Disaster Training: Part II, Evacuation of Grizzly Peak Subdivision

Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter
Article Image Alt Text

Courtesy photo- When short of manpower, signs can help redirect people in a disaster and save lives.

Tom Kohley, Carbon County Disaster and Emergency Services (DES) Director discussed the preparedness of Carbon County Responders to disasters large and small. Kohley is confident our “firefighter, EMS, with training hours and response training, are keeping sharp. It’s department policy.” 

On May 12, the first responders will have an “Evacuation Field Exercise” said Kohley. It will include all emergency responders in the county and outside responders have also been invited.

It will take place in Grizzly Peak Subdivision. It will cover “Evacuation Survival Process, Home Structure Triage and Preparation.” This would ideally fit a forest fire scenario but could include other mass disasters. 

Kohley said, “This exercise would need to evacuate the whole subdivision.” First, they would survey the number of people there. Since evacuation is not mandatory, they would ask who intends to leave. They would record the number in each household or if they refuse to evacuate make a note of that. They would tag each home with an “evacuation marker” when/if they evacuate and any special notes. “This way law enforcement can do a drive by and tell immediately how many are present.” 

The survey would list special needs. Lastly, they would note where livestock and pets need assistance.

The challenge “is to get the information back to the Incident Command Post,” said Kohley. They are working to develop an “in house rapid survey tool” by adapting a survey app. Instead of writing down house inventory responses by hand and then entering it all in to a computer later, a surveyor would enter data directly at each house by computer. 

In this way all data could be sent to the Incident Commander or IC in “real time” possibly saving lives.  Knowing the immediate needs, he said, “We could launch the appropriate medical responses.” In a disaster, Kohley said, “It’s all about efficiency.”

Command Posts vary depending upon the commander and the location. Fire Chief Tom Kuntz would be IC for the May evacuation. But, Kohley said, “He might share it with Josh (Carbon County Sheriff Josh McQuillan) because an evacuation may require a unified command.” 

Kohley stressed, “You can’t force people. Some may want to stay and defend their properties. This is very big exercise. It will take months to plan.” It is a functional exercise vs. a “table top” exercise, which involves only discussion. 

This exercise he said, “works out nicely with the fire season. I like doing trainings in the spring, before the season.”  This training will involve large groups of 20-30 firefighters, search and rescue (including doing the surveys) and law enforcement-each playing a significant role. “I think we do have a good process,” he concluded.

For the future he said, “We ID a need and schedule it for training.” 

Kohley said there are always ongoing first responder trainings with people attending over the course of 2017-18. He’s already taken courses including the Exxon Mobile Pipeline training and even a “Shakeout” or earthquake drill. 

Also available for future preparation are federal grants. Rural areas are always short on manpower. As one responder explained, an urban disaster can bring 200 emergency responders; a rural area is lucky to get ten. 

One grant available deals with Chemical Hazards weaknesses. Kohley says, “We look at the ability to quarantine all roads. There are not enough blockades or people to blockade.”

He explained, “One of our grant applications will be this year to develop an incident traffic control trailer that could be rapidly deployed to any incident to help establish scene control.” 


This mobile unit will contain everything needed to set up a blockade-a digital message machine (programmable and up to $12,000 each), cones, jackets, signs, warning tapes. “If you’re short on manpower,” said Kohley, “it meets elementary needs for a law enforcement officer to be there” for on scene security and rapid deployment with a total cost of $45,000.

Kohley summed up. “We’re exceptional in high frequency events such as wildland fires and auto accidents, things we train on often. What’s difficult are the low frequency, high impact events-earthquakes, haz mat spills… It’s always a balance of how much time to put in training for high frequency events, things you see every week,” vs. major disasters.

“There is a process we follow. We ID weaknesses; we get better at them.”

See: https://www.dhs.gov/how-do-i/prepare-my-family-disaster for a home disaster kit.

The Carbon County News

Street Address:

11 N. Broadway, Red Lodge, MT 59068

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 970, Red Lodge, MT 59068

Phone: 406-446-2222

Fax: 406-446-2225

Toll-Free: 800-735-8843

Open: Monday-Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.