Category: Hazards

Hazards

Bombs and Explosives

A terrorist attack on the United States remains a significant and pressing threat. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) remain the terrorist weapon of choice due to their relative ease of construction, availability, and destructive capacity.

An improvised explosive device attack is the use of a “homemade” bomb and/or destructive device to destroy, incapacitate, harass or distract. IEDs can come in many forms, ranging from a small pipe bomb to a sophisticated device capable of causing massive damage and loss of life. IEDs may be surrounded by or packed with additional materials or “enhancements” such as nails, glass, or metal fragments designed to increase the amount of shrapnel propelled by the explosion. Enhancements may also include other elements such as hazardous materials.

Nevertheless, there are things you can do to prepare for the unexpected. Explore the information below to learn about the preparedness measures you can take and how to be proactive if you see something suspicious!

Cover photo courtesy of FEMA/Andrea Booher

Banner photo courtesy of the FBI

Within text photo courtesy of FEMA/News Photo

Before

The number one way to protect yourself and others from an IED attack is to be aware of your surroundings and to report anything that is out of the ordinary.

Steps to Take if You See Something Suspicious

“If you see something, say something!” It can be difficult to determine when to report something suspicious. People most familiar with a given environment are in the best position to determine whether or not something seems suspicious.

Follow the guidelines below:

  • Trust your instincts – if something feels wrong, don’t ignore it.
  • Do not assume that someone else has already reported it.
  • Call local authorities.
  • Keep your distance from a suspicious package – do not approach or tamper with it.
  • When you make a report, be ready to provide your name and location, a description of what you think is suspicious, and the time you saw it. The responding officer will assess the situation, ensure the area is evacuated and call for appropriate personnel and equipment. 

Make a Personal Plan for Response

Preparation is key!  Everyone can take the following steps to prepare for an IED attack:

  • Learn the emergency procedures at your place of work, any other sites you visit regularly, and any public transportation systems you use. Communication systems may be inoperable in an emergency, so you should be familiar with what steps to take.
  • Know how to get out of the area. If you work far from home, plan backups to get home if the usual modes of transit are not operating.
  • Know the routes to hospitals in your community.
  • Take a first aid course.
  • Make a family emergency plan ─ remember that family members may be in separate locations at the time of an attack.
  • Designate an “out-of-area” contact, and make sure that everyone in your family has that individual’s phone number.
  • Have an emergency supply kit at work and at home that includes water and non-perishable food to last at least three days, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, flashlights, and batteries.

During

If you are at the immediate site of an IED attack, your top priority is to get out of the area. This increases your safety in case a secondary device is present in the area and minimizes your exposure to dust, smoke, and any hazardous substances that may have been released as a result of the blast. This also allows emergency responders to find and assist the most critically injured victims.

Click here to learn more about the steps you can take in different situations during an IED attack.

After

Some health effects caused by IEDs, including eye injuries and abdominal injuries, may not be apparent initially, but can cause symptoms and even fatalities hours to months after the event. Seek medical attention if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Additionally, psychological effects in survivors, first responders, and others may be present and are not unusual in the aftermath of a high-casualty event. Assistance from mental health professionals may be necessary.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Ready.gov – Explosions
  • Colorado Information Analysis Center
  • Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab (The CELL)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Mass Casualty Event Preparedness and Response
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Preparing for a Bombing
  • Department of Homeland Security

Fast Facts:

  • Explosives are one of the most frequently used weapons by terrorists.
  • Many commonly available materials, such as fertilizer, gunpowder, and hydrogen peroxide, can be used as explosive materials in IEDs.
  • The term IED came into common usage during the Iraq War that began in 2003.
  • A known bomber tactic is to use a distraction, such as gunfire or small bombs, to attract bystanders to a window, a doorway, or outside, and then detonate a second destructive device at the gathering point.

Terrorism

Past terrorist attacks have left many concerned about the possibility of future incidents of terrorism in the United States and their potential impact.  A terrorist attack on the U.S. remains a significant and pressing threat.  Terrorist operations usually begin with extensive planning and can happen anytime, anywhere, but you can help prevent and detect terrorism by watching out for suspicious activities and by reporting them to the proper authorities. Be alert for the eight signs of terrorism, which can be found below!

Cover photo courtesy of FEMA/Andrea Booher

Banner photo courtesy of FEMA/Lauren Hobart

Within text photo courtesy of FEMA/Jocelyn Augustino

Before

8 Signs of Terrorism

Surveillance: Terrorists may conduct surveillance to determine a target’s strengths and weaknesses. Be aware of someone who appears to be monitoring security personnel or equipment, or gauging emergency response time.  Suspicious activities may include using vision enhancing devices or cameras, acquiring floor plans or blueprints, drawing diagrams and showing interest in security and access to facilities.

Elicitation: People or organizations attempting to gain information about military operations, capabilities, or people. Elicitation attempts may be made by mail, email, telephone, in person or even by gaining employment at the location.

Tests of Security: Any attempt to measure reaction times to security breaches, attempts to penetrate physical security barriers, or monitor procedures in order to assess strengths and weaknesses.

Funding: Terrorists need to raise money for their operations and spend it in a way that doesn’t draw attention.  Be aware of unusually large transactions paid with cash or gift cards, collections for donations and solicitations for money. 

Supplies: To conduct an attack, terrorists may need a variety of supplies, such as weapons, uniforms, badges, and communication systems.

