How Gatlinburg attempted to notify its residents to evacuate as the fire burned into the city

This WBIR video explains the various systems for communicating emergency messages, such as evacuations, to the public, and why they did not work very well as the Chimney Tops 2 Fire burned into Gatlinburg, Tennessee last week.

There are multiple emergency alert systems but according to WBIR the one used by the National Weather Service can only push an emergency message to cell phones for one of the following situations: tornado, flash flooding, extreme wind, hurricane, typhoon, dust storm, or tsunami. Wildfire is not on the list, which seems, especially in retrospect after Gatlinburg, to be a serious oversight.

It is a good lesson that could be learned by communities at risk from wildfire and other emergencies.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

2 thoughts on “How Gatlinburg attempted to notify its residents to evacuate as the fire burned into the city”

  1. I think it is waaaaaay outside the mission of the National Weather Service to push notifications about wildfires. Seems that sort of notification is the responsibility of local emergency services. A robust reverse 911 system is an important building block for ANY community. Reverse 911 worked in 2011 in the Bastrop, Texas, wildfire that burned under very similar conditions The quickly activated notification saved hundreds of lives.

  2. Serious oversight in the warning protocol is beyond my comprehension. I watched video on your site and the person filming said we had no warning as he was driving on a road with fire on both sides of the road, unable to see because of all the smoke…. Lesson learned we must properly warn residents of every weather system, including fire.


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