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Report lays out communication issues during response to Husky Refinery fire

Douglas County Emergency Management and the University of Wisconsin-Extension have released an 18-page report, detailing both the good and the bad of the response to the Husky Refinery fire and explosion back in April.

In the report, it says the evacuation zone was confusing, causing some people to follow the wrong directions.

“The official evacuation zone was an area 10 miles south the refinery and three miles each side of that line, and a one mile radius around the north east and west side of the refinery,” Emergency Management Director Keith Kesler said. “Because there wasn’t a clear understanding of that, some people interpreted other ways. They interpreted that it should be a three mile radius around the refinery.”

According to the report, social media was a factor. It says some agencies and government officials misinterpreted the evacuation zone and posted incorrect information about it on social media.

“Once that information got out and we realized it was out, there was a brief conversation about do we try to pull that back in, and the decision was no, let’s let it stand,” Kesler said. “We were concerned that if we tried to change it, that, at that point, that we would have people coming back into the area that we really did not want people in.”

Something that city of Superior Mayor Jim Payne says can be fixed.

“We need to designate one public information officer immediately at the beginning of an emergency that can collect information and make sure that people reporting it have that information as accurate as possible,” Payne said.

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Gamiel Hall

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