Pocatello emergency response prepares for eclipse

part of regional management team

Pocatello joins regional management...

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK - The eclipse on Aug. 21 is a continuing topic of discussion in Idaho, as the Gem State is considered the second best viewing place for it.

The discussion on the eclipse is especially important among local emergency responders, who are preparing to handle such an influx in the communities.

Thursday night, the Pocatello city council approved a cooperation agreement between Pocatello and other jurisdictions. That approves the whole plan, which includes the potential use of Pocatello's resources to aid nearby cities who might need it. By Pocatello giving help, it also means Pocatello could receive help, should it be necessary.

Pocatello fire chief David Gates said he's heard number estimates anywhere from 100,000 to 3 million of how many people could come in, or pass through, Bannock County during the eclipse.

"None of us are staffed for that population," Gates said. "We staff for the population we have."

For Pocatello, that's about 55,000 and so more resources could easily be needed with such a large population influx. That's why Gates said cooperation with surrounding counties will be beneficial for everyone.

"We're just trying to create a system whereby we are coordinating our information, coordinating our response and make it available so that we can help each other," Gates said.

He said emergency responders have a lot of things to keep in mind with large events like the eclipse. There could be a lot of possibilities for disaster.

"We're going to have a lot of people going into fields and areas to view this," Gates said. "They might be driving into grassy areas. A hot August day wtih a lot of cars and a lot of catalytic converters, we have the potential for a fast-moving wildland fire that could impact a whole lot of people. Socially, there are things like, when you have that many people you have the potential for riots."

"I think probably the biggest challenge we're going to face is once we get people here, how to get them out safely and in a timely manner," Gates added. "That's going to be a lot of traffic on the interstate and other roads to consider."

The Pocatello Fire Department is working to put together a detailed response plan for fire and EMS, which Gates hopes will have a complete draft by mid-June. 

"We have a lot of work to do," Gates said. "We need to reach out to each community agency. Find out their staffing for that period of time, we need to find certain key events. For example, Sandy Downs is having an eclipse concert so we want to make sure we are aware of those types of events and taking proper steps to be ready for everything."

To learn more about the eclipse, visit www.eieclipse.com or the eclipse Facebook page.



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