The Call - Winter 2016 - 10

F E AT U R E

FAILING TO PLAN IS
PLANNING TO FAIL:

THE GATLINBURG FIRES
Jennifer Estes, ENP, RPL, EMT‑P, MBA
Loudon County (TN) E‑911
Beginning with the week of November 23,
2017, East Tennessee communities were
battling multiple brush fires in the Great
Smoky Mountains National Park. Severe
drought conditions had been plaguing
the area resulting in a statewide burn ban.
Crews battled to contain one particular
fire on an area called the Chimney Tops.
According to the National Park Service,
the Chimney Tops is a trail that climbs
a steep 1,400 feet in just 2 miles. The
area is approximately 5.5 miles from the
popular tourist town of Gatlinburg. The
fire was approximately 1.5 acres in size,
and the terrain and thick vegetation made
it very difficult to contain and extinguish
the fire.
By November 28, the fires had spread.
The National Weather Service issued
high wind advisories for the area with
winds expected to reach up to 40 mph.
This prompted fire officials to react with
additional mutual aid to control the
fires. While the additional manpower

10

| T H E C A L L | W I N T E R 2 017

was helpful, no one could have been
prepared for what eventually occurred.
The winds reached speeds of 87 mph
in some of the mountain areas. The
fires began rapidly traveling down the
mountain to the nearby Gatlinburg
community. While firefighters were
doing all they could to contain the
spread, Mother Nature was fighting
against them.
The hurricane‑like winds turned the
fires into an actual firestorm. Mandatory
evacuations affected approximately
16,000 people. Roads were closed and
blocked by fire, resulting in the need for
multiple rescues. In the end, over 2,400
structures were damaged or destroyed,
and 17,000 acres of land was burned. It
is estimated that the fires caused more
than $500 million in damage. Fourteen
people lost their lives.
While there will be months and years
of recovery, it is the responsibility of

emergency service professionals to glean
any information from this devastation
that can help us serve our communities
better in the future. Here are some initial
lessons everyone can benefit from.

"Failing to Plan is Planning
to Fail" - Allen Lakien
Our profession is inundated with
plans, drills, and exercises. Most of the
time these seem mundane and are
often perceived as something that will
"never happen". The number of wildfires
coupled with the drought conditions and
near hurricane winds in East Tennessee
is something that was considered a low
probability. However, because of the due
diligence of our brothers and sisters in
that community, they had planned for
and run exercises on wildfires in the past.
In a press conference during the event,
a fire official referenced the fact that the
emergency service workers were relying
on nothing but training at that point.
This statement made me think: "What



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Call - Winter 2016

President’s Message
From the CEO
Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail: The Gatlinburg Fires
Government Affairs
10 Best Practices to Improve Your 9-1-1 Quality Assurance Program
Tech Trends
NENA Helps Bring Disability Awareness Training to the Forefront
Operations
Educational and Operational Issues
Public Safety Product and Service Buyer’s Guide
Index to Advertisers/Advertisers.com
The Call - Winter 2016 - cover1
The Call - Winter 2016 - cover2
The Call - Winter 2016 - 3
The Call - Winter 2016 - 4
The Call - Winter 2016 - 5
The Call - Winter 2016 - 6
The Call - Winter 2016 - 7
The Call - Winter 2016 - President’s Message
The Call - Winter 2016 - From the CEO
The Call - Winter 2016 - Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail: The Gatlinburg Fires
The Call - Winter 2016 - 11
The Call - Winter 2016 - 12
The Call - Winter 2016 - Government Affairs
The Call - Winter 2016 - 10 Best Practices to Improve Your 9-1-1 Quality Assurance Program
The Call - Winter 2016 - 15
The Call - Winter 2016 - 16
The Call - Winter 2016 - 17
The Call - Winter 2016 - 18
The Call - Winter 2016 - Tech Trends
The Call - Winter 2016 - NENA Helps Bring Disability Awareness Training to the Forefront
The Call - Winter 2016 - 21
The Call - Winter 2016 - 22
The Call - Winter 2016 - Operations
The Call - Winter 2016 - Educational and Operational Issues
The Call - Winter 2016 - 25
The Call - Winter 2016 - Public Safety Product and Service Buyer’s Guide
The Call - Winter 2016 - 27
The Call - Winter 2016 - 28
The Call - Winter 2016 - 29
The Call - Winter 2016 - 30
The Call - Winter 2016 - 31
The Call - Winter 2016 - 32
The Call - Winter 2016 - 33
The Call - Winter 2016 - Index to Advertisers/Advertisers.com
The Call - Winter 2016 - cover3
The Call - Winter 2016 - cover4
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