Ketchikan’s emergency manager, Abner Hoage, third from right, speaks during a COVID-19 roundtable discussion in Ketchikan on March 10, 2020. (Maria Dudzak/KRBD)

It’s been more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic upended life all over the world. A year ago this week, calls and texts went out to Ketchikan residents, urging them to “hunker down” to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Earlier in 2020, as local authorities prepared for the pandemic to arrive in Ketchikan, they spun up an organization that’s become all too familiar: the Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center, or EOC. Over the past year, it has tracked case counts, stockpiled protective gear and overseen tens of thousands of coronavirus tests — and more recently, vaccinations.

At the head of the EOC is Abner Hoage. He’s the chief of the Ketchikan Fire Department and the community’s emergency manager.

I sat down with Hoage earlier this month to reflect on the past year. I started by asking what it was like for him, a fire chief, to suddenly be tasked with managing the community’s response to a new, relatively unknown disease.


Local authorities are holding a free COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic on Saturday, March 27 at the Saxman Community Center. Anyone 18 and older living or working in Alaska is eligible. To sign up, go to,, or call 646-3322.