From: John Benson – Fire Chief – Boulder Mountain Fire Protection District
First off I want to thank the citizens of Boulder Heights who assisted in trying to put out the spot fires along Deer Trail Road on November 12, 2011. I know that the winds did not cooperate by any means, and all of you worked diligently in heavy smoke conditions to prevent another Old Stage and Four Mile Fire. Your efforts did not go unnoticed. ON BEHALF OF BOULDER MOUNTAIN FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT, THANK YOU AGAIN FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE.
I have fielded many phone calls and emails regarding homes within the one mile evacuation radius, not receiving an emergency evacuation notice either by land line, text, email or by cell phone. Please understand this is something that I do not take lightly when a system designed to warn our citizens of a major incident does not work the way it is supposed to. On Monday November 14, 2011 I met with the Night Shift Supervisor from the Boulder County Communications Center and discussed the issues we had. When we pulled the report from EverBridge, the company responsible for capturing the data of land lines, text messages, cell phones and emails, we found a tremendous amount of non-contacts in the report. Both the Night Supervisor and I were astonished by this. We immediately thought that there were problems with the EverBridge system. We printed a report based on the radius around the fire, which included homes in the evacuation zone.
That night an email was also sent to the Communications Director of the incident for further evaluation. After meeting with the Night Supervisor, I went home and started pouring through the report and looking at homes that did not receive an emergency call back, or only received it by other means such as text, cell phone, or email. The last thing I want is for a system to not function correctly. The EverBridge system was not the problem.
On Monday November 21, 2011, while at a Fire Chiefs' Meeting I brought this issue up, so that other Fire Chiefs would be aware of the problem. I was then told by one of the Days Supervisor's, from the Boulder County Communications Center, that the EverBridge system was not the problem, but a problem with one of the dispatchers at the console working that day.
When a request for an emergency evacuation notice needs to be sent out, there is a set of check boxes that must be checked in order for all means of communications to go out within an evacuation zone. All of the boxes were checked except for the land line option, the most crucial piece of the process.
After talking with the Communication Director and the Day Supervisor, I was advised that the dispatcher and the program is being dealt with. I also inquired whether or not we can make the check list automatically check land lines, cell phones, text messages and emails, and any other means of communications, instead of having to manually do it. This is especially crucial when we have multiple events going on at the same time, as we did on November 12th. I will be working with the Boulder County Communication Center, Director and Supervisors to work through this, what I consider a crucial fix to the software program. Time is of utmost importance in any rapidly escalating incident. I will also let the BMFPD Incident Commanders to make sure that when we have to launch an emergency notification that they tell the dispatchers to ensure every means of communications has been checked.
I hope this gives everyone an explanation of what happened that day. Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions regarding this issue. I will stay on top of this issue and will keep all of our district residents updated on what I find out.
Thanks again for the tremendous support for the Boulder Mountain Fire Protection District.