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Gatlinburg reveals list of 30 changes made since 2016 Wildfires

The changes came at the recommendations of the ABS Group After Action Review

Three years after the Gatlinburg Wildfire, the community is recovering in a big way. 

There were 1,032 structures destroyed or substantially damaged in that fire. Now, hundreds have been rebuilt, and the City of Gatlinburg recently released 30 different things it's doing to protect the community if disaster ever strikes again. 

The ABS Group that reviewed the response to the 2016 wildfires compiled a list of recommendations for government agencies. Recently, the city released a list of the 30 recommendations it's completed as of Nov. 21. 

Completed Recommendations:

  1. City EOC has acquired radios, computers, and satellite telephones to support a major emergency incident. 
  2. County-wide EOC has been upgraded.           
  3. National Weather Service has granted the Gatlinburg Fire Department request to reduce the threshold for red flag fire warning.
  4. Changed policy and procedure to include assignment of security officer to EOC. 
  5. Sevier County 911 backup center is now available for use by any dispatch center within the County.
  6. A new policy within the Gatlinburg Police Department will designate communications personnel to report to the EOC during an emergency to support radio and telecommunications functions.
  7. The City of Gatlinburg obtained Satellite Cell Phones for Key Emergency Personnel.
  8. The city-wide emergency evacuation plan has been revised and put into place.
  9. The City and County completed a Continuity of Government plan that provides resources needed for technology infrastructure and a continuation of operations for City and County departments.
  10. The Gatlinburg Utility Department has identified locations for immediate use of emergency generators in an emergency situation.  The procedures to acquire these generators are in the Gatlinburg Utility Department Emergency Management Plan.
  11. Established pre-designated wildland fire “safe zones” for responder safety in all jurisdictional geographic areas.  This was established through the Firewise regulations.
  12. Wildland firefighting equipment has been acquired through regular budgeting and a Tennessee Department of Agriculture Hazard Mitigation Program grant.
  13. The City Evacuation Plan has been updated to provide notification for routes of travel, drop off points for evacuees, and notification of other County agencies.
  14. Navigation signs have been installed to clarify travel routes.
  15. Standard verbiage has been identified and has been included in the City of Gatlinburg Evacuation Plan.
  16. All Police Officers have been issued a take-home vehicle. 
  17. Evacuation Plan requires contact made with Street Departments from City and County and also TDOT who would assist in providing message boards and additional signage.
  18. Officers have been issued fire retardant clothing for personal protection.
  19. The new Evacuation Plan includes procedures to document and log addresses of any person refusing to leave during an evacuation. Note: A person who refuses to evacuate is in Violation of State Law TCA- 58-8-104 and notice will be given verbally and by written communication.
  20. The new department Evacuation Plan requires notification to adjoining Agencies, Sevier County and National Park Service and other Law Enforcement Agencies. During this notification, a request will be made for traffic assistance as needed.
  21. All City owned radio and cell phone towers have been inspected and meet Firewise regulations to be clear of debris and flammable materials.
  22. Regular interactions with civic commissions and professionals are accomplished by the Sevier County Emergency Management Team.  This is an ongoing and continuous process.
  23. As part of the City of Gatlinburg Evacuation Plan, once a shelter has been established for evacuees; Police Officers will be assigned for security until the shelter closes.
  24. Emergency Alert System, A.M. Radio Station 1680, IPAWS, and CodeRed can be communicated locally to eliminate any system failure for the transmission of emergency messages.
  25. The Continuity of Government Plan was completed by the City of Gatlinburg and Sevier County.  These plans provide functionality of Government if buildings were unsafe of destroyed during a disastrous event.
  26. Gatlinburg Police and Fire Departments have updated radio communications capabilities with the National Park Service which will be utilized during emergencies.
  27. A new radio frequency for law enforcement has been installed and available for use by Fire or Police.
  28. New Portable Radios are available for the Police and Fire Departments for deployment during emergencies.
  29. A new emergency notifications system has been installed and is operating with an AM radio station.
  30. The City of Gatlinburg Police Department and Sevier County Sheriff’s Office have been designated as the responsible agencies to inform and notify the public of possible scams, fraudulent practices or illegal activities following a disaster or emergency event.