Impersonation: Terrorists may impersonate law enforcement officers, firefighters, mail carriers, or company employees to gain information. Someone who seems suspicious in what they say or do on the job could be a red flag.

Rehearsal: Terrorists often rehearse a planned attack to make sure their operation runs smoothly. This may include measuring response time by emergency responders, mapping routes and determining the timing of traffic lights.

Deployment: This is when terrorists are putting their plans into place, getting into position, and moving equipment and supplies.  If you observe this type of activity, this is your last chance to alert authorities before the attack is launched.  If you believe there is imminent danger, call 911 immediately.

VIDEO: Recognizing the 8 Signs of Terrorism

See Something, Say Something!

The nationwide “If You See Something, Say Something” public awareness campaign was created to raise public awareness of indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime, and to emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious activity to the proper local law enforcement authorities. If you see something suspicious taking place, report the behavior or activity to local law enforcement.  In the event of an emergency, call 9-1-1. Factors such as race, ethnicity, national origin, or religious affiliation alone are not suspicious.  Never try to handle or intervene in the situation on your own – let trained authorities handle the situation.

Recognizing Suspicious People

Suspicious people may often be identified by their behavior. While no one behavioral activity is proof that someone is planning to act inappropriately, these factors can help you assess whether someone poses a threat.

Behavioral factors to watch for include:

  • Nervousness or other signs of mental discomfort.  This may include sweating or “tunnel vision” (staring forward inappropriately).
  • Inappropriate, oversize, loose-fitting clothes (i.e. a heavy overcoat on a warm day).
  • Keeping hands in pockets or cupping hands (i.e. holding a triggering device).
  • Constantly favoring one side or one area of the body as if wearing something unusual/uncomfortable (i.e. a holster). Pay attention to someone who is constantly adjusting waistbands, ankles, or other clothing. Suicide bombers have been known to repeatedly pat themselves to verify that the bomb vest or belt is still attached.

During

  • Remain as calm as possible.
  • Follow the instructions of local emergency officials.
  • If you are in the immediate vicinity, check yourself and others for injuries. If you are not injured, give first aid and get help for seriously injured people.
  • If you are not in the immediate area, do not move to the scene of the incident.
  • Listen to your radio or television for news to obtain information.
  • Call your family contact; do not use the telephone again unless it is a life-threatening emergency.

After

An act of terrorism may have wide-spread and devastating results.

You should be prepared for the following:

  • Heavy law enforcement presence in surrounding areas.
  • Extensive media coverage for a prolonged period of time.
  • Workplace and school closures.
  • Restrictions on domestic and international travel.
  • Clean-up make take months.
  • Psychological effects in survivors, first responders, and others may be present and are not unusual in the aftermath of a high-casualty event. Assistance from mental health professionals may be necessary.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
  • Colorado Information Analysis Center
  • Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab (The CELL)
  • National Terrorism Advisory System
  • Red Cross – Terrorism Preparedness
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Security Management
  • FEMA
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation – Najibullah Zazi Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Use Explosives Against Persons or Property in U.S., Conspiracy to Murder Abroad, and Providing Material Support to al Qaeda

It Happened Here

Najibullah Zazi, a citizen of Afghanistan and a legal resident of the United States, plotted to bomb the New York City subway system in September 2009.  In January 2009, Zazi moved to Colorado and worked as a shuttle bus driver at the Denver International Airport.  On Sept. 8, 2009, Zazi drove from Denver to New York, taking with him the explosives and other materials necessary to build the bombs.  Zazi and others intended to obtain and assemble the remaining components of the bombs over the weekend and conduct the attack on the Manhattan subway system on September 14, 15 or 16, 2009.  However, shortly after arriving in New York, Zazi realized that law enforcement was investigating his activities. Zazi and others discarded the explosives and other bomb-making materials, and Zazi traveled back to Denver.  He was arrested on Sept. 19, 2009.

Fast Facts:

  • In 2012, there were 6,771 terrorist attacks worldwide.
  • The word “terrorism” first appeared in France (terrorisme) in 1795.
  • A terrorist can be an individual or part of an organization.
  • If you see something, say something!

Cyber Crime

Cyber crime is one of the fastest growing areas of crime.  Our daily lives, economic growth, and national security depend on a stable, safe, and resilient cyberspace. We rely on this vast array of networks to communicate and travel, power our homes and run our economy.  Yet cyber crimes have increased over the last decade, exposing sensitive personal and business information, disrupting critical operations, and imposing high costs on the economy.  More and more criminals are exploiting the speed, convenience and anonymity that modern technologies offer in order to commit a diverse range of criminal activities. These include attacks against computer data and systems, identity theft, as well as the deployment of viruses, and various email scams such as phishing.  Additionally, the threat of terrorism forces authorities to address security vulnerabilities related to information technology infrastructure such as power plants, electrical grids, information systems and the computer systems of government and major companies. Cyber crime even encompasses the realms of cyber bullies and cyber predators. 

Although cyber crime is a serious concern, learning about the risks is the first step to protecting yourself.  Explore the information below to learn more about what you can do to stay safe online!

Cover photo courtesy of Interpol

Banner photo courtesy of the DHS

Within text photo courtesy of the FBI

Before

While cyber crime encompasses a number of different areas, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family before an incident occurs.

