The Great Smoky Mountain Journal

Staff Reports

Posted: Monday, January 01, 2018 12:43 PM

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Gatlinburg Wildfire Survivor Group Calls For TEMA Director To Resign During Friday Press Conference

The group called Gatlinburg Wildfire Survivors held a press conference Friday afternoon and called for the TEMA director's resignation after all calls made to and from the State of Tennessee during November wildfires on November 28 were lost.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesperson, who said on December 8, 2016, during a manual back up of the recording system, TEMA telecommunications staff noticed there were no recorded phone calls in the telephone recording system archive prior to November 29, 2016.

TEMA staff investigated the issue multiple times, and no one could determine whether the missing calls were actually somewhere else in the system, or if they were simply not recorded.

A third-party forensics firm, DSicovery, Inc., conducted an analysis of the recording system. DSi concluded the recording system overloaded as a result of the volume of calls into the system during the wildfires on November 28. Because of the overload, there was reportedly no room in the recording system to preserve calls before November 29.

DSi found that there was no intentional or malicious deletions of the call recordings from November 28.

At the Gatlinburg Wildfire Survivors press conference at the Marriott Hotel in Gatlinburg, members of the group demanded the director of TEMA resign after the call recordings were lost.

The group demanded answers from several named officials, not only with state offices, but also with local city and county governments.

TEMA said they are currently evaluating remedies going forward to address the recording system issue.

According to our crew at the scene, members of the group were threatened with being arrested by local law enforcement. The group then moved the conference to Mynatt Park.

A representative with the City of Gatlinburg and Sevier County said the recordings had nothing to do with the city or county, but instead only dealt with TEMA offices, and so no one would be making any further statements or releases on the subject as of Friday.