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SOURCE - Winter 2016

Be Flexible and Come Equipped AS THE EMERGENCY PLANNING AND SECURITY DIRECTOR for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission ( SF-PUC) for the last five years and for the City and County of San Francisco for over a decade, I have responded to many types of incidents, including residential fires, oil spills, communicable disease outbreaks, water pipeline failures, wildland fires and even several World Series Championship celebrations. However, I had never deployed to provide mutual assistance outside the county where I work. I found out what this is like when I was deployed to Lake County, 120 miles northeast of San Francisco, to support water system assessment, restoration, and recovery efforts. 32 SOURCE winter 2016 FIRE RESPONSE By Mary Ellen Carroll News of the Valley Fire began reaching us in San Francisco through the State Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) and our own employees, many of whom have ties to Lake County. Within days of the fire’s start, the state’s mutual aid response system was activated and two state-wide mutual aid organizations, Cali-fornia Utilities Emergency Association (CUEA, a 501(c)4 corporation chartered in 1952 as part of the State’s Civil Defense Plan), and California Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (CalWARN) began gearing up resources in an-ticipation of requests for assistance. I was deployed through CUEA and CalOES and arrived at the Lake County Emergency Op-eration Center (EOC) the morning of Sunday, September 20, 2015, eight days after the fire started. The EOC was located in the Konocti Vista Casino and Resort Lakeport, more than 10 miles away from the burn area. The EOC rooms were adjacent to the casino floor, which made for a difficult juxtaposition of activities within a small area. I checked in with the Logistics Section where my CalOES paperwork was reviewed and I was registered as “officially” present. I was assigned to the Operations Section, and met with my Wa-ter Sector Liaison colleague from East Bay Mu-nicipal Utilities District (EBMUD). Our initial objective was to develop a situational aware-ness of the fire and determine what assessments had already been completed and consolidate information about damage assessments that had begun the previous day. We were also co-ordinating with EBMUD water and wastewater engineers in the field who were assigned to con-duct damage assessments and determine where immediate assistance was needed. Within a day, the Butte Fire in Calaveras County was burning inside the EBMUD watershed, and crews had to re-focus their attention and resources. I took over as primary Water Liaison and SFPUC sent additional field teams to support the damage as-sessment work. Our working environment was challenging: the internet connection was unreliable, cell phones worked best outside, and at times the room was so loud that it was difficult to field calls. To work around the intermittent internet connection, we used our phone cameras to take photos of documents, which we then texted or emailed. There were no printers, so we used pa-per and pencil and shared information face to face. Because there wasn’t a printer, I couldn’t get a copy of the Incident Action Plan. To solve this, I walked over to the Planning Section and asked the Deputy Chief to walk me through the general plan and situation status, including where the fire was burning and how the re-pop-ulation plan was being handled. This gave me a better overall picture of the current incident status and what areas would need priority for water and other utilities. I was new to both the incident and the local area, and I initially found myself asking ques-tions that had already been answered, which caused some irritation and took extra time, but ultimately helped create a clearer picture of what was going on. It also provided an opportunity to get to know the people I was working with. Constant changes in responding staff caused


SOURCE - Winter 2016
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