department, and the highway patrol communicating information on the fire, evacuation, and road closures respectively.

The Public Information Office for the police department was responsible for media interviews.

Web Site

The police department has a media web page that the media can log onto to find out information regarding incidents in which the police department is involved. It can be used on a daily basis by the media, since the police department will update information on the incident and post notes regarding it.

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