Emergency Preparedness

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Emergency Preparedness
The Eagle County Public Health Emergency Preparedness & Response Program is continually building the county’s capacity to respond to public health emergencies by:
  • Partnering with federal, state, and local agencies, including hospitals and clinics, to plan, prepare, practice, and remain alert for events affecting public health;
  • Ensuring that residents receive accurate information;
  • Investigating infectious disease outbreaks;
  • Controlling the spread of disease
  • Coordinating responses to public health emergencies among various agencies.
Resources for emergency preparedness:
EC Alert = the emergency alert system for Eagle County, Colorado, enables emergency management agencies and first responders to quickly and efficiently provide Eagle County residents and visitors with critical information for a variety of situations, from updates on severe weather and unexpected road closures to notifications about missing persons or evacuations of buildings and neighborhoods.
  • Subscribers to EC Alert can elect to receive time-sensitive emergency messages to their phone, desktop, and/or mobile device based on chosen alert areas and categories, as well as Reverse 911 notifications for the geographic zone or neighborhood associated with the physical address they have entered in their account information.
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The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office patrols & serves 1,692 sq miles in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and collaborates with the Eagle County Emergency Management Department when major incidents take place.
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Make a plan today. Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to know which types of disasters could affect your area. Know how you’ll contact one another and reconnect if separated. Establish a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find.
  • Step 1: Put a plan together by discussing the questions below with your family, friends or household to start your emergency plan.
  • Step 2: Consider specific needs in your household.
  • Step 3: Fill out a Family Emergency Plan
  • Step 4: Practice your plan with your family/household
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  • Eagle County has updated the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan, as required by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). This plan has received preliminary approval from FEMA pending adoption by all of the plan participants. The 2012 Eagle County Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan details Hazards and the associated risks found in Eagle County and identifies measures to mitigate or lessen the impacts of those hazards.
  • Preparing for any kind of emergency situation begins with individual preparedness. This requires having the basic skills and equipment to protect yourself and your family. The Ready Colorado website provides tips for preparing yourself for various kinds of disasters that can occur.
Severe weather for Eagle County usually involves winter storms and associated problems such as roads becoming impassable due to snow accumulation. Primary roads such as Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 are a high priority for snow removal crews and are rarely closed because of snowfall. The most common causes of road closures are avalanches and accidents. During heavy snow periods, roads are cleared on a priority basis with school bus and emergency routes receiving the highest priority.
Extreme Cold
Another hazard with severe weather is exposure to cold temperatures. Temperatures in Eagle County can dip well below zero degrees Fahrenheit. The most common dangers of the cold are hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia occurs when the body's core temperature is lowered by prolonged exposure to the cold and is a life-threatening situation.
Frostbite occurs when the tissue in exposed body parts freezes. While not usually life-threatening, frostbite can cause permanent disability. The wind-chill factor is the cumulative effect of temperature and wind speed on the body. It can accelerate the effects of cold temperatures by rapidly cooling a body's skin and/or core temperature.
Blizzard conditions exist when heavy snowfall is combined with wind. Blizzards are not common in Eagle County but when they do occur the primary hazard is reduced visibility for travelers.
Local preparation
The first step for emergency preparedness is to gather knowledge. Information on current and expected conditions for most of Eagle County can be found using the following links:
Safety tips on emergency preparedness for home and vehicle
Before embarking on a winter car trip through the mountains, use these tips to help ensure you arrive at your destination safely.

Prepare Your Vehicle
A well-equipped vehicle has adequate tires; tire chains; tow rope; sand or cat litter for traction; shovel; tool kit; windshield scraper and brush; battery cables; first-aid kit, flashlight; extra batteries; blankets and/or sleeping bags; extra clothing; candles; waterproof matches; high-calorie packaged food for quick energy; and an empty can to melt snow for drinking. A vehicle safety kit is recommended emergency equipment for every car in every climate.

Monitor Road Conditions
Check these sources for up-to-date road conditions locally and across the state.

Local: 970-479-2226
State: 511
89.9 FM, 92.3 FM, 93.1 FM, 95.3 FM, 97.7 FM, 101.7 FM, 104.7 FM, 850 AM and 1610 AM
Subscribe to EC Alert
Visit www.ecalert.org to have free, real-time road and weather conditions sent to you via text and/or email.
Review I-70 Travel Tips and Closure Plan
Jurisdictions from around Eagle County have worked together to develop I-70 Eagle County Winter Travel Tips, which provides additional resources and describes the traffic management plan that will be enacted in the event of a road closure on I-70.
Wildfires are an annual occurrence throughout Eagle County. We live in fire ecosystems where fire will occur. Many fire effects are not only beneficial; they are necessary and natural for ecosystem health. Resource managers try to maximize beneficial effects through the use of prescribed fire and fire use (managing ignitions for resource purposes). Wind-driven fires pose the most serious threat.