Protecting yourself against cyber criminals:

  • Use and regularly update antivirus and antispyware software on all your electronic devices.
  • Keep your internet browsers up to date.
  • Only connect to the Internet over secure, password protected networks.
  • Do not click on links or pop-ups, open attachments, or respond to emails from unknown individuals.
  • Always enter a URL by hand instead of following links if you are unsure of the sender.
  • Do not respond to online requests for personal information; most organizations such as banks, universities, and companies do not ask for your personal information over the Internet.
  • Limit who you are sharing information with by reviewing the privacy settings on your social media accounts.
  • Trust your gut; if you think an offer is too good to be true, then it probably is.
  • Password protect all devices that connect to the Internet and user accounts.
  • Use strong passwords. Strong passwords use letters, numbers, and symbols, and are easy to remember, but difficult to guess. 
  • Do not use the same password twice and change them frequently. 
  • If you see something suspicious, report it to the proper authorities.

Protecting yourself against cyber predators:

  • Never share your personal information with someone you don’t know.
  • Do not post personal information, such as your phone number or email address on social media sites.
  • Do not meet with people in person with whom your only contact has been online.
  • Avoid any sort of sexual talk online.
  • Use privacy settings to restrict who can see your online profile.

Protecting yourself against cyber bullies:

  • If you are bullied online or on your phone, ignore it. Bullies look for a response, and ignoring it will help it to stop.
  • Block or delete any cyber bullies from your social media profiles.
  • Stand up for others being bullied. Bullies will usually stop if another person steps in to stop it.
  • If you are a parent, talk to your kids about cyber bullying and its effects. Teach your children good online etiquette and be a good example to them.

During

The following are immediate actions to take if you encounter instances of cyber crime:

If you suspect you’ve been a victim of cyber theft or intrusion:

  • Check to make sure the software on all of your systems is up-to-date.
  • Run a scan to make sure your system is not infected or acting suspiciously.
  • If you find a problem, disconnect your device from the Internet and perform a full system restore.

If you believe your personal information is compromised:

  • Immediately change all passwords; financial passwords first. If you used the same password for multiple resources, make sure to change it for each account, and do not use that password in the future.
  • If you believe the compromise was caused by malicious code, disconnect your computer from the Internet.
  • Restart your computer in safe mode and perform a full system restore.
  • Contact banks where you have accounts, as well as credit reporting companies.
  • Close any accounts that may have been compromised. Watch for any unexplainable or unauthorized charges to your accounts.

If you encounter a cyber predator:

  • Immediately cease contact with the individual.
  • Report the incident to local law enforcement.

If you are a victim of cyber bullying:

  • Report the bully to an adult or other authority. While fear may make it difficult to report the problem, talking to someone about it will help it stop.
  • Block or delete the bully from any social media or other types of contact.
  • Do your best to ignore instances of bullying.

After

There are steps you can take after an incident of cyber crime to help prevent becoming a victim a second time.

If you are a victim of cyber crime:

  • File a report with the local police so there is an official record of the incident.
  • Report online crime or fraud to your local United States Secret Service (USSS) Electronic Crimes Task Force or the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
  • If your PII was compromised, consider other information that may be at risk. Depending what information was stolen, you may need to contact other agencies, such as the Social Security Administration.
  • For further information on preventing and identifying threats, visit US-CERT’s Alerts and Tips page.

If you are a victim of a cyber predator:

  • Make sure to file a report with your local police department. If the victim was a child, also report the incident to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
  • Take steps in the future to protect your personal information (see before tab).

If you are a victim of cyber bullying:

  • Make sure you report the bullying to authorities. 
  • Do your best to avoid the bullies in the future.
  • Talk about the issue with your parents or other adults. They can assist you in stopping the problem and help you cope. 

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Ready.gov – Cyber Attack
  • United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team
  • Internet Crime Complaint Center
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security Stop.Think.Connect.
  • Interpol
  • FBI – Cyber Crime
  • STOP. THINK. CONNECT. 

Cyber Bullying Research Center

  • The Cyberbullying Research Center is dedicated to providing up-to-date information about the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying, and the negative use of social networking among adolescents. This web site provides cyberbullying research, stories, cases, downloads, fact sheets, online quizzes, tips and strategies, news headlines, a blog, and a number of other helpful resources on their comprehensive public service web site.
  • Report Cyberbullying or inappropriate conduct to social media sites, search engines, cell phone providers, internet providers, and internet games.  

Cyber-Safety Action Guide

  • A tool created by the Anti-Defamation League. Click the links for various online companies and social media sites to learn their general hate speech policies, cyberbullying/harassment policies, and how to report hate speech, cyberbullying, and harassment. 

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Consumer Privacy and Identity Information

  • This website contains information on computer security, kids’ online safety, protecting your identity, and repairing identity theft. 
  • Safeguarding Your Child’s Future – An FTC Document on how to protect your child’s identify from identity thieves. 

Internet Safety 101

  • Supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) this information is produced by Enough Is Enough (EIE), a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, emerged in 1994 as the national leader on the front lines to make the Internet safer for children and families. Since then, EIE has pioneered and led the effort to confront online pornography, child pornography, child stalking and sexual predation with innovative initiatives and effective communications.

Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids about Being Online

  • A booklet published by the FTC designed to offer parents practical tips on helping their children navigate the online world. 

