Emergency Preparedness & Response
All local public health agencies are required to prepare and respond to emergencies with public health or environmental health implication in coordination with local, state, and federal agencies, and public and private sector partners. SJBPH Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) can serve as, or support, the Emergency Support Function 8 (Public Health and Medical Services) lead for the county, region, or jurisdiction.
SJBPH Regional EPR staff serve Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, and San Juan counties and provide support to the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes.
Preparedness & Planning
Are you and your family prepared for an emergency? SJBPH promotes community preparedness by communicating steps that can be taken before, during, or after a disaster. What does it mean for you and your family to be prepared for an emergency? Have you considered how you'd communicate with family members during an emergency, or planned where to meet in the event of an evacuation? Have you considered what to take if you had minutes to gather belongings?
The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is a national network of volunteers, organized locally to improve the health and safety of their communities. MRC volunteers include medical and public health professionals, as well as other community members without healthcare backgrounds. MRC units engage these volunteers to strengthen public health, improve emergency response capabilities and build community resiliency. They prepare for and respond to natural disasters, such as wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and floods, as well as other emergencies affecting public health, such as disease outbreaks. They frequently contribute to community health activities that promote healthy habits. Examples of activities that MRC volunteers participate in and support include:
- Disaster medical support
- Emergency preparedness and response training
- First aid during large public gatherings
- Health education and promotion
- Health screenings
- Vaccination clinics
- Veterinary support and pet preparedness
For questions about volunteering with the Southwest Colorado Regional MRC, call Lori Zazzaro at 970-335-2017 or via email.
Biological agents are organisms or toxins that can kill or disable people, livestock and crops. A biological attack is the deliberate release of germs or other biological substances that can make you sick.
There are three basic groups of biological agents that could likely be used as weapons: bacteria, viruses and toxins. Biological agents can be spread by spraying them into the air, person-to-person contact, infecting animals that carry the disease to humans and by contaminating food and water.
Before a Biological Threat
A biological attack may or may not be immediately obvious. In most cases local health care workers will report a pattern of unusual illness or there will be a wave of sick people seeking emergency medical attention. You would be alerted through an emergency radio or TV broadcast, a telephone call or a home visit from an emergency response worker.
- Build an Emergency Supply Kit.
- Make a Family Emergency Plan.
- Check with your doctor to make sure everyone in your family has up-to-date immunizations.
- Consider installing a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter in your furnace return duct, which will filter out most biological agents that may enter your house.
During a Biological Threat
The first evidence of an attack may be when you notice symptoms of the disease caused by exposure to an agent. In the event of a biological attack, public health officials may not immediately be able to provide information on what you should do. It will take time to figure out exactly what the illness is, how it should be treated and who is in danger.
During a threat:
- Watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet for official news and information including:
- Signs and symptoms of the disease
- Areas in danger
- If medications or vaccinations are being distributed
- Where to seek medical attention if you become ill
- If you become aware of a suspicious substance, quickly get away.
- Cover your mouth and nose with layers of fabric that can filter the air but still allow breathing. Examples include two to three layers of cotton such as a t-shirt, handkerchief or towel.
- Depending on the situation, wear a face mask to reduce inhaling or spreading germs.
- If you have been exposed to a biological agent, remove and bag your clothes and personal items. Follow official instructions for disposal of contaminated items.
- Wash yourself with soap and water and put on clean clothes.
- Contact authorities and seek medical assistance. You may be advised to stay away from others or even to quarantine.
- If your symptoms match those described and you are in the group considered at risk, immediately seek emergency medical attention.
- Follow the instructions of doctors and other public health officials.
- Avoid crowds.
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently.
- Do not share food or utensils.
After a Biological Threat
Pay close attention to all official warnings and instructions on how to proceed. Medical services for a biological event may be handled differently due to increased demand.
The basic procedures and medical protocols for handling exposure to biological agents are the same as for any infectious disease.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a complete list of potential agents and diseases and the appropriate treatments.
Remain calm. Search social media (e.g. Twitter), listen to the radio, and check local news broadcasts for fire reports and evacuation information. Follow the advice given by authorities. (However, if you feel threatened, do not wait to leave.) Tell family and friends you may need to evacuate and let them know where you are going. Use your out-of-area contact card.
Put on protective clothing to protect your body and face from swift water debris. Pre-load your car with emergency supplies, vital records, and other valuables, following your evacuation plan. Face your vehicle in the direction of escape. Keep pets confined nearby. If you have livestock, implement your emergency plan.
Prepare a large note to post at your home that tells when you left and where you are going with a contact number. Place in a protective plastic page protector. If there is time:
- Close and lock all windows, close vents and all interior doors and shut off your utilities.
- Remove any household items that may be swept away in moving water. Place in a garage if available.
