Residents ready for disasters
Vail CO, Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY ” Steve Gordon knows the value of having extra manpower during an emergency.
A former firefighter and emergency medical technician, Gordon is now training with other locals to help residents during emergencies.
“We saw from the fires recently in Glenwood that things can happen here,” said Gordon, Vail resident.
Armed with tools like flashlights, hammers and first-aid kits, 19 locals have been training to help during disasters such as large wildfires or snow storms, or a flu pandemic. They have not been called to duty yet, but members of the Citizen Emergency Response Team will be ready when residents need them, they say.
The citizen emergency responders would be used when firefighters, police or medics are overwhelmed, said Vail Police Sgt. Dirk Etheridge. A grant from the Department of Homeland Security funds the program, he said.
“I think there’s a 95 percent change they would be used,” Etheridge said. “It’s just a question of when.”
If drivers got stuck on Vail Pass for hours in a major snowstorm, volunteers could help accommodate those people who were rescued, Gordon said. Without volunteers to handle basic tasks, people unprepared for disasters could consume important resources, he said.
“That would take away some (emergency medical service) people from somebody who was really trapped,” Gordon said.
They also could be used for tasks like controlling the perimeter of a crime scene or Vail’s Fourth of July celebration, where police check identification at several checkpoints surrounding Vail Village, Etheridge said.
Unlike police, the citizen responders do not have the authority to detain or arrest, Etheridge said.
The volunteers attended a 24-hour classroom session in January and have done additional field training since then, Etheridge said.
They have been taught skills such as how to use a fire extinguisher correctly, how to move an injured person, basic first-aid skills and how to help disaster victims emotionally, responders said.
“We’re not psychologists, but we would empathize with people if we needed to,” said Gilda Kaplan, citizen responder and Vail resident.
Kaplan hoped that more people would join in the future, she said.
“The more people who are ready, the less chance there is that people would panic,” she said.
The program is important because the nearest Red Cross is in Grand Junction, said Jill Gordon, citizen responder and Steve Gordon’s wife.
“Now that our children are getting a little older, we have time to participate and do something for the community,” Jill Gordon said.
The program has taught Nancy Alexander and her husband, David Staat, ways to prepare her home in case of an emergency, she said.
“Before you can come out and help the community, you need to prepare your own home,” said Alexander, Cordillera resident.
The responders are ready to go, they say.
They were told to pack their equipment, which includes a hard-hat, reflective vest, knife and heavy-duty gloves.
Their shifts could last 12 hours, so Alexander plans to pack plenty of energy bars, she said.
“There are all kinds of things we could be called for and hopefully never will be,” Alexander said.
Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.