This past Saturday, the Genesee Foundation, a Firewise Communities/USA site located in Jefferson County, CO, participated in a Level 3 Evacuation Drill. The drill was an opportunity for residents and emergency responders to practice a simulated wildland fire evacuation.
Residents in wildland/urban interface areas know that in addition to implementing Firewise principles to mitigate the risk around their homes, there’s additional steps that need to be taken to proactively prepare for a wildfire, and planning and practicing their evacuation plan and routes is one of those important steps. Unfortunately, I think it can easily be said that this piece of the planning process is under practiced and most homeowners never get an opportunity to actually participate in a live drill with emergency responders. But this past weekend, the more than 1,500 homes that comprise the neighborhoods of the Genesee Foundation, the Genesee Village HOA, Riva Chase HOA and Chimney Creek HOA, had that opportunity during a live drill coordinated by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. In addition to the sheriff’s office, the Colorado State Patrol, Genesee Fire Department, Foothills Fire Department and the Highland Rescue Team also participated.
During the week prior to the drill, signage was placed throughout the neighborhood to encourage participation and alert residents of the upcoming activity. Residents were also invited to attend an informational meeting where they received information on the process and how to build an emergency preparedness kit. At approximately 9am, on the morning of the drill, pre-registered participants received an emergency notification simulating an approaching wildfire. Residents were given instructions to evacuate, and as each exited the designated checkpoint they were asked to remain out of the area for 30 to 60 additional minutes prior to returning home.
In addition to the benefit of getting the practical experience, the drill will be analyzed and will provide important data on how citizens received the message, the time it took them to leave both their home and the corresponding geographic area after receiving the notification, and the traffic volume.