NetSmartz

  • The Netsmartz Workshop is an interactive, educational safety resource from the National Center for missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) for children aged 5 to 17, parents, guardians, educators, and law enforcement that uses age-appropriate, 3-D activities to teach children how to stay safe on the Internet. 

Safe Online Surfing (SOS)

  • This site, launched by the FBI in 2012, is a site where website where students can learn about cyber safety through games, videos, and other interactive features. It teaches kids in third through eighth grades how to recognize and respond to online dangers such as cyberbullying, online predators, and identity thieves.

StaySafeOnline.org

  • Created by the National Cyber Security Alliance, this site provides tools to teach online safety, tips on how to stay safe online, and information on how to protect your business. 

OnGuardOnline.gov

  • A website created by the Federal Trade Commission that offers information on how to avoid scams, protect kids online, secure your computer, and browse the internet safely. 

Cyber Security Tip Sheets

  • Ten Cybersecurity Tips for Small Business – Stop. Think. Connect. – Department of Homeland Security
  • Small Business Cybersecurity Tip Card – Stop. Think. Connect. – Department of Homeland Security
  • Government Cybersecurity Tip Card – Stop. Think. Connect. – Department of Homeland Security 
  • Rules ‘n Tools Checklist – Internet Safety Tool for Parents – Internet Safety 101
  • Cyber Tips for Older Americans – Stop. Think. Connect. – Department of Homeland Security
  • Cybersecurity for Kids Tip Card – Stop. Think. Connect. – Department of Homeland Security 
  • Grades K-8 Student Tip Card – Stop. Think. Connect. – Department of Homeland Security 
  • Grades 9-12 Student Tip Card – Stop. Think. Connect. – Department of Homeland Security
  • College Student Tip Card – Stop. Think. Connect. – Department of Homeland Security

Internet Safety Pledges – From Netsmartz

  • Primary
  • Intermediate
  • Middle and High School

Active Shooter

An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.  In most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims. Because active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, before law enforcement arrives on the scene, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.

Nevertheless, there are things you can do to prepare for the unexpected.  Preparing for such events will reduce the stress that you may feel now, and later, should another emergency arise.  Explore the information below to see how you can better prepare yourself for these types of situations!

Cover photo courtesy of the DHS

Banner photo and photo within text courtesy of the FBI

Before

Key Considerations of the Active Shooter

  • There is no one demographic profile of an active shooter.
  • Many active shooters display observable pre-attack behaviors, which, if recognized, can lead to the disruption of the planned attack.
  • The pathway to targeted violence typically involves an unresolved real or perceived grievance and an ideation of a violent resolution that eventually moves from thought to research, planning, and preparation.
  • Bystanders generally represent the greatest opportunity for the detection and recognition of an active shooter prior to his or her attack.
  • Concerning active shooters, a person who makes a threat is rarely the same as the person who poses a threat.
  • Successful threat management of a person of concern often involves long-term caretaking and coordination between law enforcement, mental health care, and social services.
  • Exclusionary interventions (i.e. expulsion, termination) do not necessarily represent the end of threat-management efforts.
  • While not every active shooter can be identified prior to attacking, many potential active shooters who appear to be on a pathway toward violence can be stopped.

Steps to Take if You See Someone or Something Suspicious

“If you see something, say something!” It can be difficult to determine when to report someone or something suspicious. People most familiar with a given environment are in the best position to determine whether or not something seems out of the ordinary. 

  • Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.
  • Trust your instincts ─ if something feels wrong, don’t ignore it.
  • Take note and ensure that the facility you’re at has at least two evacuation routes.
  • Post evacuation routes in visible locations throughout the facility (i.e. work).
  • Encourage law enforcement, emergency responders, SWAT teams, K-9 teams, and bomb squads to train for an active shooter scenario at your location.
  • Do not assume that someone else has already reported the suspicious activity. 
  • Call local authorities.  When you make a report, be ready to provide your name and location, a description of what you think is suspicious, and the time you saw it. The responding officer will assess the situation, ensure the area is evacuated and call for appropriate personnel and equipment.

During

Evacuate

If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises.

Be sure to:

  • Have an escape route and plan in mind. Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
  • Leave your belongings behind.
  • Help others escape, if possible.
  • Prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
  • Keep your hands visible.
  • Follow the instructions of any police officers.
  • Do not attempt to move wounded people.
  • Call 911 when you are safe.

Hide Out

If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you.

Your hiding place should:

  • Be out of the active shooter’s view.
  • Provide protection if shots are fired in your direction (i.e., an office with a closed and locked door).
  • Not trap you or restrict your options for movement. 

To prevent an active shooter from entering your hiding place, lock the door and blockade with heavy furniture.

If the active shooter is nearby:

  • Silence your cell phone and/or pager.
  • Turn off any source of noise (i.e., radios, televisions).
  • Hide behind large items (i.e., cabinets, desks).
  • Remain quiet.

If evacuation and hiding out are not possible:

  • Remain calm and dial 911, if possible, to alert police to the active shooter’s location.
  • If you cannot speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen.

Take Action

As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter by:

  • Acting as aggressively as possible against him/her.
  • Throwing items and improvising weapons.
  • Committing to your actions.

How to react when law enforcement arrives:

  • Remain calm, and follow officers’ instructions.
  • Put down any items in your hands (i.e., bags, jackets).
  • Immediately raise hands and spread fingers.
  • Keep hands visible at all times.
  • Avoid making quick movements toward officers.
  • Avoid pointing, screaming and/or yelling.
  • Do not stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating, just proceed in the direction from which officers are entering the premises. 

