Ten years of “emergency broadcasting” in Victoria – now what?

My professional position is as the Manager of Emergency Broadcasting and Community Development for The Australian Broadcasting Corporation Local Radio division. It was my delight to be able to attend on Friday March 28 an event to acknowledge the tenth anniversary of the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with The ABC, the Bureau of Meteorology and Victorian emergency agencies.

The agreement provided a reliable, 24/7 platform on which those agencies could issue warnings to the community at any time for any event, knowing the ABC would broadcast them repeatedly and for as long as necessary, to enable the community to respond to the event. We now make the same undertaking on TV and online (including social media).

The March 28 event was arranged by the Victorian Fire Commissioner Craig Lapsley, and the key note address was by the Victorian Minister for Police and Emergency Services, the Hon Kim Wells.

“It is an honour to receive on behalf of all ABC staff a tribute from The Hon Kim Wells today marking ten years since Bruce Esplin and I signed the first MoU to commit the ABC to broadcast warnings delivered by the Bureau of Meteorology and the CFA.

The process of issuing warnings to the public has come a long way since the first, somewhat  hesitant and halting warning in January, 1997. Siusan McKenzie wrote the first warning for us in January 1997, and immediately suggested we wouldn’t be able to broadcast it.

Why – because Siusan knew we would not break into cricket coverage, and the warning, to be effective, would need to be issued repeatedly.

My then director Sue Howard advised me: ”Break in, but don’t tell anyone.”

All hell broke loose inside the ABC, but few now can recall those days long ago.

In fact this January the ABC has implemented a policy committing all staff to create processes to enable us to issue all high level warnings when requested by an emergency agency or government authority on whatever platform we feel is  useful.

This change of culture is highlighted by the fact that now our community expects to receive timely and effective warnings, and on a variety of platforms.

The partnership we have in place with the Bureau of Meteorology and emergency agencies is strong and robust.

Implementing something as new as the principal of “emergency broadcasting” which requires change of culture, attitude and operational procedures in a highly political and highly regulated environment isn’t easy.

It’s a credit to the people involved at the ABC and in emergency agencies that we’ve been able to make this work.

The goodwill is generated because Emergency Broadcasting makes a difference. Timely warnings save lives.

As a manager at The ABC I look at the way we broadcast to the community during disasters and  ask three things: are there any complaints from the community that they didn’t receive any warnings; did we look after our staff; and did things run smoothly.

 

Here in Victoria we can look at the recent example of the catastrophic fire day when there were five simultaneous emergency warnings including three in built up areas. It’s our nightmare, and it came on a nightmare day.

 

There were no complaints from the community that warnings were not received  even though there were emergency warnings in five places that day and hundreds of thousands of people were potentially affected.

 

We did look after our staff. Dealing with bushfires, to me, seems like an intensely personal and intimate activity, putting your life on the line to confront the flames. And sometimes issuing warnings is equally personal and confronting. One of the ABC staff who worked on the Mickleham fires stopped on the way to work and cried, remembering our performance on Black Saturday. The broadcaster nearly turned around, but eventually came to work. That person told me they felt an important job needed doing, and the ABC and emergency agencies were now much better at creating effective warnings. In other words it was safe to come to work.

 

And on that busy day our studio production team worked effectively with the State Control centre and Incident Controllers to provide warnings, context and advice.

 

It’s not lost on me how complex the process of issuing warnings can be. From the volunteer on the fire ground, to the SES worker on a riverbank or an weather forecaster at their desk, it’s difficult to first create sense out of the mess they are facing and then find ways to effectively communicate a message about threat and risk.

 

It’s interesting too that Emergency Broadcasting  is a management dominated initiative…I know staff and volunteers have an important operational role to play and I’m not underestimating that, but there is the work of policy development and strategic planning, stakeholder relationships, dealing with the public and high level enquiries. It’s shone a spotlight on the work of people like Neil Bibby, Bruce Esplin, Russel Rees, Alistair Hainsworth and Ward Rooney, Christine Nixon, Euan Ferguson, Craig Lapsley, Mary Barry, Ewan Waller, and the researchers, like Gary Morgan and John Handmer. And at the ABC, Sue Howard, Michael Mason, Kate Dundas, Mark Scott.

 

These managers took risks with emergency broadcasting. They put their reputations on the line to embrace the concept of emergency broadcasting, they nurtured it, defended it, and can take a great deal of responsibility for the fact it’s now part of the fabric of our life throughout Australia.

But acknowledging a tenth anniversary is also a chance to look forward. And there is more to be done.

As we learn more about the psychology of bushfires from people like Rob Gordon, it’s becoming more and more important to understand warnings have to take account of human behaviour. We know in a disaster human beings  use the side of their brain which works in graphics and images,  so we simply must have more graphics and images in our warnings, and this includes effective fire forecast maps.

We must be on TV. And while the ABC has now moved to ensure that all warnings are carried on News24 we as an industry must make further efforts to get commercial TV involved.

We must learn how to better engage on social media like Facebook and Instagram, to talk directly to the more mobile and younger adults who no longer have to look to their parents for advice at critical times because they have all the information literally in hand.

We must keep reviewing and improving and to do this we need to build even stronger relations with emergency agencies where we are trusted with forecast material and risk evaluations.

At the ABC I know the people involved in emergency broadcasting, and this includes broadcasters, producers, reporters, managers, technical people, MCR, transmission co-ordinators and those in IT and human resources, all of whom come together to make it possible for us to issue effective warnings.

I know them all personally, and am very proud of them, and I know they will all continue to do everything they can to ensure that we issue effective warnings and information when the community needs it.”

Ian Mannix

March 28, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

All I had was the radio – the need for radio when the power fails

Rachael Mead lives at Lobethal Road, Basket Range in the low hills outside Adelaide, in South Australia. Her husband was on a Country FIre Service volunteer truck during the unseasonal “Cherryville” bushfire which hit her valley in the first week of May. 

She has a bushfire plan. She moved the animals to another place when the fire started. She does not listen to 891 ABC Adelaide, (the emergency broadcaster) and was unaware of the sign on the freeway 10 km from her place that suggests she should listen to 891 in an emergency.

 She was not listening to the radio when the fire started as she was relying on her mobile phone access to the CFS website for information, but it eventually became apparent that she would lose power and access to the web site. She streamed 891 to her handset and walked around with it for a while, but then realised her phone battery would fail and she had no way of charging it. Rachael retrieved her battery powered radio from her “ready kit.”