If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Do not wait.
Additional Evacuation Tips
- Turn off your home lights
- Lock your doors
- Post your prepared note on main entrance so it is easy to see
- Choose one of your evacuation routes away from flood hazards. Drive with your headlights on and watch for emergency vehicles
If your evacuation route(s) are flooding:
- Do not try to walk or drive through flooded areas. Water can be deeper than it appears and water levels rise quickly. Follow official emergency evacuation routes. If your car stalls in floodwater, get out quickly and move to higher ground.
- Stay away from moving water; moving water six inches deep can sweep you off your feet. Cars are easily swept away in just two feet of water.
- Stay away from downed power lines.
Make a Family Plan
Talk to all family members, including the little ones. You and your family might not be together during a disaster. Confirm all family members agree on an emergency plan. Give emergency information to babysitters or other caregivers that may come into your home. Verify family members know all the possible ways to get out of your home and keep all exits clear, just in case a nighttime evacuation is needed. Conduct your family plan drill every six months.
Have an Evacuation Plan
If you need to evacuate your house, determine a process for evacuating quickly. Practice the plan at least two times each year. Here are some things to consider when developing your evacuation plan:
- What are the items from your house you would need to collect during an emergency pre-evacuation or evacuation?
- Store copies of your vital records and lists, photos or videos of valuable items in a safety deposit box. Include updated insurance policies.
- What is your emergency plan for your pets and livestock?
- Designate a safety zone. What are the different routes out of the neighborhood to get to the safety zone? What if the planned evacuation routes are blocked by the emergency?
- Know where the nearest fire and police stations are located.
- Learn how to shut off your water, gas and electricity. Know where to find shut-off valves and switches.
- Keep a small amount of cash available. If the power is out, ATM machines won't work.
- Make copies of your vital records and store them in a safe deposit box in another city or state. Store the originals safely. Keep photos and videotapes of your home and valuables in your safe deposit box.
- Make sure everyone knows where everything is located and who would be responsible for getting what. Then - practice!
Know Your Neighbors
Your neighbors can be your best support system. In an emergency, first-responder agencies may be overwhelmed and may need help from trained volunteers. There are many ways you can get involved and support your community. Talk to your neighbors about planning for emergencies and how you can help neighbors who may need assistance, such as the elderly, people with infants or those with special health care needs. Talk with them about how you can work together - who might need help evacuating? Does anyone have health issues to consider?
- Learn about different ways to get involved: FEMA.gov Community Emergency Response Teams
Make a Shelter in Place Kit
Government agencies will respond to community disasters, but citizens may be on their own for hours, even days, after disaster strikes. You should be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for at least three days. In some emergencies, such as an influenza pandemic, you may need to prepare for a week or months.
Some examples of emergency kit supplies include:
- Dry or canned food and drinking water for each person
- Can opener
- First aid supplies and first aid book
- Copies of important documents such as birth certificates, licenses and insurance policies
- "Special needs" items for family members such as infant formula, eyeglasses and medications
- A change of clothing
- Sleeping bag or blanket
- Battery-powered radio or television
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Waterproof matches
- Toys, books, puzzles, games
- Extra house keys and car keys
- List of contact names and phone numbers
- Food, water and supplies for pets
Pack a Go Bag
Put together a 72-hour emergency "go-bag" supply kit. Include water, food, protective clothing, including sturdy shoes, cotton or wool clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, a handkerchief, medications, phone charger and travel toiletries. Store in easy-to-carry packs. Have children help put together go-bags (they may include some toys or a stuffed animal). Other suggestions on what to include in your kit can be found online. Be sure to include copies of personal documents and contact lists, necessary medications and extra cash. We know it can get expensive, so focus on the necessities first.
If you have special physical or medical needs, be sure to have an extra supply of medication and supplies to take with you. People with heart and lung diseases must be especially careful around wood smoke. Discuss your emergency plans with your medical provider.
Know How to Get in Contact with Loved Ones
If you are separated from your loved ones when disaster strikes, you will need a way to find out where they are. The stress of the event may make it difficult to remember even routine information, like phone numbers. Every household member should have an Out-of-Area Contact Card (PDF) in a wallet, purse, or backpack at all times.
- Ask an out-of-area family member or friend to be your contact person. This person should live at least 100 miles away from you, so they aren't involved in the same emergency. It may be difficult to make local calls because large numbers of people may be using the phone lines at the same time. However, you should be able to make long-distance calls.
- Make small cards with the contact person's name and phone number for all family members to carry in their wallets, purses or backpacks.
- Keep a phone that does not require electricity. Cordless phones use electricity-if the power is out, they will not work!
Here are steps you and your family can take to minimize harm and damage from a severe weather emergency.
