Security effort may have lasting effects for resorts
By the numbers
700: People with event security credentials.
28: State, local and federal agencies participating in event security.
167: Pages in the comprehensive security plan.
23: New security cameras in Vail Village and Lionshead.
VAIL — Walking into Vail police headquarters, the smell of coffee gets stronger the closer you get to the nerve center of the security effort for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
In that nerve center are representatives from more than two dozen local, state and federal agencies, each one watching a computer screen or listening to chatter from the town’s dispatch center. On the east wall, several large-screen TVs show everything from a ski-race finish stadium to security cameras that cover Interstate 70 and much of the resort villages in Vail, Lionshead and Beaver Creek.
On a sunny early afternoon, Dan Hatlestad, a member of the Jefferson County Incident Command Team, took a few minutes to explain the workings of the command center.
The command center is full and active 16 hours a day during the World Championships, with lighter staffing during the overnight hours.
The center brings together people from police and fire agencies, as well as the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado Department of Transportation. Having everyone in the open classroom is an advantage, Hatlestad said, since people can talk to one another, and officers in the field, without the need to go through sometimes-confusing radio communications.
While there are any number of local officers in the command center, there are a lot of people from other jurisdictions there. That helps keep local officers out in the field, since they know the valley well. But, with about 700 people with some sort of security credentials, there are plenty of visitors out and about, too.
A lot of those visiting officers are spending their time in the valley in local hotels. But, Hatlestad said, a lot of people are rooming with local officers.
The plan for this year’s World Championships started taking shape in 2011, just after the announcement came that Vail and Beaver Creek would be the host resorts. Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger has been the chairman of that planning group since the first day. And, while there’s a military cliche that “no plan survives first contact with the enemy,” Henninger said that this plan, so far, has survived with only a few minor adjustments.
To the great relief of everyone, the more horrific parts of the plan haven’t been tested yet, and Henninger said there haven’t been any reported threats to the event or its venues.
On the other hand, bad weather on the first day of the World Championships did test the ability of some out-of-town officers to respond to specific areas on Vail Pass.
The security plan for the Championships will have lasting effects. Henninger said much of the work done for the World Championships will be used again for the Burton U.S. Open Snowboard Championships, which begin March 2.
There’s also a lot of new equipment in town, particularly an improved radio system and new security cameras strategically placed in Vail’s resort areas. In addition, more than 1,800 local residents took training in the “See Something, Say Something” program, which encourages civilians to report unusual activity.
“We’ve been told we’ve had significantly more reports than other big events,” Henninger said.
Then there’s simply the matter of doing a lot of training across a number of different agencies, from a number of different areas.
“We’ve really had the A team here, including folks like (Hatlestad),” Henninger said.
That training has had a ripple effect across the state.
Hatlestad noted that when Jefferson County incident managers were called to Boulder County for the September floods of 2013, a group from Eagle County went over the Continental Divide to help.
A big incident in Eagle County would start a statewide ripple effect in this direction, Hatlestad said.
“This has improved training for the state as a whole,” Hatlestad said.
And it has taken an effort that size to put this security plan in place.
“We couldn’t pull this off with just local resources,” Henninger said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.
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