 “I had never thought I would ever use that radio, but now I understand. I will have to change the batteries before every fire season, because without the radio I would have been lost. I would not have had information to enable me to stay and prepare. I would not have known when to turn the sprinklers on and to leave. I had seen the ribbon warnings on ABC TV in the past about other fires and thought that was a good idea, but I couldn’t watch TV when the power went off. The power was switched off by the power authority.”

 “I scanned the radio for a station broadcasting fire coverage, and came across 891 ABC Adelaide and thought because they were local they would probably have something. I waited until they did, and then had no reason to see if other stations had anything.

 “The half hour updates were accurate and useful in the most part. Coming at half hourly intervals meant I could go and do things and always come back at the right time, so I wasn’t glued to my kitchen bench and I could plan my actions.  It was very useful.

“When they came at  15 minute intervals and I also started receiving CFS alerts and the mobile phone started ringing more frequently and it was quite frantic, but then I found myself needing more and more information.

 “At one stage I contacted my husband on the CFS truck and he told me the information was inaccurate about where the fire had reached. They were discussing it quite a bit on the fire ground. I wondered who at the Uraidla Incident Control Centre was giving the radio the information.

 “I went up to the hill and watched the fire while listening on the stream. They were discussing dry cleaning with talk back, which was a bit surprising.

 “My neighbours were also listening to 891.

 “On Friday I had to change my fire plan when the power went out. I recall thinking they (891) were doing a very good job not inflaming the situation with inaccurate or sensationalist coverage. Some neighbours described to me that other media were quite sensationalist but I didn’t feel that with 891. They appeared to be very objective.

 “I cannot image how scared I would have been without the radio. I would have had to leave my house. It was a complete security to me. I was also in my house without even an animal for companionship.”

 “I was very worried about the forecast wind change on the Saturday and listened until 3pm, and recall thinking this was the first time I had ever listened to a footy game on the radio. I have no interest in football. It was the Richmond Tigers v Port Power. I remember thinking I would have appreciated more information during Saturday, as I was very worried about the wind shift.

 “I didnt check the websites after I turned on the radio because I had no power and needed to conserve my phone batteries.

 “The wind shift didn’t occur, and the rain almost started so I switched over the Poetica on Radio National, but when that finished I came back to 891 and listened to the news for any further information.”

 Rachael’s property was not affected.  

 http://redroomcompany.org/poet/rachael-mead/

 

 

Warning sirens to be enhanced in Victoria

(I changed this post 18/12/12) to reflect correspondence from the Victorian Fire Commssioner’s office. )

 

The Victorian Government in Australia has announced a pilot program to establish sirens in some bushfire prone communities this year.

Sirens are a form of warning. As can be seen from previous posts, many believe they are effective externally only; should be part of an integrated warning system; and need a voice activated announcement to provide context.

Many communities feel safer with sirens, other’s tend to believe they prevent people from being pro-active in their hazards behaviour. This leads to complacency.

Overwarning is an issue.

The Victorian system is not integrated.

(Note change here: This sentence from me is not correct: The Fire Commssioner’s office says: “Sirens are to be integrated with osom which means that the warnings go to social media, emergency broadcasters, website and also sets the sirens off.”)

The Victorian Bushfire Commissioner web site says they can be used as part of Victoria’s warning system for all hazards – including flood, fire and storm.

“In the future a siren sounded anywhere in Victoria will have one of two consistent meanings:

  • CFA Brigade siren – a signal sounded for up to 90-seconds will indicate a CFA Brigade has responded to an emergency incident nearby.
  • CFA Brigade sirens and community sirens – a prolonged, 5-minute signal will indicate a significant emergency is underway in the local area, conditions are changing and people must seek further information and take immediate action.

The sound of a siren is a trigger for people to seek more information from other sources, including emergency broadcasters, the Victorian Bushfire Information Line or emergency services websites.

The sirens in Victoria appear to be tone only.

Here is the Victorian Govermnment news release:

Sirens to alert community at pilot locations this summer

Thursday, 22 November 2012 From the Deputy Premier, From the Minister for Police and Emergency Services

Sirens will be used as an additional warning tool across 13 local government areas this summer fire season, as part of a Victorian Coalition Government pilot program . The pilot will see 46 community sirens used to alert 39 towns or communities to any significant emergency or potential danger that could impact on them. Of these sirens, 28 will be located across three council areas to alert communities in the fire-prone Dandenong Ranges.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Police and Emergency Services Peter Ryan said the pilot locations were chosen based on their bushfire risk and access to a working CFA brigade siren or community siren.

“We know Victorian communities want sirens to be used as a warning tool and this pilot will make sure the correct processes are in place, and the community understands their use, before they are rolled out in other appropriate locations across Victoria,” Mr Ryan said.

“The pilot locations are primarily those where CFA brigade stations or infrastructure already have working sirens, however community-owned sirens in Ferny Creek, Steel’s Creek, Blackwood and Greendale will also be activated.

“Sirens are not a stand-alone means of warning the community, they are designed to alert people when a significant emergency is threatening the local area and to seek further information from other channels.

“Residents should then refer to alerts and warnings issued through emergency broadcasters, www.cfa.vic.gov.au, www.ses.vic.gov.au, SKY News television, local ABC radio, the FireReady app for smartphones, and the Victorian Bushfire Information Line or Flood Information Line,” Mr Ryan said. All sirens are being upgraded to connect to existing warning systems so the community has access to multiple, simultaneous alerts about emergency incidents in their area. The sirens will warn of fire, hazardous material incidents, floods and severe storms, in line with the Use of Sirens for Brigade and Community Alerting policy released by the Coalition Government in May.

The pilot siren locations are Lavers Hill, Wye River, Lorne, Cockatoo, Gembrook, Mt Martha, Noojee, Boolarra, Yinnar, Loch Sport, Kinglake, Kinglake West, Flowerdale, The Basin, Belgrave, Belgrave South, Belgrave Heights, Clematis, Emerald, Olinda, Kallista, The Patch, Kalorama, Mt Evelyn, Menzies Creek, Monbulk, Sassafras, Selby, Upwey, Upper Ferntree Gully, Silvan, Narre Warren East, Macclesfield, Blackwood, Greendale, Euroa, Myrtleford, Ferny Creek and Steels Creek. Some locations will have more than one siren. For more information about the Use of Sirens for Brigade and Community Alerting or the sirens pilot visit www.firecommissioner.vic.gov.au

The tale of two warnings

 At the time of writing there are two fires causing authorities some headaches. Overnight it appears about 30 members of the fishing village at Musselroe Bay in North Eastern Tasmania evacuated themselves to the local boat ramp ahead of a bushfire which “jumped containment lines.”