About half the wildfires in Colorado are lightning-caused. The rest have some human connection.

In Colorado, the wildlands that are prone to fire overlap expanding mountain subdivisions. This overlap is called the red zone. It is also referred to as the wildland-urban interface. Since fire is common in the red zone, special precautions are necessary for homeowners and land managers.

Individuals living within the wildland-urban interface can take steps to reduce the risk of fire losses. For example, you can create a Safety Zone around your home or business by doing the following:
  • Stack firewood at least 30 feet away and uphill from your home.
  • Clear combustible material within 15 feet.
  • Mow grass regularly.
  • Rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs. Clear all flammable vegetation.
  • Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures.
  • Thin a 10-foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 10 feet of the ground.
  • Remove vines from the walls of the home.
  • Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
  • Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
  • Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
What should I do?
  • Be aware of fire risks and take responsibility for your use of fire.
  • Be careful with cigarettes and campfires - only build fires in rings or grates.
  • Use self-contained cookers or chemical stoves.
  • Keep hot mufflers and catalytic converters clear of grasses and shrubs.
  • Burn debris with care and after obtaining the necessary permit.
  • If you see smoke or a fire, call 9-1-1. They will notify the correct agencies.
  • Think about where you would go to flee a fire, what you would take, how you would get out, and an alternate route out in case the one you're planning on is blocked. This is the same kind of planning you do with your family for escaping a fire in your home.
  • Know your personal limitations. Don't put yourself or others at risk.
How can I help? What can my community do?
Be informed about defensible space and how it can minimize fire danger around your property.
Be aware of approaches your community may wish to take in adopting ‘firewise’ covenants, ordinances, and transportation plans.

How we fight wildfires - interagency cooperation
Wildfires are fought by a diverse group of firefighters and support personnel from local, state, and federal agencies. It's the best example of a seamless government we know. The goal is to mitigate unwanted fire and provide public safety.
Wildfires are not "put out" in the sense that a house fire is extinguished. Firefighters surround (contain) wildfires within defensible boundaries. Fire lines (constructed by hand, by a bulldozer, and by retardant drops, or extended to existing trails or roads) and natural features (streams, lakes, rock outcrops, ridgelines, and already burned areas) are connected to surround the fire. Once the main fire is contained, firefighters mop-up the remaining hot spots and the fire line to achieve control over the fire.

Fire behavior/suppression tactics
Trying to stop a raging wildfire - even with the array of available technological and personnel resources - is like trying to stop a tornado. Air tankers don't put wildfires out; they provide a temporary fire line and help cool fuels.

Additional resources
Landslides occur when masses of rock, earth or debris move down a slope. Slides may be small or very large, and can move at either slow or high speeds. There are many underlying causes of landslides, including storms, fires, earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions. In addition, slides may occur due to the weakening of rock and soil through saturation by snowmelt or heavy rains. Excess weight from the accumulation of rain or snow, stockpiling of rock or ore or waste piles can also allow the force of gravity to activate a landslide. Man-made structures may put such a degree of stress on a weak slope that it reaches the failure point, creating a landslide.
Slope materials that become saturated with water may develop debris or mudflow. The resulting slurry of rock and mud may pick up trees, houses, and cars, thus blocking bridges and tributaries causing flooding along its path.
Due to the nature of our terrain, landslides can occur nearly anywhere in Eagle County. Any area composed of very weak or fractured materials resting on a steep slope can, and probably will eventually, experience a landslide.

Additional resources:
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Nearly 95 percent of avalanches that involve people are triggered either by the victims themselves or by a member of their party. If we know how to recognize avalanche danger, we can avoid it. Natural avalanches occur for two reasons: rapid warming or the additional weight of new or windblown snow that can overload weak-layers. There are almost always obvious signs of instability by the time avalanches come down on their own.
An average-sized dry avalanche travels at close to 80 mph and is nearly impossible for someone to outrun or even have time to get out of the way. Colorado leads the nation in deaths from avalanches with an average of six to eight people lost each season. Almost all avalanche fatalities occur in the backcountry areas outside ski area boundaries where no avalanche control is done.

