Emergency Operations Coordination
Boulder Flood Case Study
BACKGROUND: In 2013, historic floods hit multiple counties in Colorado. Road access was closed, evacuation routes were re-routed and shelters reached max capacity. Amy Danzl explains the Boulder Office of Emergency Management’s role, along with the coordination that occurred within the EOC, in order to efficiently mitigate the unforeseen challenges from the flood.
OBJECTIVE: Streamline response efforts and resources from dozens of agencies through the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and inter-agency communication.
CHALLENGES: Because of heavier that projected floods, access was an ongoing issue for all agencies involved to accomplish their individual missions. Roads that were initially accessible suddenly would become dangerous as the flood waters grew in strength and volume. Furthermore, shelters quickly reached capacity and further sheltering was still needed for evacuated individuals and families.
SOLUTIONS: Emergency managers relied heavily on their flooding partners for intel. Specifically, relationships with the National Weather Service (NWS) and the Urban Drainage & Flooding Control District (UDFC). These partners were able to utilize software specialized in flood creek computer modeling in addition to a flood matrix with rain, time, cfs and risk. Individual departments turned to their Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans to address the sheltering surge capacity. Incorporating the COOP elements to annual Table Top or other shelter exercises will help strengthen this capability.
TAKEAWAYS: After talking with Amy and viewing her presentation, my biggest takeaways are:
- Emergency management, like many fields, comes to down relationships and knowing your resources. Because the flood waters acted unpredictable and exceeded original projections, knowing who to contact and what they can provide is essential to successfully adjust operations. These relationships can be strengthened during responses, but must be established before the disaster. Whether its through various local groups or committees, or outside the office during lunch, strong relationships among responding agencies builds trust and is imperative to reaching operational objectives.
- COOP planning, for any size business in any industry, is invaluable. COOP plans are often put on the back-burner and are either never completed or not updated regularly. Personnel turnover, new staff and change in agency operations are just some reasons why COOP plans must be regularly revisited by leadership. Good COOP plans not only deal with alternative work locations, but should identify your agency's mission critical functions, succession plan, essential records/databases and key partners/vendors. An agency that has trained on a well written COOP plan is better equipped to alter its operations in the face of a disaster, which was required with the sheltering surge capacity during the Boulder Floods.
Drew Downing, MPH