Wednesday's “Hot Potato” wildfire training exercise in Vail brought together over 60 participants from 18 agencies to test real-time emergency response and coordination between fire agencies, law enforcement and various support agencies. Coordinated by Vail Fire and Emergency Services, the exercise simulated a wildfire, a neighborhood evacuation scenario, a mock structure fire with injuries and public alerts. In addition, Vail Valley Medical Center exercised its emergency operations plan concurrently.
Exercise Director Paul Cada, the town’s wildland program administrator, says the response and cooperation from participating agencies was outstanding. “The teamwork we saw in the field was excellent with great attention paid to safety and a quick response,” he said. “The benefit of having mutual aid agreements in place with our partner agencies as well as training on a regular basis is invaluable and can never be overstated since our local resources can become overwhelmed very quickly.”
The exercise included a door-to-door canvass of the Potato Patch neighborhood on the north side of Interstate 70 to simulate a mandatory evacuation. Cada says the response from the neighborhood was positive. “Several of the residents agreed to actively participate in today’s evacuation which was very helpful,” said Cada. “We learned prepared citizens greatly increase the speed at which we can conduct evacuations and there were good questions from the neighborhood about the evacuation preparation.”
For the remainder of the community, Cada says the exercise serves as a timely reminder to review Vail’s all-hazards evacuation plan on the town’s website at vailgov.com/evac and to sign up to receive emergency alerts at ecalert.org.
As assessment of the Hot Potato exercise will be prepared in an after action report that will be used to make recommendations for additional modifications to emergency response plans. The report will be completed by mid-September.
Responding agencies taking part in today’s training included: Vail Fire and Emergency Services, Vail Police Department, Vail Public Safety Communications Center, Eagle County Office of Emergency Management, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Eagle County Paramedic Services, Vail Valley Medical Center, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Vail Resorts, U.S. Forest Service, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Eagle River Fire Protection District, Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, Gypsum Fire Protection District, Copper Mountain Fire Department and the Eagle County PIO Group.
Cada extends a special thank you to the Salvation Army for providing lunch and to the community for any inconvenience the exercise may have caused. For more information, contact Cada at 970-477-3475 or email email@example.com.