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Fairbanks North Star Borough and National Weather Service release results of emergency preparedness exercise

Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 4:56 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - On November 19th, results were released from a virtual Table Top Exercise (TTX) led by the Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB) and the National Weather Service (NWS) examining emergency preparedness in the borough.

The TTX, held on September 25th, investigated the scenario of a severe winter storm and power outage. It involved the participation of multiple entities in Fairbanks which would need to take action in such an event.

Ed Plumb, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service said the virtual format used in response to the COVID-19 pandemic allowed a larger number of participants than usual. These included Public Works, the Department of Transportation, Fairbanks International Airport, Golden Valley Electric Association and the FNSB School District.

According to Baird Stiefel, Emergency Manager with the borough, “We focused on the lifeline industries, or lifeline sections, that really needed to know about winter storms.”

Plumb explained, “Our goal from the National Weather Service is to protect life and property, having everybody prepared for any sort of high-impact event that may hit the Fairbanks area.”

“The exercise is important, but the more important thing is that we get to interact with our community partners that rely on the weather and are crucial to being able to do emergency operations and make our borough and the cities run,” Stiefel explained.

Some areas of potential improvement were identified, including more participation from internet and telephone service providers.

“One of the things that was brought up is that we didn’t invite communication infrastructure, and often they share the same lines in some cases. They would be just as important to invite next time,’ Stiefel said, adding that especially with the increased need for stable communication, internet and power during the pandemic, “the effects of a power outage now, I think, would reach farther.”

Plumb identified communication as an area that could always use improvement. This includes “Knowing who to notify when we have hazardous weather that may impact the borough, and have contacts at different agencies and organizations so we can get that information out to them with enough lead time, as far out as possible in the future, so they can make preparations -- whether they need to get resources together, [or] have extra staff prepared to work.”

Stiefel said another exercise is being planned for the spring, which would involve a breakup and flooding scenario.

According to Plumb, “It’s good for the public to know that we’re getting together and having these exercises to simulate these big events in order to have things run smoothly when we actually do have one of these big events impact the Fairbanks North Star Borough.”

More information and real-time updates on emergency and weather-related situations in the borough can be found at the borough emergency management webpage, as well as the National Weather Service website.

The NWS-Fairbanks can also be contacted 24/7 at (907) 458-3700.

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