Hundreds of citizens came to the Cheyenne Mountain High School auditorium for the City’s first Wildfire Awareness and Emergency Preparedness Meeting of 2013. The speakers at the meeting included Fire Chief Rich Brown, Deputy Fire Chief Steve Dubay, Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Director Bret Waters, Fire Marshal Brett Lacey, Public Safety Programs Administrator Christina Randall, Colorado Springs Together Director Bob Cutter, and FBI Special Agent Steve Smith.
Fire Chief Brown used his opening remarks to explain the importance of ramping up fire awareness and education this year. One thing he stressed was the Fire Department’s priorities during an emergency. The top priority will always be first and foremost life safety. Secondly, first responders will do everything they can to protect property and structures.
Special Agent Smith, a resident of Peregrine, discussed his evacuation experience during the Waldo Canyon Fire and emphasized the importance of being prepared and having plans in place prior to an emergency. He shared that his family had a plan to meet up at a relative’s house on the east side of town, however they made a mistake in taking multiple cars. When cell coverage went down, he would have preferred to have his family in one car, knowing they were all safe. Taking one car also helps minimize the traffic when so many residents are trying to evacuate at one time.
Next, CSPD Lt. Sean Mandel and OEM Director Bret Waters discussed evacuation planning and preparedness. They stressed the importance of having an established escape route from your neighborhood as well as a back-up plan. ”Because of fire behavior and location, established routes may not be drivable,” they said. Also, have a pre-determined family meeting place, and plan and practice with your family. Create a 72-hour emergency supply kit with food, water, clothing, medications and supplies your family will need to be away from home for a minimum of 3 days. Another important tip is to register your home and cell phones for emergency notification by going to www.elpasoteller911.org. Residents with disabilities can call United Way at 211 to register for evacuation assistance prior to an emergency. For more tips, download the City’s Emergency Preparedness and Safety Guide or view the Evacuation Planning and Preparedness Presentation.
Fire Marshal Lacey and Public Safety Programs Administrator Randall then discussed wildfire mitigation. They shared that the mitigation work you do on your property goes beyond reducing your own risk; it also impacts your neighbors. Mitigation efforts improve fire fighter safety in the event of a wildfire. It does not guarantee the survivability of a structure, however it can significantly reduce wildfire risk. For information about how the Wildfire Mitigation program can assist your neighborhood, visit their web page.
Lastly, Bob Cutter of Colorado Springs Together concluded the meeting by updating everyone on the progress being made in rebuilding Mountain Shadows. Six new homes have been completed and 93 new home permits have been issued. ”Colorado Springs is setting records in terms of disaster recovery,” said Cutter. He shared lessons learned from the Waldo Canyon Fire, including the importance of being educated on all of the details of your homeowner’s insurance plan. He also stressed the importance of doing a home inventory prior to an emergency and shared this web page as a valuable resource.
Thank you to everyone who attended and please visit www.springsgov.com for updates on future wildfire awareness and preparedness meetings.