31 October 2006

Shutdown

I was busy all day yesterday reporting on the shutdown of the Nome airport. What continues to surprise, so long after September 11, even after this has been a recognized issue for so long, is the amount of bureaucratic infighting that takes place during "incidents" like these. Here's a partial tale of the tape:

At 8:12am, Nome police were informed of a situation at the airport. By 9:15 I was at the airport. Firemen, State Troopers, and NPD were on scene.

But when I returned to the station and started making calls, no one seemed to know what was going on. By noon, the FBI confirmed there was an investigation ongoing into some threats but wouldn't specify the nature of the threat. The Transportation Security Administration wouldn't say anything.

At this point, the local emergency responders who have been doing the heavy-lifting of manning blockades all day are getting frustrated that they're not getting any outside support.

Around 2:15, when I called State Troopers in Anchorage, they had no knowledge of the incident and said they did not know who the "agency of record was." At 2:20, the state Department of Transportation in Fairbanks said the Troopers were in charge. At 2:30, just for kicks, I called the governor's office. This was the first they had heard of it and they recommended I talk to the DoT. Finally, at 3:30, State Troopers call back to say they've assumed control of the situation and provided a brief update.

That, of course, was 7 hours after the airport had been shutdown (the AP story KTUU and the ADN used incorrectly says the airport was shutdown at 11am) and a bomb-sniffing dog had only just left Anchorage.

Local responders in Nome did an excellent job in this situation but there are many things we can't do for ourselves - like clear an airport of bombs - and need help. But when state and federal agencies hardly know what's going on with our literal lifeline to the outside, it just kind of makes you wonder.

1 comment:

Mark Springer said...

We had a pandemic preparedness exercise here in Bethel on Saturday - mass flu shot clinic - and as part of the exercise the Bethel Emergency Operations Center was activated. Of course the first thing the City of Bethel wanted to do was to notify the State Emergency Operations Center but, wouldn't ya know it, nobody was answering the phones at Ft. Rich. So the Nome situation is not suprising at all.