News from Patrick Flynn

Getting it right

As I wrote back in January, one of the good aspects about things going wrong is the opportunity to improve upon mistakes.  Last night’s Government Hill community council meeting was an excellent example.

You may recall the closure of the A/C couplet, caused by traffic accidents during extreme ice conditions, resulted in confusion as to whether emergency access via Bluff Road should have occurred.  A review by the Office of Emergency Management determined that circumstances did not rise to the level that necessitated unlocking the gate that restricts access, but did note that:

Little documentation exists that clearly describes the procedures and protocols for accessing the Bluff Road Gate during an emergency. In some cases there was only anecdotal information regarding who was vested with the authority to access the Bluff Road gate.

Based on that finding, OEM coordinated with the Port of Anchorage and emergency response agencies to develop a draft “concept of operations” (pasted below) that explicitly defines when the gate would be opened and who would do so.  The new OEM Director, Kevin Spillers, presented both the findings and the draft to the community council on March 19.  Firefighters from Station 1, which serves Government Hill, were also on hand to participate in the conversation and a representative from the Flint Hills terminal, which operates many of the tanks below the bluff, offered to include gate access in Flint Hills’ next emergency response drill involving AFD.


While I wouldn’t characterize Government Hill residents as 100% satisfied with the concept of operations, I think the discussion went a long way toward clarifying how future incidents would be addressed.  To me, that is one of the most valuable functions of community councils – identify neighborhood concerns, involve the relevant entities and provide needed information.  In that respect I would commend the council, OEM, the Port of Anchorage and local emergency response agencies on a job well done.





The Municipality of Anchorage recognizes the unique circumstances of living or working in the neighborhood of Government Hill.  To mitigate the effects of an emergency that disrupts routine access to the neighborhood, the Municipality has developed the contingencies outlined in this document.

I.        In emergency circumstances and upon direction from an approved authority the Port of Anchorage will open Bluff Road to allow ingress or egress to the neighborhood of Government Hill.

  1. The following persons are authorized to direct the temporary opening of Bluff Road:

§         Public safety dispatch or officer on scene

§         Police Chief or deputy

§         Fire Chief or deputy

§         Municipal Manager or deputy

§         Mayor

§         Office of Emergency Management Director

  1. During regular business hours, requests for access should be made to the Port of Anchorage Director of Operations or Deputy Director. Contact should be made through Port Security if the aforementioned individuals are unavailable and for all after hours requests.
  2. Upon receiving a request for access, Port maintenance and security personnel will assess safety and security concerns to determine whether the opening of Bluff Road is feasible under the occurring road and security conditions.
  3. Persons granted limited Port access under emergency conditions are expected to comply with all security measures established by the Port.

II.      The Anchorage Fire Department may use Bluff Road for emergency vehicle ingress/egress.

  1. Anchorage Fire Department (AFD) personnel have key access to the Bluff Road gate and are trained on procedures for using the road for emergency vehicle access. 
  2. AFD personnel are not authorized to grant public access without following the access procedures outlined in the previous section unless circumstances present an extraordinary threat to public safety and immediate evacuation is necessary.

III.    Emergency access through Elmendorf Air Force Base is outlined in a separate plan.

This contribution was made on Friday, 20. March 2009 at 17:05 and was published under the category Neighborhoods. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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