Before the Storm
- Make a family storm plan: Talk to all family members, including the little ones. Figure out where in your house you would gather in a storm. Are there any items you would need to collect? What about things to bring from outside, including pets? Make sure everyone knows where everything is located and who would be responsible for getting what. Then - practice!
- Know your neighbors: Your neighbors can be your best support system, and you can help neighbors who may need assistance, such as the elderly, people with infants or those with special health care needs. Talk with them about how you can work together - who might need help evacuating? Does anyone have health issues to consider?
- Evaluate your house: Find out if your roof is hail and high-wind resistant. Are windows and doors built to withstand the weather and debris? And, just like we make sure our pipes can withstand cold Colorado winters, make sure your drains can withstand rainy springs and summers. Check your drains every spring to make sure they aren't blocked and are flowing away from the home.
- Trim your trees: Before a storm, make sure trees are trimmed to prevent branches from breaking and causing damage.
- Make an emergency preparedness kit: Suggestions on what to include in your kit can be found online. Be sure to include copies of personal documents and contact lists, necessary medications, and extra cash. We know it can get expensive, so focus on the necessities first.
During the Storm
- Seek shelter: Get and stay inside, on the lowest level of a building and away from windows. Close all curtains and blinds to prevent broken glass from entering. Do not use electrical equipment and telephones, and instead, opt for battery-powered objects. Do not shower, bathe or use plumbing. If you have a battery-powered radio, listen to the news for updates. The National Weather Service recommends staying indoors for at least 30 minutes after the last thunderclap.
- Slow or stop driving: If you're driving, try to find a safe, non-conductive overhang, like a bridge or overpass. If you can't, pull off the road, turn the car off and turn your back to the windows to protect yourself from glass. If you have a blanket, put that over you, and if you have children in the car, put yourself between them and the windows.
After the Storm
- Drive and travel safely: Do not drive through flooded roadways and stay away from storm-damaged areas. Avoid downed power lines and report them to your local power authority.
- Know heart attack signs: Heart attacks can occur during stressful situations. Make sure you know the signs of a heart attack and what to do if you or someone you know thinks they may be having one.
- Pay attention: Things can change quickly. Watch your family to make sure everyone is ok, and keep an eye on pets. Animals can behave strangely during weather events - make sure you have your pets under your direct control.
Extreme heat is defined as summertime temperatures that are much hotter and/or more humid than average. Heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion or heat stroke, happen when the body is not able to properly cool itself. While the body normally cools itself by sweating, during extreme heat, this might not be enough. In these cases, a person's body temperature rises faster than it can cool itself down. This can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs.
Generally, older adults, the very young, people with mental illness and chronic diseases and people living without air conditioning are at the highest risk for heat-related illness. However, heat can also affect young and healthy people if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.
To avoid illness from heat, public health officials recommend:
- Drink water to stay hydrated; don't wait until you're thirsty. Avoid sugary drinks or alcohol, as they cause the loss of body fluid.
- Stay in an air-conditioned area, such as a shopping mall or library. Even a few hours in an air-conditioned environment can keep the body cool.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.
- Limit outdoor activity to when it's coolest.
- Avoid preparing or eating hot meals; they add to body heat.
- Provide pets with plenty of fresh water.
- Visit those who are at greater risk at least twice daily, and watch them closely for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Wildfires threaten lives and destroy homes and natural resources. You can take action now to help save lives and help prevent or reduce damage caused by wildfires.
When a Wildfire Threatens
Remain calm. Search social media (e.g., Twitter), listen to the radio and/or check local news broadcasts for fire reports and evacuation information. Follow the advice given by authorities. (However, if you feel threatened, do not wait to leave.) Tell family and friends you may need to evacuate and let them know where you are going. Use your out-of-area contact card.
Put on protective clothing to protect your body, face and lungs. Pre-load your car with emergency supplies, vital records and other valuables, following your evacuation plan. Face your vehicle in the direction of escape. Keep pets confined nearby. If you have livestock, implement your emergency plan.
Prepare a large note to post at your home that tells when you left and where you are going with a contact number. Place it in a protective plastic page protector. If there is time, close and lock all windows, close vents and all interior doors, remove lightweight curtains and shut off your gas utilities. Remove any planted pots, patio furniture or clutter from your deck and place in a garage, if available.
If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Do not wait.
Other Tips for Evacuation:
- Turn off your home lights.
- Lock your doors.
- Post your prepared note on the main entrance so it is easy to see.
- Turn on your emergency exterior sprinkler system, if available.
- Choose one of your evacuation routes away from fire hazards. Drive with your headlights on and watch for emergency vehicles.
- If your evacuation route(s) are burning, stay in your car or home. Do not attempt to escape on foot as the smoke and flames are more dangerous. Call 911 and let responders know your exact location. Be proactive to get safe.
