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

6.14 Lessons Learned

There are several lessons that were learned from the Big Bear Valley incident.

Adopt a Reentry Plan

Two years were spent on planning for the evacuation of residents out of the valley and the entry of fire, law enforcement, and utility personnel. However, the evacuation plan did not accommodate the need for the reentry of residents. Reentry of residents proved challenging, and subsequently, the reentry of residents has been addressed. Since the time of the Old Fire, a reentry plan has been established to allow for the reentry or re-opening of critical infrastructure facilities such as sewer, water, gasoline stations, grocery stores, and the hospital before residents will be allowed to return.

Have Secure Lines of Communication

When the fire chief of Big Bear City was unable to return to the command center, communication with the incident command center stopped. Communication needs to be re-established and secure. Through grants, the Big Bear City Fire Department has purchased four satellite phones since land and cell lines were overwhelmed.

Identify Relocation Facilities Ahead of Time

Have pre-identified potential relocation facilities (such as nursing homes) in case the valley hospital needs to be evacuated again, as well as written agreements with these facilities.

Issue Identification Passes

Emergency personnel entered into the valley to assist the local emergency management officials during the incident. The local community is examining a pass to allow personnel into the valley. A form or a card may be issued by the Sheriff’s Department after receipt of an application. The pass would be uniform to allow for quick identification.

Use a Vehicle Placard to Allow for Vehicle Reentry

Vehicle placards have been developed to allow transit vehicles to reenter an evacuation or incident zone to transport evacuees. Local law enforcement signs the placard that is to be displayed in the front window for viewing.

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