Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

6.10 Difficulties in the Incident/Evacuation

Communication proved to be the biggest difficulty during the incident. Because of fires in the 1970s, the State of California set up a common communication system to allow emergency management entities to communicate with each other. Now in the state, fire departments have multiple radio systems such as UHF, VHF, 800 MHz, and digital systems that are unable to communicate with each other. In addition, the push-to-talk services do not always allow for communication between entities. Workarounds were used in this incident such as the use of cell phones and face-to-face meetings.

Once the Big Bear Valley incident commander was unable to proceed to the incident command center, communication between the valley and the command center stopped. Emergency management officials were on their own for 2 days before assistance arrived.

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