Local Preparation
The Colorado Department of Transportation, US Forest Service and the local ski areas all perform avalanche control within their respective boundaries. Since 1950, avalanches have killed more people in Colorado than any other natural hazard, and in the United States, Colorado accounts for one-third of all avalanche deaths. Avalanches involving people do not happen by accident. It is our goal to educate the public on the signs and dangers of avalanche in an effort to minimize the human and economic impact.

Additional resources
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Floods are the most common and widespread of all-natural hazards. Some floods develop slowly but flash floods can happen in just minutes. Flood-prone areas have been identified throughout Eagle County. Due to the mountainous terrain, almost all areas of the county are susceptible to flash flooding. A flash flood is typically caused by sudden, excessive rainfall that sends a river, stream, or other body of water rapidly out of its banks. Often this occurs in a short amount of time, only several hours or even less. They can also be caused by ice jams on rivers in conjunction with a winter or spring thaw, or occasionally even a dam break. The constant influx of water finally causes a treacherous overflow which can be powerful enough to sweep vehicles away, roll boulders into roadways, uproot trees, level buildings, and drag bridges off their piers. Most alarming is the speed at which the water rises.
Swift Water Safety
Rising water levels mean that rivers and streams are moving much faster than normal and may have dangerous currents and debris. Take extreme caution around moving water. Keep a close eye on children and use flotation devices when working or playing near rivers and streams. If you are planning to raft, kayak, or paddle a river, consult local experts to determine safety hazards. High water levels can quickly turn an enjoyable trip to the river into a life-threatening experience.
Local Preparation
In Eagle County and the western United States generally, the soil is typically dry, sandy, and unable to absorb large amounts of water. It's important to know your neighborhood's flood history. Eagle County's Engineering Department provides floodplain mapping and belongs to the Community Rating System (CRS) which is part of the National Flood Insurance Program.
Flood Preparedness Information Packet
Sandbag Locations
Sandbags can help keep water from entering homes and structures. Sand and bags can frequently be procured at local hardware stores or through local contractors.
Learn More About Potential Flood Hazards in Your Area
Floodplain Mapping
Current River Conditions (National Weather Service)
Up-to-Date Forecasts and Peak Flood Probability (Colorado River Basin Forecast Center)
Additional Resources
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A hazardous material is any material that is explosive, flammable, poisonous, corrosive, reactive, radioactive, or active in any combination. These materials require special care in handling because of the risk they pose to public health, safety, and/or the environment. Hazardous materials are a part of our daily lives in the fuel for our cars, cleaning agents we use in our homes, and even in the water that we drink. These materials do not pose a hazard when they are used in the controlled environment for which they are intended.
When hazardous materials are not controlled due to improper use or accidents, they can quickly create a dangerous or life-threatening situation. Because of the interstate highway and the mountainous terrain found in Eagle County, the potential for accidents involving transported hazardous materials is very real.

Local Preparation
The Eagle County Local Emergency Planning Committee develops plans for response to hazardous materials incidents and establishes emergency notification procedures. The commission also monitors the storage and use of materials within the county and exercises response capabilities. Responses to hazardous materials incidents in Eagle County are made by local, state, and federal emergency agencies as well as the Regional Hazardous Materials Association of Eagle County. These groups are trained to identify, isolate and mitigate the harmful effects of most materials.

Additional resources
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Terrorism is a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, in violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives (US Department of Justice).
Eagle County has experienced an act of domestic terrorism with the arson fires on Vail Mountain in 1998. These fires were allegedly started by a person or persons to protest the proposed ski area expansion. While Eagle County is not a prime target for terrorist activity, our local emergency agencies are working with state and federal agencies to prepare for possible acts of terrorism.

Additional resources
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A nuclear blast is an explosion with intense light and heat, a damaging pressure wave, and widespread radioactive material that can contaminate the air, water, and ground surfaces for miles around.
A nuclear device can range from a weapon carried by an intercontinental missile to a small portable nuclear device transported by an individual. All nuclear devices cause deadly effects when detonated.

Hazards of Nuclear Devices
The danger of a massive strategic nuclear attack on the United States is predicted by experts to be unlikely today. However, terrorism, by nature, is unpredictable.

In general, potential targets include:
  • Strategic missile sites and military bases.
  • Centers of government such as Washington, DC, and state capitals.
  • Important transportation and communication centers.
  • Manufacturing, industrial, technology, and financial centers.
  • Petroleum refineries, electrical power plants, and chemical plants.
  • Major ports and airfields.
There are no anticipated targets in Eagle County. However, the fallout from attacks elsewhere in the United States could impact Eagle County.