The Tasmania Fire Service issued an emergency warning at 9.35 pm last night and advised residents the township would be affected within half an hour. Today the situation has changed and the town is under a “Watch and Act.”

Meantime Inciweb gives us warnings for a fire at at Fern Lake in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. (Warning reproduced below, under the Tasmanian Fire Service Watch and Act warning.)

The Rocky Mountains Fire service believes more is better, and the amount of information available to residents and travellers is exhaustive.

For Australian The TFS takes a different approach with brevity being paramount but with a lot more effort being put into finding an effective description of the fire, to highlight to readers the threat they might face, and in context too, with fire behaviour being pinpointed. This is part of the Auystralian Bushfires Warning National FGramework, and while it sounds a little clunky, it certainly accurately characterises the fire behaviour.

The fact that the community meeting was being broadcast live from Colorado is exciting to see. ABC Radio in Victoria has been broadcasting community meetings for about a year to much community acclaim.

 

Bushfire Watch & Act Message

CUCKOO CREEK, MUSSELROE BAY
200367

Current from:03/12/2012 01:21 PM     until:  03/12/2012 08:00 PM   or further notice 
 

There is a large bushfire at Cuckoo Creek, MUSSELROE BAY

The fire danger rating in this area is high . Fire under these conditions can be difficult to control .

This fire may affect the communities of Musselroe Bay township 

This bushfire is currently not controlled.

There may be embers, smoke and ash falling on Musselroe Bay township and surrounding areas.

Reported Road Closures:  none at this time but smoke may be covering parts of Musselroe Road and there is a possibility of this road being closed due to increased fire activity

What to do:

Activate your bushfire plan now

If you are away from home: Do not try to return to your home as the roads in this area could be highly dangerous.

Non residents should stay away from the affected areas.

Monitor ABC Local Radio & TFS Website – www.fire.tas.gov.au for further instructions

Community Information:
Fire remains contained on the West side of Musselroe Road and South of River Road.TFS crews have conducted back burn operations between the fire front and Musselroe Road in an effort to contain the fire.

Crew numbers are being increased throughout the day in expectation of increasing wind strengths.
 

Aurora crews on site managing threats to power infrastructure.

If there is any fire activity causing you concern please report it to the TFS by calling Triple Zero (000).
 

TFS Attending Resources:
Resources Arrived:
  2 x MEDIUM TANKER
  3 x LIGHT TANKER
  1 x PERSONNEL CARRIERResources Mobilised:
  1 x TFS
  1 x PERSONNEL CARRIER

Non-TFS Attending Resources:
 Meantime over at Colorado, the Inciweb information is voluminous, and has effective evacuation information, and road closures, but little context.

Fern Lake Fire Announcement Incident 

 Evacuation and Pre-Evacuation Information Incident:

Fern Lake Fire Wildfire Released: 4 hrs. ago

EVACUATION INFORMATION There is a Red Flag warning today. Based on wind forecasts for this evening, residents should be aware that pre-evacuation and evacuation notices could be expanded. Sign up for emergency notifications at www.leta911.org. Changes in current evacuation and pre-evacuation orders are also made through reverse notification. The scope and necessity of evacuations is continuously evaluated. At this time, only individuals with a medical necessity are allowed to re-enter the evacuation area of the Highway 66 corridor with an escort from the Sheriff’s office. The Highway 66 corridor, including all adjacent streets, remains in evacuation. Electrical power is still on in the area. Last night, expanded pre-evacuation reverse notifications were sent to the Marys Lake Road area to include the area from Moraine Avenue and Rock Ridge Road South to Highway 7 and Fish Creek Road. The pre-evacuation notice includes both the east and west sides of Marys Lake Road. Pre-evacuation means that residents should be ready to leave if they receive an evacuation notice. Residents of High Drive and adjacent streets are also on pre-evacuation notice. The residents in this area must present identification to law enforcement at the High Drive road block. No others will be allowed in the area. The evacuation center will transition from the Estes Park High School to the Mountain View Bible Fellowship at 3 p.m. on today, Dec. 2. This location will be used for sheltering and continued evacuee updates. Mountain View Bible Fellowship is located at 1575 South Saint Vrain Ave. /Highway 7, at the corner of Peak View Drive. The transition to the church has been moved up from 5 p.m. to 3 p.m. today. The cooperating agencies, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army are staffing this evacuation center. Information is provided to evacuees on site. Large animals may be taken to the Stanley Park Fairgrounds at 1209 Manford Ave. INCIDENT INFORMATION SOURCES AND BRIEFINGS There will be a community and evacuee meeting at 5 pm today (Dec. 2) at Town Hall in the board room, 170 MacGregor Avenue. This meeting will be live streamed at www.estes.org/boardsandmeetings broadcast live on local cable channel 12. A media briefing will be held at approximately 6 p.m., immediately following the community meeting will be a press briefing at Town Hall. Information on this fire is available at: · http://www.inciweb.org/ · Twitter: @inciweb and #FernLakeFire · Public information line: 970-577-3716 (Open 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. Dec. 2 and Dec. 3) · Media Information line: 970-577-3718 (Open 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. Dec. 2 and Dec. 3) END Unit Information Rocky Mountain National Park National Park Service Incident Contacts Fern Lake Fire Information Phone: 970-577-3716 Hours: 8a-10p daily Traci Weaver Phone: 307-690-1128 more contacts »«

Announcement – 14 min. ago Evacuation and Pre-Evacuation Information Announcement – 4 hrs. ago Fern Lake Fire Dec. 2, 2:30 PM Update News – 5 hrs. ago Community Meeting Tonight and a Red Flag Warning Announcement – 10 hrs. ago

Warnings workshop by accident

“Linked-in” has a group called International Emergency Managers.

A thread was created with the headline: What does it take to get people to flee a storm. The response from numerous emergency specialists and people with widespread experience, was a fascintaing exercise. In fact it was what you’d get at a workshop if you handpicked the guests.

It starts with the general plea, and ends with very good dot point problem solvers.

Enjoy. Ian

 

Willard C. Harrison 111

What does it take to get people to flee a storm?

Emergency officials are looking at what more can be done to persuade residents to get out when their lives are in danger.

