Wednesday, August 23, 2017

CDPS teams made sure eclipse was safe & fun

A total solar eclipse doesn’t signal the end of the world ﹘ but local emergency responders and law enforcement worked hard to be ready for the myriad emergency scenarios and challenges that could accompany such a rare, high-profile event.

Some disasters and emergencies provide little, if any, lead time for responders to prepare. Fortunately, an unusual occurrence like a total solar eclipse is predictable, allowing partner agencies throughout Colorado to get a head start on readying their response and working to prevent disasters and emergencies.

Staff at the State EOC donned eclipse glasses on Aug. 21 as
they monitored issues related to the eclipse. 
Members of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Colorado State Patrol, and Division of Fire Prevention and Control began participating in regional planning and preparation for the eclipse in April 2017. Local emergency response agencies worked with emergency managers to anticipate how they might respond to a variety of issues that could arise, including heavy traffic, stranded travelers, fuel shortages, and fires caused by campers or sparks from vehicles. In partnership with other local and national agencies, public information and communications specialists within CDPS developed and pushed proactive safety messaging out to the public in advance of the eclipse in hopes of preventing problems and preparing the public for heavy traffic to and from Wyoming.

The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) activated the day before the eclipse in order to monitor issues that might arise as people were predicted to flood north and east from Colorado to Wyoming and Nebraska in order to reach areas where the total eclipse could be experienced. Troop offices serving the impacted routes increased their staffing and presence along the highways.

On Monday, Aug. 21 ﹘ the day of the eclipse ﹘ DHSEM staffed the SEOC as well as local emergency operations centers in the field. As always, the Colorado Information Analysis Center (CIAC) kept an eye out for any reports of suspicious activity.  The Colorado Virtual Operations Support Team (COVOST) managed by DHSEM’s Strategic Communications provided more than 70 hours of social media monitoring to provide valuable situational awareness to the Larimer and Douglas county EOCs as well as the SEOC.

Back at offices not directly involved in the response, many CDPS members took a moment to gather together to share eclipse sunglasses and home-made viewing boxes/contraptions. Members like Lisa Carmichael of OIT even made bulk purchases of the hard-to-obtain viewing glasses to share with their fellow coworkers so all could enjoy the rare experience.

In the end, traffic was heavy (as anticipated), but no major incident occurred, and our agencies’ proactive work paid off. Emergency responders were pleased to be able to treat the event as a multi-agency, multi-state collaborative opportunity to exercise emergency response and preparedness on a massive scale.