Emergency responders prepare for New Year’s Eve | VailDaily.com

Emergency responders prepare for New Year’s Eve

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – As visitors and local residents prepare for a night out on the town to ring in the new year, there are behind-the-scenes preparations going on to handle this weekend of celebration.

Police departments, fire departments, ambulance districts and hospitals all over the country prepare for the darker side of New Year’s Eve partying, and in a ski resort town where so many people are already cutting loose on vacation, local agencies aren’t taking any chances.

At the Vail Valley Medical Center, the Emergency Department staff is increased throughout a two-week holiday season that wraps-up this weekend.

“We add an extra physician to our ED staff, work longer hours and even add backup on-call doctors, as well,” said Dr. Larry Brooks, president of Vail Valley Emergency Physicians. “Nursing staff make themselves available for emergency calls in case of catastrophic events. This is one of the busiest times of the year for the emergency departments and urgent care facilities. We do not allow much time off during these two weeks of the Christmas and New Year celebrations.”

New Year’s Eve might be busy in the emergency room, but it’s not much different from a typical day over the course of the same two-week period, Brooks said. The type of care the doctors are providing, however, can be different because they’re typically treating ski-related injuries during the days, but on New Year’s Eve the emergency room gets busy for other reasons.

“There are more alcohol-related injuries, overdoses – anytime that much alcohol is involved, you always worry about car accidents, too,” Brooks said. “It all depends. … Like most emergency rooms, we try to be available and try to be ready to stabilize most everything.”

The police and fire departments are fully aware, and prepared, for the sometimes excessive partying.

Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger said his department will be out and about doing a lot of crowd control. Vail has a special events district where anyone under 21 has to be accompanied by an adult. Henninger said since the district was created about 10 years ago, many New Year’s Eve problems, such as teenagers hanging around and shooting off fireworks on Bridge Street, have been eliminated.

Avon Police Sgt. Ken Dammen said there will be additional Avon police officers out on the roads for the Gore Range DUI Task Force, a team of local law enforcement officers out to combat drunk driving.

Dammen said that with a drinking holiday like New Year’s Eve, the enforcement has to be in place.

“They’re looking for impaired drivers,” he said. “We are going to have marked patrol cars out and about dedicated to the enforcement of DUIs, in addition to regular patrol officers taking regular calls for service.”

Dammen hopes the added awareness of the police presence will encourage people to make smart decisions – such as using public transportation or designating a sober driver – on New Year’s Eve.

Vail Fire Chief Mark Miller’s staff began notifying local bars Friday night about fire code enforcement on New Year’s Eve. Miller said firefighters plan to check bars Saturday night for occupancy loads and overcrowding, as well as to make sure exits are clear and unblocked.

The Vail Fire Department has an extra crew of four or five on duty for New Year’s Eve, Miller said.

“Primarily we’ll position them in Vail Village on foot or in a pick-up truck – they’re responsible for handling some basic EMS calls in the village, as well as fire alarms that may come up,” Miller said. “If the last few days are any clue, I think it will be a very busy weekend.”

Miller said the sheer number of people in town almost always means there will be more calls. There are more issues, alarms, medical calls and accidents, Miller said.

“You may get a few more intoxicated parties,” he said. “There’s more calls (about everything) – kind of more of the same.”

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com.

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