• Step 1 is to educate the leaders. Mayor Bloomberg told people as late as Saturday that it wouldn’t be that bad, but nobody knows where he got that info from. NYC evacuated the shoreline, but told nursing homes to shelter in place because the water won’t come up that high. Bad moves. 

Bill Pook

 I strongly agree with Rob Dale. This has to be a top down message. At the recent IAEM conference we had a session that dealt with the “rush to normalcy”. Examples such as Bloombergs miscue about the NY Marathon being something the city needed shows how elected leadership can be agenda squed and send out the wrong message. 

Keith Carson, MPA, FPEM, CHS-III 

A top down approach is good, but it’s about time people either listened to the experts, or took some responsibility. The real problem? It’s simple. They have to be survivors of a bad one to take it seriously. By nature we are a reactive society, and not a proactive one. We only lock the doors or install a burglar alarm after we’ve been victimized. Most also have the “it won’t happen to me mentality.” Also, look at last year with Hurricane Irene. Mayor Bloomberg kept shouting that the world was coming to and end and to prepare. Many did, but then were pissed off when it didn’t hit their area because it had shifted. Those are among the people for Sandy that didn’t even think about preparing. It’s interesting to watch these people on TV a day or two after the storm and cry “we have no food or water.” Well why not? Oh yeah, that’s right, because you didn’t prepare. There are some very interesting studies I’ve read about this and about 80% of the people who prepare were survivors of a previous disaster. Who’d a thunk it?

Bowman Olds 

For the many years that I have worked with folks along the Gulf coast, Key West, Barrier Islands, leaving their homes in the face of a hurricane, etc. in some cases was not an option they would entertain. Security of their home and their possessions seemed to be paramount. While I would almost agree with the thought that “They have to be survivors of a bad one to take it seriously” there is something about the way we tend to react whether its one of “it only happens to other people” or “it has never happened to me before.” My family was a prime example. Despite numerous warnings through the years about tsunamis impacting our town of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, we would rarely evacuate. The one time we failed to do so, our house was wiped out by a tsunami and 61 people were killed. 

Art Kirkland 

Being from New Orleans I have a slightly different take. Before Katrina there were countless “mandatory” evacuations for storms. Just a little over a month before, the City called for an evacuation for Hurricane Cindy. A lot of folks complied, and spent hours and hours on the road for a storm that did no damage. That was the norm, and still is when there is a mandatory evacuation. There is a basic rule in operant conditioning that if you want to stop a behavior, administer an unpleasant stimulus every time the subject performs the behavior. If you consistently tell people to put themselves through an evacuation, and most of the time there turns out to be no need, then you should not be surprised when people don’t comply with your instructions to evacuate. On that note, the answer to the question is to be more judicious in our warnings to evacuate. People will start to comply when compliance results in reward more often than punishment. 

Bill Pook

• It appears obvious that there needs to be a balance here. On one side we need targeted & judicious warnings from leadership based on best science. But prediction models are not always 100% accurate. So on the other side we need an educated and (self) responsible populace. With all the advance information about the destructive potential of Katrina & “Frankenstorm” Sandy, lack of individual protective actions is not justified by perceived former false alarms

Steve McMaster, CFM 

 It is always easier to do nothing. When faced with a threat and given a choice to evacuate or not evacuate, each person has to make a decision. As a volume of research has shown, that decision is often rational (although not necessarily so from a EMA professional’s standpoint). When each person is deciding whether to evacuate, they most likely weigh the costs and benefits. The costs would be lost time, hassle, leaving house/valuables unprotected, and many more, and the benefit would be avoiding injury or death. The key variable in this benefit-cost analysis is that individual’s understanding of their risk, which is most likely formed from experiences with previous events – as many of you have pointed out above. An interesting research study would be to interview people who did evacuate from Sandy’s devastated area to see why they did evacuate. This information would help with future risk education programs.

Steve McMaster, CFM 

One other brief comment – I’m convinced that there will always be a certain percentage of people who will never evacuate, no matter what. That’s where this article was interesting – with forced evacuations, fines, or jail time, that brings in the political element of elected officials not wanting to overstep boundaries or adding salt to the wound of those already impacted by the event.

Jan Glarum 

Perhaps government declared “mandatory” evacuations should come with the same set of caveats that go declaring someone under quarantine. maybe then we might do a better job of comprehensively preparing for such an event; not use it as a default or no-harm strategy and then play the “we told them to leave” card every time the same results occur.

Rob Dale 

I think quarantines are too different though to directly apply… Force can be used to keep you in/out of a location. Force cannot be used to pull someone from their home in an evacuation.

Jan Glarum • Could you define your use of the term “force’ Rob?

Art Kirkland 

Bill, I have to disagree with your statement about advance warning. The problem is that there is always advance warning…even when there is no threat. Here in Louisiana we heard that Isaac “has the potential to be much worse that Katrina”. It is a staple of our sensation-seeking while risk-averse culture. The problem with all of the advance warning is that it is biased toward a false-positive result. As long as that is the case, we will continue to have problems getting people to evacuate or take other responsible protective actions. 

Rob Dale 

Under a quarantine (at least in my state) “A local health department or the department may provide for the involuntary detention and treatment of individuals with hazardous communicable disease”. By involuntary that would imply “you may not want to go, but you are since you are a threat to the community.” :) I know many other states have the ability to hold someone with a hazardous disease. I don’t know of any states that have the legal right to enter your home and remove you for your safety though.

Bill Pook 

Art, so in Loiusiana you have advance warnings issued when there is no threat? I know you didn’t mean it like that. A hurricane warning by the NOAA means the threat potential is there. Here along the edge of the prairie we have people who think they are safe unless the (tornado) sirens are sounded. Then again we have others who hear the sirens and immediately go outside to look (thus ignoring the warning). Complacency, contempt or ignorance…lives and property are being lost that could be saved. That is why I strive to strike then “balance” I mentioned and move the paradigm.

Rob Dale 

Actually running out to see is not ignoring the warning at all. That’s the confirmation stage, and I’m not sure that can be skipped.

Art Kirkland 

Bill…actually that is exactly what I meant. In the run up to Katrina, there were at least three mandatory evacuations. None of those storms did any appreciable damage. So…you load family and possessions into a vehicle, Spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to get out of harm’s way. Spend money you don’t have on a hotel room and food out for three days. Try to come home only to find out that the city/parish won’t allow you to come in yet. And then do it all again.

