County beats drum for emergency notification

Fire danger still predicted to be high this summer

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As Colorado braces for what — despite the recent moisture — experts are still predicting to be a severe fire season, officials are asking people to take caution.

“Without trying to be too dramatic, we want the point to be hard-hitting,” said Tim Johnson, Douglas County Director of Emergency Management. “We want to be in people’s faces a little bit and say: ‘Look, this is real, people can die, so pay attention. Take notice of what is going on around you.’”

In a concerted effort to do just that, the county is preparing to launch a series of public service commercials with footage of a family driving out of last year’s Lower North Fork Fire as well as homes burning during the Waldo Canyon Fire.

The message of the videos, which can be viewed at www.ourcoloradonews.com, is not just to show how real and scary wildfire can be, said Douglas County spokeswoman Wendy Holmes, but to prepare residents for disaster by getting them to sign up for Code Red, the county’s emergency notification system.

In the spot that features a young family driving out of the flames and smoke of the Lower North Fork Fire, the viewer hears the voiceover say: “You may think this is the one call you never want to get, ‘Your area is being evacuated due to wildfire, leave immediately’; actually, it’s the one call you do want to get.”

In another commercial, the viewer catches a glimpse of homes burning during the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, while statistics appear on the screen demonstrating the number of homes lost in each of the state’s big four fires of 2012. “Last year’s wildfires were the most destructive Colorado has ever seen,” the voiceover says, “and not one of these homeowners thought it could happen to them.”

“When you live by a forest you understand the potential for a fire,” Johnson said. “Yet there is a sense of safety when you live in an urban neighborhood, but a quarter-mile away you have open space. Now that we’ve had Waldo Canyon, it’s time for people to be a little more aware of the potential that is there. People need to be prepared.”

People can sign up for the free service at www.DouglasCountyCodeRed.com. As the service was launched last fall, Johnson said it is also important for subscribers to go back in and verify they are signed up if they signed up for one of the county’s old emergency management notification systems such as Everbridge. According to Holmes, only about 50 percent of county residents are currently signed up for the service.

Also of importance, Johnson said, is that if a notification does go out, people need to fight the urge to call dispatch for verification of an ongoing incident. Doing so, he said, will impair those on the emergency management team from working on the situation at hand and getting new updates out in a timely manner.

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