The first officers to arrive to the scene will not stop to help injured persons; their main goal is to locate and stop the active shooter. Expect rescue teams comprised of additional officers and emergency medical personnel to follow the initial officers. These rescue teams will treat and remove any injured persons. They may also call upon able-bodied individuals to assist in removing the wounded from the premises. 

After

  • Once you have reached a safe location or an assembly point, you will likely be held in that area by law enforcement until the situation is under control, and all witnesses have been identified and questioned. Do not leave until law enforcement authorities have instructed you to do so.
  • Psychological effects in survivors, first responders, and others may be present and are not unusual in the aftermath of a high-casualty event. Assistance from mental health professionals may be necessary.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Active Shooter Preparedness
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation – Active Shooter

It Happened Here

On July 20, 2012, a mass shooting occurred inside a movie theater in Aurora during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. A gunman, dressed in tactical clothing, set off tear gas grenades and shot into the audience with multiple firearms, killing 12 people and injuring dozens of others.

Fast Facts:

  • The shooter often stops as soon as he/she hears or sees law enforcement.
  • In 10% of the cases, the shooter stops and walks away. In 20% of the cases, the shooter moves to another location.
  • 2% of the shooters bring improvised explosive devices as an additional weapon.
  • The average active shooter incident lasts 12 minutes. 37% last less than 5 minutes.

Infrastructure Failure

Gas

Pure natural gas is colorless and odorless. Scents are usually added to assist in identifying leaks. This odor commonly takes the form of a rotting egg aroma. Persons detecting the odor should immediately evacuate the area. Do not start a fire or use sparking electrical equipment. As a result of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 passed in the United States, Federal safety standards require companies providing natural gas to conduct safety inspections for gas leaks in homes and other buildings receiving natural gas. The gas company is required to inspect gas meters and inside gas piping from the point of entry into the building to the outlet side of the gas meter for gas leaks.

Power

The loss of electrical power for a long enough time would be expected to cause a certain proportion of affected persons to undergo serious hardships ─ particularly those who have special medical needs or disabilities. Shortages of certain types of goods or services may affect Colorado, even if the blackout itself is not directly experienced here. Similarly, gaps in communication, information, or service networks may have an effect well beyond the actual area that lacks electrical power.

Water

Water is an essential part of every community.  It is a necessary component of producing sectors, a key ingredient to sustaining life for its population, and is indispensable to fire protection and other specialized uses. The reality is that Colorado is far from 100% self-sufficient in its fresh water supplies. Moreover, waterways that import water into the region are vulnerable to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, technological accidents, and regulatory changes.  A major disruption of these external water supplies could potentially have devastating effects on the economy and the quality of life of its people.

Banner photo courtesy of FEMA/Wendell Davis

Within text photo courtesy of FEMA/Norman Lenburg

Before

Gas

Be aware of your surroundings and note things such as:

  • A damaged connection to a gas appliance.
  • Dirt or water being blown into the air.
  • Dead or dying vegetation (in an otherwise moist area) over or near pipeline areas.
  • A fire or explosion near a pipeline.
  • Exposed pipeline after an earthquake, fire, flood or other disaster.
  • An unusual sound, such as a hissing, whistling or roaring sound near a gas line or appliance.
  • The distinctive odor of natural gas.

Power

  • Along with a supply of water, flashlights with extra batteries are essential home emergency supplies. More powerful battery-powered lanterns also are a wise investment.
  • Portable generators are increasingly popular and invaluable during a power outage, but they emit deadly carbon monoxide gas and must be used properly. Never use generators indoors. Always place them at least 15 feet from doors and windows.
  • Some families use dry ice for refrigeration following an outage. Families with members who have power-dependent health needs (i.e. oxygen, dialysis) should have an emergency plan in place at all times.

Water

  • Families should have enough bottled water on hand at any time to get through a water outage lasting up to 72 hours. According to federal standards, that is at least one gallon per person, per day, for drinking and sanitation. If you are a pet owner, purchase and store extra water for your pets. Count a pet as a person when figuring how much water you need.
  • If you are an elderly individual or a person with disabilities, ask a family member or a friend to purchase extra water for you at the store. Conversely, if you have vulnerable relatives or neighbors, make sure they have extra water. Do not wait until an outage occurs!
  • A tip for citizens on the municipal water system: During an outage, pour water down your toilet bowl to manually flush it. Consider purchasing additional water strictly for flushing. In the winter time, snow is a great resource during a water outage. Melt snow in large pans and use the melted snow rather than purchased water to flush your toilets.

During

Gas

  • Remain calm.
  • Don’t light matches, candles, or cigarettes.
  • Don’t turn electrical appliances or lights on or off or use any device that could cause a spark.
  • Immediately evacuate the area.

Power

  • Fire officials strongly discourage the use of candles during a power outage because of the risk of fire.

Keep food as safe as possible by:

  • Keeping refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. First use perishable food from the refrigerator. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about 4 hours.
  • Then use food from the freezer. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
  • Using your non-perishable foods and staples after using food from the refrigerator and freezer.
  • If it looks like the power outage will continue beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items.
  • Keep food in a dry, cool spot and keep it covered at all times.

