Glenwood Springs confident in emergency evacuation plans

First responders respond to multiple brush fires that broke out along interstate 70 in Glenwood Springs between exits 116 and 114 in 2022.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Contrary to popular belief, the city of Glenwood Springs, in collaboration with many other entities in the region, does have a safety evacuation plan in the case of an emergency.

“It is referred to as the Glenwood Springs Traffic Emergency Operations Plan, but because the lion’s share of it does revolve around evacuation, it has become known as the ‘evacuation plan,'” said Glenwood Springs Deputy Fire Chief Doug Gerrald. 

The plan is adaptive for different kinds of emergencies that may change the direction or aim of the kind of evacuation. For example, a fire in south Glenwood or somewhere upvalley will have a different course of action than a fire in the Glenwood Canyon. 

“We focus on life safety, incident stabilization and property conservation,” Gerrald said. “One of the biggest things we can do as far as the life safety aspect is remove people from harm’s way.”

The plan also has other aspects like breaking areas up into different zones and creating waiting places like Rifle for people to stop. 

“By the very nature of what we do in emergency services, we are constantly working on revising, successfully implementing and training on these multidisciplinary, multi-agency plans with emergency response,” Gerrald said.

Multiple entities were included in the planning and preparation of the “evacuation plan” in Glenwood Springs, including all local fire and police departments, city management, engineering and parks and recreation, along with groups like the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, county emergency operations, 911 dispatch, Colorado State Patrol, local school districts and many more. 

“We have verbalized all kinds of scenarios and we talked about this plan in many ways,” Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson said. “Now we’re just trying to take all of the ideas that have come from all of our brainstorming sessions and get them documented for others to refer to in our absence when something happens.”

The plan is currently a living document with constant updates added, while the local police and fire departments are constanting training for different scenarios to keep skill sets ready for any situation.

Tillotson said that if something were to happen tomorrow, they would be prepared, and people should not be concerned.

“We just don’t have it written down anywhere, but we know what we’re going to do and we feel we will be successful,” Tillotson said.

Hardening your home, or making it more fire resistant, creating a defensible space, making sure to have a go kit and signing up for emergency alerts are all ways residents can be active, said Glenwood Springs Public Information Officer Bryana Starbuck.

“These things come together to help us create the best possible outcomes for residents,” Starbuck said. “Show up for yourself. Help us show up for you.”

The plan should be completely finished and documented by the end of October or early November. The city also plans to create an annual review of the plan.

Something people in the area can do to be more prepared for emergencies is to sign up for alerts from the city and fire departments. 

If any part of the plan is withheld from the public, it is mostly for safety. 

“We’re not trying to keep information from the community,” said Mayor Ingrid Wussow, clarifying why the departments would withhold any information in the plan. “We’re simply trying to recognize that certain information could either be confusing or present a safety risk, and so we’re trying to make that discernment on what information is released.”

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