The problem (at least with hurricanes) is that being in the “probable impact area” in the time frame necessary to evacuate means that there is a 75% chance nothing will happen. I’m not sure how we balance that. We just did a quick study on evacuations and looked backward. If we evacuated every time that our current criteria were met, we would have evacuated 7 times since Katrina. In fact we have evacuated once. Issac was the only non-evacuation among those that caused any significant upheaval. And, sure enough folks are looking saying “you had all this advance warning, why didn’t you evacuate.”

On the other hand, what would people say if we spent a half-million dollars to evacuate and the result was something like Tropical Storm Lee last year (minimal wind, rain, we were actually playing football an hour after landfall). We would look like idiots and be hung out to dry for over reacting. 

Bill Pook 

Rob, Our local publicized policy is that sirens are sounded for “imminent” danger….not to go outside. Take immediate protective actions, Media broadcasts, social media, community alert networks and NOAA alert radios are advance warning/notification. At least in our area.

Bill Pook 

Art, I wish you luck in doing what is best for your community. Don’t feel alone, we have people purposefully building/living in (river) flood zones too. 

Rob Dale 

Bill, I understand what you are saying… I’m on the team that developed national best practices for outdoor warning sirens last year. My point is that ignoring the science behind the way people react to sirens, and then blaming the people for not reacting the way we want, is probably not productive. Mileti & Sorensen have spent a lot of time showing how people react to a warning. http://www.colorado.edu/geography/class_homepages/geog_4173_f11/Sorensen_warning_systems.pdf

People must:

1 Hear the warning

2 Understand the contents of the warning message

3 Believe the warning is credible and accurate

4 Personalize the warning to oneself

5 Confirm that the warning is true and others are taking heed …and then…

6 Respond by taking a protective action

A siren is step 1. Expecting them to jump right to step 6 is simply not the way it works. Finding out how ways to reduce the timeframe to get from step 1 to 6 would be a productive exercise.

The bigger issue with sirens is overuse. Especially from overtesting. Research shows that when you go more often than one time a month, people become immune to real world alerts. I know of some communities in Kansas that test every week, and we have a town to my north that sounds it every day for the lunchtime whistle! 

Bill Pook

Rob~ exactly, there is a science to understand how people react…and yes, we should expect what we expect of people, not what we wish from people. I take a different step-by-step approach:

People must;

1. Be aware of their surroundings. If the skies look ominous do a heads up for possible actions

2. Listen to the media, social networks/public notification. If the forecast is for possible storms, stay tuned and listen for updates

3. Have a NOAA radio at home/work/school

4. Then with my steps 1-3 when you hear the sirens, your steps 2,3,4 & 5 will have already been met

Over Testing is a BIG problem. Across our state there is no consistent policy. You have a town that “blows the noon whistle”? I have one small village (pop 1,243) that blows the sirens twice a day (lunch & supper) I know of some communities that no longer have any sirens at all…just because they are not effective according to how people react.

We had an F-1 last year that hit with absolutely no official NWS warning (just a “watch). (Although storms were forecasted all day in the media and the skies were black at 5 pm in June). IF we had sounded the sirens and people would have stepped outside, they would have been caught exposed. Let’s stay in touch… it’s great to learn other views.  

Matthew Ellis

As emergency mangers we have one major flaw, we rely to much on OUR experience and often ignore the science behind emergency management. Experience is great, it allows us to be better emergency managers but we must also understand the theory behind various disciplines and utilise the studies that have been conducted to improve our knowledge. How many times have we heard about Panic, when studies have shown that this seldom occurs. We must move beyond our narrow experiences and embrace all the tools of the job. If we don’t, then how can we expect to be treated seriously by other disciplines/ professions and people of influence including politicians. We need, just like every other profession be able to justify our claims with more than our experience, we need to be able support them with facts and figures.

Jan Glarum 

Great comment Matthew. 

Bowman Olds 

Based on past observations, the following four stages (author unknown), remain at the forefront of being unprepared:

1. “It won’t happen to me.”

2. “If it does happen, it will happen to someone else.”

3. “If it does happen to me, it won’t be that bad.”

4. “If it is that bad, there is nothing I can do about it anyway.”

Ryan Kelzenberg 

There have been some great reviews and studies about the format of emergency messaging. One of the areas we need to improve on is the content and quality of the message that is being sent. We also have to accept that many citizens will not take action from only one message to do so.

During our annual AMEM conference Dennis S. Mileti, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado, Boulder did a great presentation and I included the links to his slide show below. We have to provide enough information for our residents to act. It took about 3 different messages before they began to take action. The content of the message also needs to be changed to include detailed information on these points:

Who needs to evacuate

What needs to be done (shelter in place, evacuate, etc)

When does this need to be done by

 Where do I need to go

Why do I need to do this

If you have time, take a look at the slide show, and I would recommend Dr. Meliti as a presenter for any EM related conference. http://www.amemminnesota.org/library/2012-amem-conference-presentations

Rob Dale 

I’d also add Drabek to that list – the 2nd edition of his book is coming out in the spring. Well worth reading the first if you haven’t already… http://www.amazon.com/Human-Side-Disaster-Second-Edition/dp/1466506857

 

Human behaviour and warnings – a new way

Disaster psychologists focus on human response to disasters when creating warning systems, but it’s so far more of an art than a science. Issuing warnings is one thing, but getting useful and timely response from those potentially affected is an altogether more challenging business.

I was fascinated by a new report in Scientific American which got me thinking maybe we have to think differently.

Let’s go back a little: Dr Rob Gordon (rgordon@bigpond.com) from Melbourne has written extensively about the chemical changes in the human brain which determine how people will respond during disasters. It’s more complex than any “fight or flight” mechanism. He describes shock, over-arousal, stress, emotion and anxiety as typical stressors.

Tasmanian researcher Doug Paton adds risk perception; levels of preparedness, financial position; beliefs, language and culture; understanding of the environment; previous experience; and things like having responsibility for pets and children and elderly all add to the noise that prevents people hearing simple messages and taking action. (“Warning systems: issues and considerations for warning the public” School of Psychology, University of Tasmania. Launceston.)

Now this item from Scientific American sheds interesting light on human behaviour during disasters which gives us pause for thought. Maybe in a complex enviroinment we need to think about how we talk to each other, not on just what we say.

