Threats to public health and safety

County Management

By Roger Baker

With the fires in Colorado, and even more after the tragedy in Arizona, the attention of Gilpin County residents has understandably been focused on the possibility of wildland fire.

But there are certainly a great many other threats to public health and safety for which our planners must prepare, and the presentation to the County Commissioners of the Basic Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) at Tuesday’s meeting was an indication of that.

As noted on the first page of the plan itself, the EOP is a “living plan” and will be subject to almost constant revision as new threats are recognized and resources to deal with them identified.

In fact, that process has already begun. The week before the Commissioners first had a chance to review the EOP, a “new” group called the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) met for the first time in many, many years.

As this group is developing, it provides an avenue for participation among all the emergency managers and first responders in the area, who might conceivably be involved in any sort of large-scale emergency, from a chemical spill (which is really what the LEPC was designed to respond to) to a pandemic illness outbreak to a terrorist attack.

Just as the EOP is a lengthy and ever-changing document, the LEPC is already evolving. We had originally identified the police and fire chiefs of the two cities and the chiefs of the two local fire protection districts as major players, but in their first get-together they thought of a number of other agencies and groups that needed to be involved.

One of those agencies, not surprisingly, was the US Forest Service, and of course we are already working with their staff on a number of initiatives, from forest health to off-road vehicle access.

This very evening (at least if you are lucky enough to get the newspaper on Thursday), USFS representatives will join the Gilpin Commissioners at the Community Center seeking input on the challenges and opportunities regarding recreational shooting sports in the Front Range mountains.

Gilpin has partnered not just with the USFS, but with Larimer, Clear Creek and Boulder counties (and other groups) to explore solutions to some of the problems raised by this activity. All four counties are hosting such open houses, and if you miss this one you could certainly attend the next one on July 16th at Idaho Springs City Hall.

But as is typical of such efforts these days, both much of the background material and a way to stay abreast of (and comment on) the proposed solutions are online; there’s a link on the County’s website, http://co.gilpin.co.us, or you can go directly to http://www.sportshootingpartners.org. The latter site has a form to use to sign up to receive emails about the project.

Just to bring this full circle, one of the real concerns the participating counties have (and which the Forest Service certainly shares) is that the sort of dispersed shooting that now occurs in our national forest lands poses a real risk of starting the sort of catastrophic wildfire we have seen elsewhere.

Coming up with one plan, or one process, to address all these risks is probably impossible, but that’s no excuse for not trying. The EOP, the LEPC and the Shooting Sports Cooperative all represent ways in which various groups and individuals are working together to insure the safety of our mountain environment.

Of course, it still won’t hurt to pray for rain!

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