Be safe with electrical equipment by:

  • Turning off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment, including sensitive electronics.
  • Turning off or disconnect any appliances (like stoves), equipment or electronics you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
  • Leave one light turned on so you’ll know when the power comes back on.
  • Eliminating unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads will be congested.
  • When using a portable generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a portable generator to a home’s electrical system. If you are considering getting a generator, get advice from a professional, such as an electrician. Make sure that the generator you purchase is rated for the power that you think you will need.

Water

  • Reduce your consumption and water usage.
  • Water contaminated with fuel or toxic chemicals will not be made safe by boiling or disinfection. Use a different source of water if you know or suspect that water might be contaminated with fuel or toxic chemicals.
  • If you don’t have safe bottled water, you should boil water to make it safe. Boiling is the surest method to make water safer to drink by killing disease-causing organisms, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites

After

Gas

  • Open windows and doors to air out any enclosed areas.
  • Make sure any necessary repairs are completed.

Power

  • Do not touch any electrical power lines and keep your family away from them. Report downed power lines to the appropriate officials in your area.
  • Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40° F (4° C) for two hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out!
  • Never taste food or rely on appearance or odor to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been at room temperature too long, bacteria causing foodborne illnesses can start growing quickly. Some types of bacteria produce toxins that cannot be destroyed by cooking.
  • If food in the freezer is colder than 40° F and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it
  • If you are not sure if food is cold enough, take its temperature with the food thermometer. Throw out any foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been exposed to temperatures higher than 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture, or feels warm to touch.

Water

  • There will likely be air in your water service piping causing cloudiness and/or could be discolored due to particles that dislodge during the filling of the water pipes.  The water is safe to use even if discolored.
  • It is a good idea to flush your system through a faucet that does not have an aerator screen such as an outside water faucet or bath tub cold water faucet by allowing the water to flow until clear water returns. If the water has not cleared after several minutes, call the local water district.
  • If kitchen or bathroom faucets do not perform normally following a water outage, it is most likely due to debris in the aerator screen.  Simply remove the aerator screen, clean it, then return it to the faucet and check for normal operation.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Ready.gov – Blackouts
  • Department of Energy
  • American Society of Civil Engineers
  • Frequently Asked Questions : Water Infrastructure & Sustainability
  • U.S. Department of Transportation: The State of the Nation Pipeline Infrastructure

Fast Facts:

  • Aging gas infrastructure comes with risk of corrosion, damage, leaks, and collapse.
  • Water pipes can last between 15 and 100 years, depending on maintenance.
  • Much of our water infrastructure was built following World War II
  • Water treatment plants have about 20-50 years of use before they need to be expanded or rehabilitated.
  • Blackouts don’t just leave homes dark ─ they can also shut down transportation, hospitals and other critical necessities
  • There are more than 450,000 miles of high voltage power lines in the U.S., which connect some 5,800 major power plants to populations and that doesn’t include normal power lines or smaller plants!

Hazardous Materials Release

Household Products

Hazardous materials, more commonly referred to as chemicals, are used regularly in our daily lives. A hazardous material is any solid, liquid, or gas that can cause harm to humans and other living organisms. Many products containing hazardous chemicals are used and stored in homes routinely. They are used to grow our food, clean our homes, fuel our cars, and purify our water, which means we have to be careful about how we use and store these chemicals. Read the information below to learn more about the proper usage and storage techniques.

Chemical Facilities

Hazardous materials come in the form of explosives, flammable and combustible substances, poison and radioactive materials. Varying quantities of hazardous materials are manufactured, used or stored at an estimated 4.5 million facilities in the United States ─ from industrial plants to dry cleaning establishments or gardening supply stores. Do you know what, if any, facilities exist in your community?

Transportation

Chemicals can also be hazardous to the environment if used or released improperly. These materials are transported daily by highways, railroads, waterways, and pipelines. Colorado has a diverse network of roadways that are authorized to transport them. These restricted routes are coordinated through the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado State Patrol.

Accidents can occur during the production, storage, transportation, use or disposal of hazardous materials. These substances are most often released as a result of transportation accidents or because of chemical accidents in plants, which is why it’s important that you’re aware of the chemical facilities in your area. Explore the information below to learn more about hazardous materials and the steps you can take to stay safe!

Banner photo courtesy of FEMA/Win Henderson

Within text photo courtesy of Adams County Hazmat Response Authority/Glen Grove

Before

  • Many communities have Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) whose responsibilities include collecting information about hazardous materials in the community and making this information available to the public upon request. The LEPCs also are tasked with developing an emergency plan to prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies in the community. Ways the public will be notified and actions the public must take in the event of a release are part of the plan. 
  • Contact the LEPCs to find out more about chemical hazards and what needs to be done to minimize the risk to individuals and the community from these materials. Your local emergency management office can provide contact information on the LEPCs or click here to contact the LEPCs in Colorado.
  • Be aware of what hazards may exist in your community.

Household Chemical Product Information

  • Keep potential poisons in their original containers.
  • Do not use food containers such as cups or bottles to store household and chemical products.
  • Store food and household chemical products in separate areas. Mistaking one for the other could cause a serious poisoning.
  • Never mix household chemical products together. Mixing chemicals could cause a poisonous gas.
  • Turn on fans and open windows when using household chemical products.
  • Wear protective clothing, including long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, shoes and gloves, when spraying pesticides and other chemicals. Pesticides can be absorbed through the skin and can be extremely poisonous.
  • Discard old or outdated household chemical products. First aid instructions on product containers may be incorrect or outdated.