“Social connection may be particularly important under stress because stress naturally leads to a sense of vulnerability and loss of control. A study by Benjamin Converse and colleagues at the University of Virginia found that feeling out of control (through a reminder of one’s mortality) leads to greater generosity and helpfulness while research at Stanford University by Aneeta Rattan and Krishna Savani showed that the opposite is true when we are primed with feelings of self-determination and control.”

Perhaps warning systems have to embrace emotional capacity. Perhaps an encouraging helpful and friendly tone has as much role to play as timeliness and accuracy?

I was constantly puzzled when researching my Bushfires book why strong, friendly communities abandoned relationships when confronted by a wall of flame, and concentrated on themselves and their family, and then fled. The Canberra experience was particularly distressing in this regard.

If people are more generous then warnings content like: “help your family and friends and neighbours,” would sit comfortably with people, but also penetrate their natural behaviour emotions. If this was the case then early warnings would have more impact, as people stopped thinking only of their personal need, but started to imagine how they might also assist their community. If this led to earlier response and preparation, it would be a useful outcome.

In any event research like this in Scientific American reminds us that issuing warnings has to go further than “keep it simple.”  Emeritus Professor Dennis Miletti from the University of Colorado, says it’s surprising how much content people confronting a disaster can absorb.

Paton says “a single warning is not sufficient to get people involved and to respond.” (“Promoting Household and Community Preparedness for bush fires.” )

 

The Manton fire

 The bushfire began at Manton at about 1030 on Saturday, August 18, started by lightening.

Manton is in the Sierra Mountains in the north east of the state of California. The principle peak is Mount Larsen, a volcano with four peaks. The country is fenced off into a massive state park, but the towns are mixed farming and residential.

It is breath-takingly beautiful.

Route 44 with Mt Larsen in the far background

Deer are plentiful on the MantonShingletown Road, but it’s unlikely she’s seen an Australian before!

The town of Manton has about 750 residents but only a handful of homes are near the pub and diner at the crossroads which pretty much makes up the town. There’s a power company depot, school, and a tiny post office.

There were some other buildings but a fire raced through the edge of town three years ago and destroyed them. There is still evidence of one fire burned out building on the main road.

The land benefits from the volcanic activity which dominates the areas geology/geography. There are enough rocks to create an industry of collecting and packing them for metropolitan landscapers.

The fire started a few miles west of the town on Ponderosa Way, headed north and then west, when it threatened the much bigger settlements of Shingletown and two dormitory developments – one called Lake Macumber where there are about 200 homes around a river. Each is embedded in the timber. The fire fighters headed the fire away from the vilages and were hoping Highway 44, which is the most prominent roadway in the region, would act as a fire break.

Typical of the homes in the sub divisions

All up 3000 people needed to be evacuated from the area, and the fire raged for ten days. It destroyed 53 residences and 81 outbuildings, injured seven people and razed 27,626 acres (10,700 hectares) . At its height more than 60 fire trucks, supported by airiel tankers and water bombers were called in to head the fire away from the sub divisions.

The trees at rear are 30 metres tall

Regrowth

Manton fire – people and warnings

 I was looking for warnings in Manton and I found a few posted inside the pub: “For a small town this one sure has a lot of arse-holes!” There’s another sticker too: “Warning, inspector buried below.” That’s a pretty universal invitation to stop taking oneself too seriously.

I was in the pub talking about the bushfire. The girls were using the bar to hold dozens of music sheets they were collating and stapling for the school kids who were going to be using them in their music class that afternoon. There are 750 people in the community and only 40 at the school. 25 do music regularly – fiddle, violin, guitar.

It’s a wonderful atmosphere, in a town that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but has a warm sense of community. Everyone knows everyone else.

Manton Corners, centre of the comunity

 

So after the wild fire it was a good place to try to understand the way the community received its warnings. A community like this will do whatever it can to get a warning.  This is different to communities which wait for warnings. Manton didn’t wait. 

The fire was started by a lightening storm.

Tom Carter, a retired power worker, knew from the radio and television weather bulletins that they were ina  dangerous fire season, lightening had been forecast.

When the fire put up smoke mid morning on the Ponderosa Way, about five kilometres out of town,   Tom Carter, might have been among the first to see it, from the ridge he lives on. He saw the smoke and drove to Ponderosa Way immediately! The fire was just getting started at 1030.

Someone alerted California Fire and the local fire trucks raced through town with their sirens on.

“You have to let the community know what’s going on,” said Tom. He hit Face book, loaded pictures, and began chatting. “A picture is worth a thousand words, everyone reposted the pictures. I’ve convinced many people to get on Face book and help each other.”

“Word of mouth is important.”

Christine Case is the post manager. She tucks herself away in a weatherboard building five and half days a week (The post office in the US is open Saturday mornings, and there’s a terrific public battle on between the government, which wants to reduce costs, and the community, which wants Saturday deliveries.)

cloud had got much bigger. I saw the California Forestry fire truck go past, so I knew they’d been alerted. In the next three hours I saw more and more fire trucks.” Christine debated whether to stay in town and help out, or go home, which is an hour drive away.

The local radio station K-shasta they call it, 104.3fm, carried a news item about the fire. Christine heard the report, but doesn’t recall hearing any other radio based warnings. No-one called her with advice or questions. “I didn’t really know exactly where the fire was,” says Christine. “As I left town the California Highway Patrol was closing the roads and I couldn’t get back for three days.

Sharon Borden is a frail elderly woman who lives on Ponderosa Way. Someone called her to tell her about the fire. “Word of mouth gets around quickly” she says. Sharon expects a call in a situation like this, but is a little confused about where it might come from.

Sharon (left) and Nancy in Julia’s Diner

She did the first thing everyone does: looked for more information. She turned on the radio and the local fire radio scanner. The she alerted some friends who lived in a trailer (caravan) in her back yard, who immediately went to look at the fire. They returned shortly after with good news.

“They said they’d seen the fire and it was moving away.” The the wind changed.

“A law enforcement officer pulled up in my driveway, blasted his siren and said: (She apologises for the language) “You might want to get the fuck out of here or you will die, the fire’s less than ten minutes away.”

 “I was going to stay and fight, we have a good defensible space, but he seemed to give me no choice.”

“I have a lot of faith. I am am a member of St Johns Orthodox Church, and my house is heavily blessed. I was told by a monk from the local monastery that my house would always be safe.” 

Sharon relies quite a bit on her friend Nancy Neal, who lives 30 minutes away. 

“I wanted to call Sharon as soon as I knew there was a fire. I called her, the store, the fire station, the diner and I couldn’t get through on any of the phones. I was scared to death.

