Officials on Wednesday began preparing for the “Great American Eclipse” — an event anticipated to bring an overwhelming influx of visitors to the greater Idaho Falls region.
Nearly 50 representatives from cities and counties stretching from Swan Valley to Blackfoot met in the Idaho Falls Council Chambers to discuss planning for the Aug. 21 event, expected to draw perhaps hundreds of thousands of tourists locally.
It is the first total solar eclipse visible from the mainland U.S. in nearly four decades and will cover a path from Shelley to Ashton on its way across the country.
City of Idaho Falls spokeswoman Kerry Hammon said part of the meeting was meant to educate officials who may not have previously realized the magnitude of anticipated visitors. Attendance estimates have ranged from 50,000 to 500,000.
Another portion was dedicated to discussion about activating the region’s “type 3” incident management team. The team is an interagency cooperation meant to oversee major emergencies — or simply big public events such as the eclipse that would overwhelm normal police, fire and public health resources. It’s designed to ensure everything from traffic control, to emergency services and public information flows smoothly in the days surrounding the eclipse, Hammon said.
It will be the first time the region’s full type 3 team has ever been utilized.
Incident commanders on the approximately 25-member team include Idaho Falls Fire Chief Dave Hanneman and Pocatello Fire Chief David Gates. The group has undergone special training with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and conducts regular training drills, Hammon said.
Several municipalities including Idaho Falls, Rexburg and Blackfoot agreed Wednesday to activate the team.
City and county representatives said they will confer with their elected officials in the coming months and return with a level of financing and police and fire staffing they are able to contribute to the overall eclipse management effort, Hammon said.
Over the next three months, the type 3 team will begin gathering information and developing incident action plans for the eclipse, she said.
The eclipse isn’t the only big 2017 tourist event Idaho Falls officials are starting to think about. There is the anticipated spring open house of the Idaho Falls Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then in July the Fourth of July celebration and the Idaho Falls Air Show.
“2017 is going to be an extremely busy year,” Hammon said.
Luke Ramseth can be reached at 542-6763. Twitter: @lramseth