During

During a Hazmat Incident

If you are asked to evacuate:

  • Do so immediately.
  • Stay tuned to a radio or television for information on evacuation routes, temporary shelters, and procedures.
  • Follow the routes recommended by the authorities.
  • If you have time, minimize contamination in the house by closing all windows, shutting all vents, and turning off attic fans.
  • Take pre-assembled disaster supplies.
  • Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance ─ infants, elderly individuals and people with access and functional needs.

If you are caught outside:

  • Stay upstream, uphill, and upwind. In general, try to go at least one-half mile (usually 8-10 city blocks) from the danger area. Move away from the accident scene and help keep others away.
  • Do not walk into or touch any spilled liquids, airborne mists, or condensed solid chemical deposits. Try not to inhale gases, fumes and smoke. If possible, cover mouth with a cloth while leaving the area.
  • Stay away from accident victims until the hazardous material has been identified.

If you are caught in a motor vehicle:

  • Stop and seek shelter in a permanent building. If you must remain in your car, keep car windows and vents closed and shut off the air conditioner and heater.

If you have been requested to stay indoors:

  • Bring pets inside.
  • Close and lock all exterior doors and windows. Close vents, fireplace dampers, and as many interior doors as possible.
  • Turn off air conditioners and ventilation systems. In large buildings, set ventilation systems to 100 percent recirculation so that no outside air is drawn into the building. If this is not possible, ventilation systems should be turned off.
  • Go into the pre-selected shelter room. This room should be above ground and have the fewest openings to the outside.
  • Seal gaps under doorways and windows with wet towels or plastic sheeting and duct tape.
  • Seal gaps around window and air conditioning units, bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans, and stove and dryer vents with duct tape and plastic sheeting, wax paper or aluminum wrap.
  • Fill cracks and holes in the room, such as those around pipes.
  • If gas or vapors could have entered the building, take shallow breaths through a cloth or a towel. Avoid eating or drinking any food or water that may be contaminated.

After

After a Hazmat Incident

  • Act quickly if you have come in to contact with or have been exposed to hazardous chemicals.
  • Follow decontamination instructions from local authorities. You may be advised to take a thorough shower or you may be advised to stay away from water and follow another procedure.
  • Seek medical treatment for unusual symptoms as soon as possible.
  • Place exposed clothing and shoes in tightly sealed containers. Do not allow them to contact other materials. Call local authorities to find out about proper disposal.
  • Advise everyone who comes in to contact with you that you may have been exposed to a toxic substance.
  • Listen to local radio or television stations for the latest emergency information.
  • Help a neighbor who may require special assistance ─ infants, elderly people and people with access and functional needs. People who care for them or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency situations.
  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe. Open windows and vents and turn on fans to provide ventilation.
  • Find out from local authorities how to clean up your land and property.
  • Report any lingering vapors or other hazards to your local emergency services office.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Ready.gov – Hazardous Materials Incidents
  • Colorado Emergency Planning Commission
  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment – Hazardous Waste Program
  • Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
  • American Association of Poison Control Centers
  • FEMA

Fast Facts:

  • There are hazardous materials in just about every home. Be careful with how you store them and never mix anything together.
  • Most transportation hazmat release incidents happen during the unloading process.

Avalanche

Did you know Colorado accounts for one-third of all avalanche deaths in the U.S. since 1950?

The ability to participate in a large variety of winter sports is one of the best perks of living in Colorado. With winter sports, however, come risks, especially in the backcountry!

Approximately 2,300 avalanches are reported to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) every season, and as many as ten times more go unreported. Avalanches occur in the high mountains of Colorado as the result of snow accumulating on steep slopes. If the snow pack becomes unstable, it can suddenly release and rapidly descends downslope. Avalanches can exert forces great enough to destroy structures and uproot or snap off large trees.

What causes an avalanche? The addition of weight to the snowpack can trigger an avalanche. The weight can come from snow fall, drifting snow, or a person snowmobiling, snowboarding, skiing, or hiking. More than 75% of the avalanche fatalities in Colorado are caused by people recreating in the backcountry.

If you are an outdoor enthusiast, explore the information below to learn more about how to stay safe in the backcountry!

VIDEO: Avalanche Hazards in Colorado from the Colorado Geological Survey

Cover, banner, and within text photos courtesy of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Before

  • Check the avalanche conditions at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center before venturing into the backcountry.
  • Be alert to the terrain – avalanches start on 30 degree slopes, but can run onto lower angled terrain.
  • Recent avalanche activity in the same area is an indicator of snow instability and a sign that more avalanches may occur.
  • Carry an avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe.  Backpacks with airbags or breathing devices can help, too.
  • Wear a helmet to protect against head injuries.

During

  • Try to ride off the avalanche slab by maintaining momentum and angling to the edge of the slide.
  • “Swim” against the snow to get toward the rear of the avalanche.
  • Dig into the surface to slow yourself down and let as much debris as possible go past.
  • Grab a tree or other stable object.
  • If you lose your skis or snow board, roll onto your back with your feet pointed downhill.
  • As the avalanche slows, try to thrust your hand or some part of your body above the surface and then stick a hand in front of your face to make an air space around your mouth.

