6.5 Advance Planning
The community has a broad plan for evacuations. The main basics are in place and are left broad depending on the threat, conditions, and direction of the threat. A more detailed plan is created at the time of the incident.
In the 2 years of preplanning to get people out of the valley and bring fire departments, law enforcement personnel, and utility personnel into the valley, one aspect of the plan that was overlooked was a reentry plan.
Reentry of residents into the valley proved to be challenging. Conference calls were made with the local area command and federal officials. Recommendations were made by the local area command to allow essential services to be established before residents could move back into the community, such as open grocery stores, functional utilities (sewer, gas, and water), operational gasoline stations, and an operational community hospital.
The local emergency management officials provided recommendations, but the “powers to be” reviewed the recommendations and modified the timelines for resident reentry. Gasoline stations were quickly overwhelmed, and it was a challenge to bring in gasoline trucks to the gasoline stations. In addition, there was a lack of coordination from the law enforcement officials as to the entry of fuel trucks into the valley. In one instance, entry from the west was allowed; in the next, it was not.
Reentry of residents has been addressed since then.
No public shelters were established in Big Bear Valley for communities evacuated to the west for the valley. People stayed primarily in local hotels and motels.
Public shelters for evacuees from the valley were set up in the high desert and the San Bernardino area. The Red Cross established shelter locations.
Public shelters were created in San Bernardino County and eventually merged into one super shelter at the San Bernardino International Airport (previously, the decommissioned Norton Airbase).
Tabletop exercises and emergency operations command exercises are practiced on a regular basis within the valley. Planning is conducted for the worst-case scenario. When the fire hit, the entities involved in the incident were able to put their planning and training into effect. The evacuation went “about as smooth as it could.”Tabletop exercises have been practiced with multiple agencies; there was no mention of actual drills/practices with multiple agencies as part of a training exercise.
When other entities entered the valley to assist in the Old Fire incident, evacuation plan updates and structure plans were distributed to the entities unfamiliar with the valley to familiarize them with the valley, local conditions, location of water, location of utilities, etc. Theses updates and plans provide unfamiliar entities with a way to better understand the local conditions within the valley.
February 6, 2006