Communication, social media aid emergency responders
January 20, 2017
Communication and strong relationships between Douglas County emergency services personnel were the keys to managing this month's flooding, according to local officials.
Social media and pre-storm planning also aided in emergency responses, East Fork Fire District Chief Tod Carlini, Deputy Chief Dave Fogerson, County Manager Larry Warner and Sheriff Ron Pierini told the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce during the chamber's first monthly meeting of the year.
Fogerson said the Carson Valley battled more than just a flood — it faced multiple emergencies, some concurrently. An ice storm caused power outages, a flash flood hit the Fish Springs area, a sinkhole on Kingsbury Grade obstructed travel to the Lake Tahoe, mountain passes closed because of snow and mudslides and a structure fire destroyed a Gardnerville home. In addition, the county is in the midst of flu season, he said.
The Carson Valley is subject to, and through the years has experienced, three types of flooding, Carlini said: Alluvial fan flooding, debris-flow type flooding and riverine flooding.
"Recognizing we're going to have floods, we need to have plans," he said.
The recently created flood guide, an extension of the county's emergency operations plan, was critical to helping prepare for the most recent flood, he said.
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"One of the worst things we can have in a situation like this is misinformation," he added.
The use of social media helped officials monitor the situation, said Carlini, a 42-year emergency services veteran.
"I didn't have to leave (the station) to see what was going on," he said.
The ability to monitor situations all over the valley contrasted to the way the flood of 1997 was handled. During that time, while working in a neighboring county, Polaroid cameras were used to capture and share images of the damage, he said. The lack of technology made communication harder.
Pierini said the flood of '97 stands out in his mind as well. He was working the annual New Year's Eve celebration in Stateline when it began raining that year.
"I'll never forget that," he said. "I called it (the Valley) the second Lake Tahoe."
Pierini said that in 1997 there wasn't the organization and cooperation between departments there is today.
"We spend a lot of time doing a lot of things in an event like that (flooding)," he said.
One notable change this year was that instead of waiting for roads to flood, low-lying roads such as Mottsville Lane were closed to traffic ahead of time, he said.
"Roads are unbelievable," he said. "That's one of our biggest problems as law enforcement."
At the end of the meeting Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bill Chernock encouraged people to sign up for reverse 911 on the county's website. Reverse 911 allows authorities to notify people in the event of an emergency.
To register, visit douglascountynv.gov and click on "Reverse 911 Self Registration Portal."