“It was  very upsetting, so I drove down, but the roads were closed.” 

Sharon’s home paddock was burned; one of her three goats died, 40 chickens perished in their shed, and the corner of her house was damaged, before the fire fighters doused the flames.

The fire occurred on the day of the Manton roast, an annual thanksgiving style event where the whole town comes together – The Manton Roast.

Sue and Gary Young, who owned a fly fishing tourist venture about 10.5 km east of the town, were not at the roast, but a lot of people they would normally expect a mesage from, were. The day was quiet for them.

Sue described her home in the forest quite lovingly: “Our property consisted of dams and trees, firs, oaks, cedars, historic apples and pines.

“These were full grown trees some more than 150 years old. They’d never been in a  fire.” 

They listened to the fire radio scanner and knew there was a fire in the area somewhere. “The scanner doesnt have anything specific about fires or their locations,” says Sue, “we never knew whichw ay the fire was coming from.”

But previous experience and many years living in the area meant that Gary was not overly concerned.

“Normally in these parts,” he says, “if a fire was four miles away we’d have a couple of days to prepare. We’ve had false alarms, and I wasn’t overly concerned. They continued to look for signs of fire, but they didn’t receive any warnings.

But suddenly they saw the flames about a kilometre away, “and we only had 20-30 minutes to prepare and get out.”

The house and ten outbuildings were destroyed. “We built the house in 1981. It was redwood, with a fire retardent asphalt roof, but it didn’t quite work the way it has been planned.

 “It looks like the surface of then moon there now. But the fish are still there.” Gary and Sue are still wondering if they will rebuild.

Gary and Sue Young in Julia’s diner

Fanned by strong winds, the fire raced towards the regional centre, Shingletown, and its outlying development community  of Lake Macumber.

It was moving so quickly that evacuations were ordered that afternoon.

Shingletown farmer Elaine Wusstig lives seven kilometres west of the town, and was never threatened. . “When I saw that big plume of smoke I thought Mt Lassen had blown up,” she recalls. “I would have thought I would get a reverse 911 call or something like that, but we didn’t get any warnings at all.”

Farmer Elaine Wusstig in Shingletown serves Julia Pritchard (who owns the diner at Manton)

Majka Hikel is a real estate agent at Shingletown. She was in her office all day. She lives at the Lake Macumber development, among 200 or so houses each deep in the forested area.

“I closed the office at 4pm, and it was mostly clear blue skies on the way home. But when I got home debris started falling from the sky.

“It was chunks of branches and small embers.”

 They received a 911 call suggesting they consider evacuating, and they began preparing. “It took another couple of hours, and I did it so fast, I left my make-up bag.”

A mandatory evacuation alert was phoned through at 6pm, and they left to go to a friend’s house.

“The fire looked very close, and we were very scared.” They turned the radio on and listened to information throughout the night and the next day.”

56 homes were destroyed between Manton and Shingletown but the big sub-divisions were saved.

“We have an awesome fire fighting service,” says Majka. Her home wasn’t damaged.

 

We understand.

 

 

 

Tsunami warnings in Washington State, USA

“We set off 54 sirens today” said a quietly pleased Robert Purdom from the Washington State Emergency Operations Centre in Camp Murray on the day of the great “Shake out” the bi-annual earthquake drill practiced by millions of Californians for the past few years, and now hundreds of thousands of people from a dozen other US states and even Canada, Italy and New Zealand.

The sirens are one of the principle tools designed to alert the community to a tsunami. And the threat is very real. The western states lie on a variety of fault lines which are quite active. In written history of the North America region there have been numerous very damaging earthquakes and accompanying tsunami. But the alert system now is based on an event which occurred at 9pm, January 26, 1700. There are no written records in the US of this earthquake, but there are in Japan.

“We had a Magnitude 9 rupture of the Cascadia fault line at 9pm on January 26,  1700,” says  John Schelling, the Earthquake/Tsunami/Volcano Program Manager. “We know the exact time and date from historical records in Japan. The tsunami washed up in Japan the next day, without warning and flooded fields and washed away homes. They called it the “Orphan Tsunami” as they knew it wasn’t caused by an earthquake in Japan.

 An earthquake of that magnitude almost certainly will cause a tsunami along the American coast . The records from tree rings show the Orphan tsunami submerged great areas of coast, and stopped the trees growing. Washington State is preparing its warning system for another event, with the belief they need people to respond within 30 minutes or less.

Chris Utzinger points to the earthquake resistant piles the Washington EOC is built on. The building will move as though it was on water.

The warning system is based around getting quality advice about the tsunami, and then using a variety of means to alert residents and emergency agencies. Local familiarisation and training is critical to the success of the system. “We were pleased that we had 700,000 people register to participate in our first Great Earthquake Shake Out” says John. But we hope for many more next year.”

 If an earthquake occurs and generates a tsunami the warning system will be activated.

 The US Pacific or Alaskan Tsunami monitoring centres operated by The National Weather Service,  will generate a report, which is immediately public.

The report will be received at the Washington State Emergency Operations Centre, (EOC) which is responsible for alerting all emergency and response agencies and organisations which are likely to be affected. There is one nuclear power plant in the state.

 

 Simultaneously the EOC will activate the siren system.

“We have about 100 phrases pre-programmed onto a voice chip and  the sirens can be programmed to announce anything that the voice chip has available, but we’ve only ever activated it from the EOC for a tsunami siren test” says Telecommunications Field Engineer Robert Purdom. “Each event consists of voice recording as well as the siren sound. We will generate the alerts  every few minutes for about 40 minutes.

But although the sirens are tested regularly, they are not considered effective without explanation, or context.

“Every time the siren sounds there must be a combination of siren and voice material,” says John Scheling, Earthquake Program Manager (Mitigation and Recovery)
” We know a siren alone wont make people change their behaviour.”

Tsunami warning sign on Santa Monica beach, Cal, USA

  The announcement begins with the heart stopping words: ”This is not a drill.”

AHAB: All Hazards Alert Broadcasting siren, used for tsunami alerts in Washington State, USA

“The sirens are for outdoor use only,” says John Schelling. “They are for people on the beach and in the streets. They won’t be heard indoors, so people have to be aware they might not hear the sirens when a tsunami alert is generated.”

 It’s expected the police will drive through towns and neighbourhoods using loud hailers attached to their vehicles warning people of the tsunami.