- Do not attempt to re-enter the area until firefighters have declared it safe.
Preparedness is key to staying safe and healthy this winter. Check out the tips below for preparing your vehicle and home, and how to handle snowstorms before and after they come your way. You can also find helpful information on what to include in your vehicle survival kit and home supply kit.
- Winterize your car, including a battery check, antifreeze, oil level and tires. Check the thermostat, ignition system, lights, hazard lights, exhaust system, heater, defroster and brakes. Snow tires are recommended, and chains may be required in certain conditions - especially in the mountains. Always keep your gas tank at least half full.
- Snowy or icy roads cause hazardous driving conditions. Before the first big storm, check your tires for tread, change your tires to snow tires or make certain you have chains in your vehicle.
- If you are stuck in your car, run the motor for 10 minutes each hour for heat. Make sure that your tailpipe is clear of snow. Make yourself visible to rescuers by turning on the dome light at night when running the engine, or by tying a brightly colored cloth to your antenna.
- Remember, the 4-wheel drive does not mean your vehicle will not slide. Use caution and drive at slower speeds when roads are snow-packed and/or icy.
- If you do get stranded, do not leave your vehicle. Call 911 for assistance. Having some cat litter to put at the base of your tires may help you regain traction to get back on the road.
- For road conditions, call 303-639-1111 or visit COtrip.
- Cold temperatures can freeze pipes, sometimes causing them to burst. Insulate pipes in crawl spaces and be certain to blow out pipes for outdoor hoses. To keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspaper, then cover with plastic to keep out moisture.
- If you use a wood-burning stove for heat, be certain you have the chimney cleaned and checked for obstructions before using it.
- Be familiar with winter storm watch and warning messages.
- Service snow removal equipment and have rock salt on hand to melt ice on walkways and sand or kitty litter to generate temporary traction.
- Insulate walls and attic.
- Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
- Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
- Locate water valves and know how to shut them off, if necessary.
- Have extra blankets and alternate heat sources available at your residence in the case of a long power outage. Small outdoor generators can power a space heater for a few hours. Wood-burning stoves/ fireplaces are also excellent sources for heat. Be sure to have extra firewood and/or pellets for your stove.
- Stock up on non-perishable foods and water in case you do get snowed in at your residence for an extended period.
- Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit - also known as a 72-hour kit - with items you may need if advised to evacuate. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks, duffle bags or trash containers. There is an endless number of these kits for purchase, but one of the simplest ways to do this is to create your own and have a separate bag/pack/container for each person. Keep each kit in a place where it will be easy to locate at a moment's notice.
Winter Vehicle Survival Kit
Here's what you need:
- a shovel
- battery-powered radio
- blankets and/or sleeping bag (non-cotton if possible)
- booster cables
- cell phone adapter to plug into lighter
- emergency flares and reflectors
- extra hats, socks and mittens
- fire extinguisher
- first aid kit with pocket knife
- flashlight with extra batteries (some flashlights use body heat to light up)
- fluorescent distress flag and whistle to attract attention
- hand/feet warmers
- matches and small candles
- necessary medications
- pen, sharpie marker and letter size paper to write emergency messages
- road salt, sand or cat litter for traction
- snack food and energy bars (preferably ones that don't freeze-Lara bars is one example)
- tow chain and/or rope
- windshield scraper and small broom
Disaster Home Supply Kit
Here is a sample list of items to consider placing in your kit:
- address and phone numbers
- aluminum foil
- baby supplies
- batteries for hearing aids
- battery information for wheelchairs
- battery-powered radio
- emergency candles
- extra clothing
- extra eyeglasses/contact lenses
- list of medications and essential medications
- manual can opener
- non-perishable food (energy bars, canned meats, juice, fruits and vegetables, powdered milk, infant foods, crackers, peanut butter, freeze-dried and dehydrated goods)
- paper/plastic cups, plates and utensils as well as paper towels
- pen and paper
- personal toiletries
- plastic bags and ties
- plastic bucket with tight lid (make-shift toilet)
- rope or cord
- sleeping bags and blankets (wool or thermal)
- small cooler and ice packs for medications
- supplies for service animals (license vaccinations certificate and food)
- toilet paper
- utility knife and basic tools
- water (one gallon/person/day)
- water purification tablets
- waterproof matches
- work gloves
CodeRED La Plata County
CodeRED sends voice or text updates on your cell phone, or voice-over-Internet phone, from local emergency response teams in the event of emergency situations or critical community alerts.
Citizens Alert Archuleta County
Nixle Alerts can be sent via text, email, voice, web, social media, and the Nixle Mobile App to alert residents in real time for localized emergency situations and relevant community advisories.