2016 Gatlinburg wildfire communications article

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CFD288

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This article appeared in the Knoxville News Sentinel August 10. Its a long read but has much info on the multiple communications failures during the wildfire last fall. The comment about the "120 million dollar THP radio system" not operating well was interesting...reporter did not elaborate on what was not working. I live in Cleveland and was able to monitor our local fire units operating up there on the TACN fire mutual aid channels with no problem.


Gatlinburg wildfire records tell story of chaos, confusion
 

n4yek

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....The comment about the "120 million dollar THP radio system" not operating well was interesting...reporter did not elaborate on what was not working.
TACN does not cover Gatlinburg, never has. Sevier County, with the exception of Pigeon Forge Police, use an NXDN system. In order for TACN to cover Gatlinburg, another tower would needed to been built. Sevier County chose to go with Land Air Communications NXDN system for public service needs which is not compatible with the P25 TACN system. When it came to the wildfires, all outside fire departments had no access to Gatlinburg or the NXDN system. They all used a VTAC frequency to communicate with each other.
The lack of compatibility between systems bit Sevier County in the A$$ when it came to the wildfire outbreak.
 

xlr8

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I also heard that from one of the State radio techs that the TACN coverage was pretty well non-existent as you travel away from I-40 in Sevier County. I suppose the State needs to invest in some additional TACN P25 infrastructure in areas that have poor coverage. It must be frustrating for local public safety agencies on deciding where to spend their already tight communications funding (NDXN vs. P25, etc.).
 

rkm1215

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Sevier County chose not to embrace TACN and instead chose to be on an island with their NXDN system. The bigger problem occurred by not having interoperability and multiple fall back failsafes. Big learning experience for the state, east TN, Feds, and of course Sevier County.
 

wxwarn285

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I did listen to the communications on TACN a lot during the disaster and the TEMA field officers had a lot of trouble communicating back to the state EOC. Was listening off of the TN tower. In my opinion listening to them, it was a big communications cluster ...., also I believe I remember hearing that they were having trouble with getting satellite phones.

Hopefully they learned a lot from this.
 
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