 In addition the “Emergency Alert System” will carry the tsunami warnings to emergency broadcasters, including radio, TV, and digital platforms, and US phone carriers will activate their alerts to mobile devices using CMAS – the Commercial Mobile Alert System.

 If the electricity and land lines are damaged by the earthquake, each siren can be activated locally by a county or city emergency agency professional via VHF or UHF radio. 

 But the awareness messages stress that people must not wait for an alert. “The ground shaking, that’s the warning” says John. “Our messages are straightforward and each has a call to action: “If the ground starts shaking, you run. If you see the sea receding, you run.If you hear a siren, you run.”

The population is expected to seek higher ground, with awareness plans in place to try to raise understanding that the public should not  expect to be able to use roads. “An earthquake is likely to damage roads. We expect people will walk or run to higher ground,” says John. The Mayor of Long Beach, which is a marine spit built at water level and with no nearby hills, says “goodness knows which way the warning signs will be pointing after an earthquake.”

Washington State is trying a Japanese idea:  “vertical evacuation.” This can include towers, buildings and berms. Vulnerable communities are encouraged to become involved in considering these developments, drawing up plans and seeking federal funding.

“The community is asked if they would like a “vertical evacuation plan” and where they would like the hill or high ground to be built,” says John. This called “Project Safe Haven” and it is an attempt to get the community thinking what kind of structure might help them survive a tsunami.

 It might be a berm, reinforced dirt structure, a little like a big river levee, that can be built close to population centres. They could be 10 metres high or more, and will cost  $250,000 – to $1 million each.  They are an active feature of Japanese tsunami response.

Engaging the whole community in its design and placement results in widespread understanding of what the berm is for; and solid community buy-in. A berm could wrap around a sporting field and create new and useful lines of visibility or it could create an amphitheatre for public events in a community.

But it’s still just a concept: “No vertical evacuation structures exist yet, so we are hoping to build the first one in the U.S. in coming years. Additionally, funding is not yet available, but we hope to use a combination of federal, state, and local funds to implement the results developed by each community.” It’s ambitious,m but the issue calls for an open mind.

“The siren towers cost about $50,000 each, and the cost is shared between state and local counties.” says John.

 The Federal Emergency Management Agency in the US has tried to evaluate the cost of natural hazards. In addition to the infrastructure costs, it has discovered that each death from natural hazard results in costs of about $ 5 million. A few hundred thousand dollars for some sirens, and a million or so for a berm, pales into insignificance if they save hundreds or thousands of people.

contacts:

john.schelling@mil.wa.gov

chris.utzinger@mil.wa.gov

jerald.compton@mil.wa.gov

 

Bushfire evacuation

 Evacuations from hazardous areas are a standard part of the tool kit of the US emergency manager.The protocols vary from place to place, and they are still ironing out some of the problems in some areas. It doesn’t appear to be a universal or mandatory obligation.

Evacuation route in Washington DC. The public is expected to know when a “snow emergency” is declared, and then not to park on these routes to enable the snow ploughs to operate unimpeded. Cars would be towed away for the ignorant.

 

Tsunami evacuation route sign, waterfront, San Francisco

Uptown Manhattan.

There are many times an evacuation isn’t possible: tornadoes and rapidly moving fires come to mind.  Evacuations are, however, a significant and expected part of the warning system.

Like Australia police have various laws they can use to force people to evacuate, but in reality, they will be very reluctant to physically remove a person from their home if they want to try and defend it. Persuasion is their most effective tool. One Canadian emertency manager said: There are rules that can be put in place to remove children from dangerous places.” That soon convinces parents to follow.

An American emergency agency staff member said the following phrase  is persuasive:  “Before I go I need to know how tall you are so I can bring the right size body bag back.” 

The law is outlined in Community Wildfire Protection Plans, which are implemented in nearly all fire prone regions. This is from Lane County in California:

THE LAW

A county, city or municipal corporation may authorize an agency or official to order mandatory evacuations of residents and other individuals after a declaration of a state of emergency within the jurisdiction is declared. An evacuation under an ordinance or resolution authorized by this section shall be ordered only when necessary for public safety or when necessary for the efficient conduct of activities that minimize or mitigate the effects of the emergency

(ORS 401.309). BE AWARE; after a mandatory evacuation order goes into effect emergency responders will notrisk their lives to save you should you choose to stay at your home after the order

Evacuation procedures need to be planned and trained for. Many roads have warning signs along them which are opened only when an evacuation is in place, restricting travel on the whole road to one direction.

The public needs to know when to evacuate, and where to go. Clearly this is a business that needs good local pre-planning. Doug Gantt, Fire Manager Officer with The US Forest Service says: “You have to front load all this stuff.”

It is the decision of the Incident Controller who will advise the Sheriff that the fire threatens homes or a community, and the evacuation is carried out by law enforcement officers.

During the Pondarosa Fires, Shingletown was issued with a “voluntary evacuation notice,” which was superseded about two hours later by a “mandatory evacuation notice.”

Down at Manton when the fire was out of control and time was much shorter, things worked a little differently. One genteel soul told me (after advising me to cover my ears) “The sheriff’s car drove into my drive, sounded the siren, and he yelled:”You’d better get the fuck outta here.”

This is how the evacuation notices unfolded for the multiple fires in the Wenatchee Fire complex in Washington State from September 11, 2012. The web site contains all the details of the way the evacuations launched, ramped up, and then gradually were downgraded.

This is how the the first warning was posted on Inciweb:

Incident: Wenatchee Complex Wildfire
Released: 9/11/2012

Level 1, 2, and 3 Evacuation Status is akin to a “Ready, Set, Go” level of evacuation notices with Level 1 asking residents to be ready to evacuate if conditions change, Level 2 means residents should be set to go at a moment’s notice, Level 3 means authorities are advising residents to evacuate because their homes are in imminent danger (under Level 3, residents will not be allowed to return to their homes until fire danger decreases).

Evacuations remain in place for the following areas affected by the Byrd Canyon Fire:

· Downey Canyon – Level 1

· State Route 971 Navarre Coulee Road (east side) – Level 2

· State Route 971 Navarre Coulee Road (west side) – Level 3

· State Route 97A Tunnel to Davis Canyon – Level 3

· State Route 97A from Byrd Canyon to State Route 971 – Level 3

 The explanations at the top of the warning were inserted because the fire managers werent confident the community was fully aware of the evacuation procedures. No survey has been done about how many people evacuated, or when, but no-one died or was injured.

Over time the evacuation levels were reduced.