Grand County Emergency Management Services is moving into the tech age with a new online program that allows for real-time information about available emergency resources.
When the floods ravaged the Front Range in 2013, emergency response personnel decided there was a pending need to collaborate by listing resources available to both local emergency responders as well as responders dealing with larger situations across the state. The resources include everything from fire engines to emergency shelters.
The new online program, called Web Emergency Operations Center, is a streaming database of information concerning emergency events happening across the state, and the available resources to emergency responders for those events.
“Web EOC not only gives you a situation report of what’s going on on the ground, but it’s where we are all going for that resource report,” said Nowell Curran, deputy chief for Grand County EMS and an emergency manager for Grand County Emergency Management.
Before the online system was implemented, emergency managers had to coordinate additional resources by physically contacting different agencies individually to check to see what resources they had and if those resources could be available to them. Calling numerous agencies to check what resources could be spared has been a time-consuming practice when emergency strikes.
When last year’s floods ravaged the Front Range, at a level emergency responders had never dealt with before, and agencies from all over the state needed to become involved, the need to streamline that process became acutely apparent.
Now they only have to log onto the website to see a live update of the available resources from surrounding communities.
“It was a huge lesson learned for the state and all of the responders,” Curran said. “Since then everyone has been building up that system, and so have we. That is currently one of the biggest projects we are working on.”
The collaboration between agencies allows for a quicker response, up-to-date information about emergencies in the state, and a streamlined collaboration of available resources.
“That’s what we try to work towards: how we can work as one big team instead of a bunch of little teams,” said Grand County EMS Chief and Director of Grand County Emergency Management Ray Jennings.
“You’re not at the last minute trying to John Wayne this, that’s not what we are about,” Jennings said. “We want people to feel secure and we want people to feel safe, and if there is an emergency, we don’t want people to become panicked and afraid and scared. We want them to know we are thinking about things and we are working with things.”
We’re not alone
Collaboration between emergency responders goes much further than just a new website. Local emergency responders train constantly to be able to easily transition from responding to local emergencies to helping other agencies across the state. A statewide credentials system has been established so out-of-town responders can quickly begin to get their hands dirty when they go to help out other agencies.
Communication is a very important piece of the preparation puzzle, according to Curran, who helped other agencies during wildfires as well as the Front Range floods Her communication training allowed her to jump right into the mix, she said.
“When everyone is speaking a common language, it saves a lot of time,” she said.
The combination of the new technology and continued training allows for a “seamless response,” Jennings said. “Everybody is talking the same language and everyone is being kept in the loop.”
Grand County may have a small population compared to some of its neighboring counties, though they are a part of the bigger picture of emergency management in Colorado and in the U.S.
“We are just this nice little quiet, living, breathing department that works basically in the background,” Jennings said. “But we are always on, and we are always functioning, and we are always working... The idea that you’re isolated anymore or you’re just yourself, I don’t think that’s really true in the United States,” Jennings said.
Citizens can visit readycolorado.com to see how they can prepare for emergencies including floods and wildfires, and visit gcemergency.com for local emergency information and to register for the Code Red system that sends a notification to your cell phone when an emergency is taking place in Grand County. Curran mentioned they would be testing the Code Red system sometime in April, though have not solidified a date for the test yet.
Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334
“We want people to feel secure and we want people to feel safe, and if there is an emergency, we don’t want people to become panicked and afraid and scared. We want them to know we are thinking about things and we are working with things.”
Grand County EMS Chief