KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – As a community in the middle of summer festivities awoke to alerts of iodine releases in the air and oil spills in the river, Kingsport law enforcement officials revealed that they extended an invitation to Eastman representatives in their emergency communications hub — but weren’t taken up on the offer.

At 11:02 Friday morning, the City of Kingsport entered high alert after City Manager Chris McCartt activated the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in response to an incident at the Eastman Chemical Company campus.

The center had been used several times in the past and exists to tear down communication barriers between the city’s key emergency agencies. City leaders are called to one location to address the issue of the day and can consist of the City Manager, Public Works Director, Police representatives, Fire representatives, public information officers and emergency management officials among many others.

“It’s critical to have all those people in the same room,” said Kingsport Police Department (KPD) Public Information Officer Tom Patton. “Rather than having to make phone calls and send emails and text messages, we can have everybody in the same room, have open discussions and get that information. We can make decisions much quicker that way.”

Communication doesn’t stop with city officials, either. When the subject of an emergency is complex, Patton said it’s common to bring in other opinions.

“Once the City Manager activates that, then we’re going to bring subject matter experts into that center,” said Patton. “Of course, Eastman is always invited to that center, if it involves them.”

On Friday, July 22, the center was reactivated due to a power outage that prompted Eastman Fire Department officials to request other municipal units to standby in case they needed help.

Patton said it’s standard practice to invite involved companies when an event of this scale occurs, but this time around, no Eastman representatives appeared.

“Eastman stayed on-site,” Patton told News Channel 11. “They were invited, but they did not send a representative to our EOC.”

Much of the information provided to emergency officials was found in three press releases, one of which confirmed a material release an hour after plumes of purple iodine vapor were spotted over Eastman. When Eastman officials announced that the iodine had been released, they stated that the company had no reason to believe that the vapors represented a threat to employees or the community.

“In situations like this, we rely heavily upon Eastman to provide us with that accurate and timely information,” Patton said. “And that’s what they’re telling us at this time, and we have to trust that that’s the situation as it is at this point.”

Despite the disconnect, Patton said he considered the day a success for the city — especially with so many guests in town to enjoy Fun Fest.

“Every situation like this is different,” Patton said. “And every situation is an opportunity to learn how to do better the next time.”