The three factors for protecting oneself from radiation and fallout are time, distance, and shielding:
  • Time: limiting the amount of time you are exposed to harmful radiation is critical. Fallout radiation loses its intensity fairly rapidly. In time, you will be able to leave the fallout shelter. Radioactive fallout poses the greatest threat to people during the first two weeks, after which time it has declined to about 1 percent of its initial radiation level.
  • Distance: the more distance between you and the fallout particles, the better. Increase your distance as much as practical from sources of radiation.
  • Shielding: the heavier and denser the materials – thick walls, concrete, bricks, books, and earth – between you and the fallout particles, the better. An underground area such as a home or office building basement offers more protection than the first floor of a building.
Taking shelter during a nuclear blast is absolutely necessary. There are two kinds of shelters:
  • Blast shelters are specifically constructed to offer some protection against blast pressure, initial radiation, heat, and fire. Even a blast shelter cannot withstand a direct hit from a nuclear explosion.
  • Fallout shelters do not need to be specially constructed for protecting against fallout. They can be any protected space, provided that the walls and roof are thick and dense enough to absorb the radiation given off by fallout particles.
Remember that any protection, however temporary, is better than none at all, and the more shielding, distance, and time you can take advantage of, the better.
Before a Nuclear Blast
The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family, and your property in the event of a nuclear blast.
  • Build an Emergency Supply Kit.
  • Make a Family Emergency Plan.
  • Find out from officials if any public buildings in your community have been designated as fallout shelters. Eagle County does not have any identified public fallout shelters.
  • If your community has no designated fallout shelters, make a list of potential shelters near your home, workplace, and school, such as basements, subways, tunnels, or the windowless center area of middle floors in a high-rise building.
  • During periods of heightened threat, increase your disaster supplies to be adequate for up to two weeks.
During a Nuclear Blast
The following are guidelines for what to do in the event of a nuclear explosion.
  • Listen to multiple sources for official information and follow the instructions provided by emergency response personnel.
  • If an attack warning is issued, take cover as quickly as you can – below ground if possible – and stay there until instructed to do otherwise.
  • Find the nearest building, preferably built of brick or concrete, and go inside to avoid any radioactive material outside.
  • If a better shelter, such as a multi-story building or basement can be reached within a few minutes, go there immediately.
  • Go as far below ground as possible or in the center of a tall building.
  • During the time with the highest radiation levels, it is safest to stay inside, sheltered away from the radioactive material outside.
  • Radiation levels are extremely dangerous after a nuclear detonation but the levels reduce rapidly.
  • Expect to stay inside for at least 24 hours unless told otherwise by authorities.
  • When evacuating is in your best interest, you will be instructed to do so. All available methods of communication will be used to provide news and/or instructions.
If you are caught outside and unable to get inside immediately:
  • Do not look at the flash or fireball - it can blind you.
  • Take cover behind anything that might offer protection.
  • Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit.
  • Take shelter as soon as you can, even if you are many miles from ground zero where the attack occurred – radioactive fallout can be carried by the winds for hundreds of miles.
  • If you were outside during or after the blast, get clean as soon as possible to remove radioactive material that may have settled on your body.
  • Remove your clothing to keep radioactive material from spreading. Removing the outer layer of clothing can remove up to 90 percent of radioactive material.
  • If practical, place your contaminated clothing in a plastic bag and seal or tie the bag. Place the bag as far away as possible from humans and animals so that the radiation it gives off does not affect others.
  • When possible, take a shower with lots of soap and water to help remove radioactive contamination. Do not scrub or scratch the skin.
  • Wash your hair with shampoo or soap and water. Do not use conditioner in your hair because it will bind radioactive material to your hair, keeping it from rinsing out easily.
  • Gently blow your nose and wipe your eyelids and eyelashes with a clean wet cloth. Gently wipe your ears.
  • If you cannot shower, use a wipe or clean wet cloth to wipe your skin that was not covered by clothing.
After a Nuclear Blast
People in most of the areas that would be affected could be allowed to come out of shelter within a few days and, if necessary, will evacuate to unaffected areas. The heaviest fallout would be limited to the area at or downwind from the explosion. It may be necessary for those in the areas with highest radiation levels to shelter for up to a month.

Returning to Your Home
Remember the following when returning home:
  • Keep listening to the radio and television for news about what to do, where to go and places to avoid.
  • Stay away from damaged areas. Stay away from areas marked “radiation hazard” or “HAZMAT.”
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