Given the busy lives we lead, planning for an emergency may not be at the top of your To Do list. However, given the one of driest winters on record, fire managers are preparing for an intense fire season ahead. The Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) program at San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) can help you prepare for the upcoming fire season and other emergency preparedness plans.

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? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of U.S. adults do not have resources and plans in place in the event of an emergency, and 48 percent of Americans do not have emergency supplies.

The most important step you can take in helping local police, fire, and EMS is being able to take care of yourself and those you care about for at least a short time following an incident; the more prepared community members are, the quicker our community can recover.

In the event that you need to evacuate your home, please consider the following list:

  • At least a three day supply of food and water.
    • One gallon of water per person per day
    • Foods that are easy to make and won’t spoil
    • A manual can opener
  • A three day supply of all medicines at a minimum
  • Personal care items, such as soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, glasses or contact lenses
  • Flashlights, radios, cellphone chargers, and extra batteries
  • First aid kit, emergency blanket
  • Copies of important documents
  • Extra cash
  • Don’t forget your pets and supplies for your furry family members

Additionally, consider how you would communicate with family members in the midst of an emergency and establish a safe location to meet up.

At San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH), our Emergency Preparedness and Response staff continually work to plan, train, and exercise for a range emergencies and disasters in our communities. These could include fires, floods, disease outbreaks, and terrorism, as well as others. EPR is a core public health service mandated by the state, and key principles of this are woven into all SJBPH programs.

SJBPH’s EPR program works to ensure that local residents have access to basic everyday necessities not only during an emergency, but also the resources and information needed to withstand, adapt, and recover from emergencies as well.  Working with the Southwest Colorado Healthcare Coalition (SWCHCC), which is a collaboration of healthcare organizations, providers, public health departments, emergency medical services, emergency management agencies, and community partners, SJBPH enhances regional preparedness and response capabilities.

As we enter into this year’s wildfire season, SJBPH leans upon the lessons learned during our response to the Lightner Creek Fire in July of 2018. The agency’s considerations during this event were to provide community guidance on evacuations, special medical and assistance needs, air quality information, and to support and find resources for facility evacuations.  By utilizing our healthcare coalition, SJBPH was able to coordinate transferring patients from an assisted living facility to unaffected facilities in the region.  Agency staff coordinated re-entry information for evacuees, smoke advisories, air quality advisories, and pharmaceutical needs for evacuees who may have their homes left without medications.

The SJBPH EPR program serves Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Juan counties, and provides support to the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes in its effort to build community resilience through emergency preparedness.

For more information please see SJBPH’s website at