Several public security agencies conduct forest fire drill for the Northwest Passage of the Tri-Lakes | The gallery

MONUMENT • Prior to meeting for a fire drill this month, some members of the El Paso County public safety agencies had never met in person.

First responders from law enforcement, fire protection and other emergency support services have been coordinated for a forest fire evacuation drill for the Northwest Passage of the Tri-Lakes on October 2 at Palmer Lake and Monument. The exercise culminated in an information event and a debriefing of the agencies involved, held at Lewis-Palmer High School.

Residents of the neighborhoods of Palmer Lake, Lake of the Rockies, Red Rocks Ranch and Colorado Estates were invited to participate in the exercise scenario involving a rapid forest fire threatening these areas. Thirty-one owners participated in the exercise.

Participating agencies included the Town of Monument and Town of Palmer Lake Police Department, the Palmer Lake Fire Department, the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District, the County Sheriff’s Office El Paso and the Pikes Peak Regional Emergency Management Office, as well as other fire protection districts in the county.

El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Commander Ray Bernier reviews strengths and areas for improvement during a debriefing with first responders from several El County public safety agencies Paso on October 2 at Lewis-Palmer High School in Monument. The debriefing took place after a forest fire drill for the Northwest Passage of the Tri-Lakes.

The exercise provided an opportunity for first responders to train in door-to-door evacuation procedures and educate residents on developing evacuation plans, finding evacuation routes out of their quarters and preparing for evacuation notifications, including a reverse 911 call – which was used during the drill too.

Participants also had the opportunity to review additional information needed during a wildfire or other emergency from locals of the American Red Cross, the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak area, the local associations of homeowners and others working together to help prepare neighborhoods for disaster. Residents who chose not to participate in the evacuation had the opportunity to observe police and firefighters performing protocol in their neighborhoods.

As the joint operation included the regional OEM, there was a unified command in such an event for first responders. El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Commander Ray Bernier said that while this aspect of the exercise is already part of the job of public safety agencies, the most important thing was to visit each of the homes and HOAs to explain fire mitigation and forest fire threats in their area. , and help them identify escape routes.

“That’s all they need to know to be ready for a forest fire evacuation. It’s preparation, ”said Bernier. “I think we have helped citizens become safer through this interaction, and we have improved as teams working together as response agencies.”

Bernier said fire drills are usually done every year, but he thinks if they could be done twice a year, whether for fire or snow, it would be more helpful.

From the point of view of the fire protection agencies, the event turned out to be extremely positive as these staff were able to see the coordination across the county, said the division chief of the Tri- fire protection district. Lakes Monument, Jamey Bumgarner.

“We have had fire departments from across the country who entered the Monument district and saw the challenges we face in a wildfire scenario,” he said. “With our law enforcement partners going through these areas as well, they understand what a mid-grade road looks like, what a fuel model looks like in Monument.

“My hope is to get out of this exercise, is that when we have a fire, they already know the fire conditions to expect when they get there.”

Bumgarner said the coordination between police, firefighters, the Red Cross and all emergency support personnel was the other big bright spot of the day.

“I hate to say that, but when we have a forest fire event at Monument, people will remember how we did this exercise and how things went here, and they will see similarities. with the event itself, ”he said.

El Paso County Commissioner Holly Williams (District 1) was also in attendance for the exercise and said it was not only important for residents and families to participate in these types of exercises, but that It was also equally important that families have their own disaster plan.

In a disaster, all family members may not be in one place, she said. Children can be in school by this time, or they can be home when parents are at work, said Williams, whose district encompasses northern El Paso County, including Monument and the northern Colorado Springs as well as the unincorporated areas of northern El Paso County, including Woodmoor and the Black Forest.

“If a fire breaks out, the children need to know where to go to get out of it,” she said. “They shouldn’t be sitting around waiting for mom and dad to come home. The importance of these exercises is to emphasize to the community that families should sit down and talk. When you live in the wooded areas of our county, it’s really not a question of if, it’s a question of when it will happen. You just don’t want to be caught ready.

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