ALASKA – It’s a cold, rainy, and somewhat foggy day in Juneau as a team of USDA Forest Service employees prepare to take a seaplane to Hoonah. They’re off to support Roadless Rulemaking public meetings and subsistence hearings in rural Alaska.
The possibility of canceling the morning flight was real, as several meetings on the three-week November schedule had already been postponed and rescheduled due to weather. Fifteen people from three teams had to conduct business in 18 different locations only reachable by plane or boat, and Mother Nature added thick fog and intense winds to an already formidable challenge.
Thanks to a special team staffing a temporary Command Center in the Alaska Regional Office in downtown Juneau and the Juneau Ranger District; the travel, logistics and communications for all the locations were completed safely and seamlessly.
There were critical reasons that led to the region taking extra steps in safety, logistics and operations for the Roadless Rulemaking meetings.
Most importantly, travel in Alaska, especially in small aircraft, is always a challenge; more so in the fall and winter months. By standing up a command center, the team used best practices to ensure the safety and security of traveling Forest Service employees.
“We really needed to be able to manage the safety aspects and communications to ensure everyone was working on the same page; arriving at the same place,” said Chad VanOrmer, team lead for the regional Roadless group.
True to the Incident Command System, the Center included an Incident Commander, Operations, Logistics, Finance/Administration Sections Chiefs and other key support positions such as a safety officer, public information officer and team supervisors.
Operations and Logistic Section Chief Matt Thompson, who is familiar with ICS for wildfire events, called the effort extremely successful.
“There were a lot of people involved, and it wasn’t just one person carrying the burden. It took a lot of folks to get everybody where they need to go and there were a lot of folks behind the scenes who participated,” said Thompson.
The Command Center is expected to stand down in mid-December when the now extended schedule is completed before the December 17 deadline for written comments about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Proposed Rule.