After

  • Switch your avalanche beacon to receive mode to search for other victims.
  • Notify authorities as soon as possible if a member of your group is missing.
  • If all members of your group are safe, leave the area as quickly and safely as possible.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Colorado Avalanche Information Center
  • Avalanche.org
  • The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education

It Happened Here

A group of six backcountry enthusiasts taking part in the Rocky Mountain High Backcountry Gathering, an event organized to promote backcountry snowboarding and avalanche safety, met at the Loveland Ski Area on April 20, 2013. The group went towards Loveland Pass intending to do a short tour. They decided to spread out with approximately 50 feet between people as they headed for a small stand of trees. The first two members in the group had reached the small stand of trees, with the other four members close behind when they felt a large collapse. It took several seconds for the crack to spread uphill and release the deep slab. Tragically, five of the six were killed in the avalanche, making it Colorado’s deadliest avalanche in 50 years.

Fast Facts:

  • Avalanches from the roof of a building can damage vehicles or bury and kill a person.
  • Avalanches have killed 159 people in Colorado between 1950 and 2013.
  • Avalanches are more likely to occur after a heavy snowfall as this increases snow instability.
  • Avalanches can reach speeds of up to 200 mph.
  • Avalanches are most common between November and April.
  • 90% of avalanche victims die in slides triggered by themselves or a member of their group.
  • On average, avalanches kill 6 people per winter in Colorado and 25 in the U.S.
  • Since 1950 avalanches have taken the lives of more people in Colorado than any other natural hazard.

Epidemic/Pandemic

What’s the difference between an epidemic and pandemic?

An epidemic is the rapid spread of a disease that affects some or many people in a community or region at the same time. A pandemic is an outbreak of a disease that affects large numbers of people throughout the world and spreads rapidly.

An influenza or flu pandemic happens when a new flu virus appears that easily spreads from person-to-person and around the world. Because the virus is new, the human population has little to no immunity against it. Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Additionally, a person might also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose. You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick.

Experts cannot predict when the next flu pandemic may occur or how severe it will be, but there are several things you can do to prepare for a flu pandemic ─ explore the information below to learn more!

Cover photo courtesy of the CDC

Banner photo courtesy of CDC/Debora Cartagena

Within text photos courtesy of Tri-County Health Department

Before

  • The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season.  About two weeks after receiving the vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against influenza virus infection.
  • Store a two week supply of water and food. During a pandemic, if you cannot get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important for you to have extra supplies on hand. 
  • Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.
  • Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
  • Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.
  • Volunteer with local groups to prepare and assist with emergency response.
  • Get vaccinated.
  • Practice good hygiene by washing your hands often, covering your cough, and keeping your distance from obviously ill individuals.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of the flu and other illnesses so that you can limit your contact with infected individuals and seek medical attention for yourself if you become infected.

During

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.  You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Washing your hands frequently will help protect you from germs.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Ready.gov – Pandemic
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
  • Flu.gov
  • United States Department of Health and Human Services
  • Tri-County Health Department

It Happened Here

The H1N1 influenza virus was first detected in the United States in April 2009. This virus was a unique combination of influenza virus genes never previously identified in either animals or people.

Infection with this new influenza A virus (then referred to as swine flu) was first detected in a 10-year-old patient in California. Once the virus began to transmit from human to human, it was renamed H1N1 which reflects its genetic composition. The virus began spreading to other states and then internationally to Mexico and Canada. By the end of April, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) determined that a pandemic was imminent and both organizations recommended that public health agencies implement their pandemic influenza plans.  Public health agencies began preparations for mass vaccination clinics.  After the clinics were implemented, there was a steady decline in the number of hospitalizations.  As of November 14, 2009, a total of 1769 influenza associated hospitalizations from 51 counties had been reported in Colorado; 45 influenza-related deaths were reported.

Fast Facts:

  • Pandemics are determined by how the disease spreads, not how many deaths it causes
  • The flu vaccine protects against the three viruses that research suggests will be most common
  • Influenza activity usually peaks in February, but disease can occur as late as May.
  • Flu viruses spread all year, even in summer.
  • In Colorado, influenza was first spotted among military recruits who had reported for duty at the University of Colorado
  • While an epidemic is a more localized spreading disease, a pandemic is global in scale.

Drought

Did you know that droughts are the most costly natural disasters affecting the U.S.?

With its semiarid conditions, drought is a natural part of the Colorado climate, and no portion of the State is immune from drought conditions.  Drought tends to be a complex and a gradual phenomenon.  It occurs when a normal amount of moisture is unavailable to satisfy an area’s usual water consumption.  The effects of drought vary based on where in the State it occurs, when it happens, and how long the drought persists. Although they can be characterized as emergencies, they differ from most natural disasters, such as floods or wildfires, because they typically occur slowly over a multi-year period. It is often not obvious or easy to quantify when a drought begins and ends.

Drought is one of the few hazards with the potential to directly or indirectly impact the entire population of Colorado. This can be from water restrictions, higher water and food prices, reduced air or water quality, or restricted access to recreational areas. For instance, droughts that occur in the mountainous regions of Colorado during winter months may impact the ski and tourism industry. Additionally, the lack of winter snowfall in the mountains can eventually lead to agricultural impacts on the eastern plains due to decreased water access. 

Explore the information below to learn more about this “creeping phenomenon!”

VIDEO: National Geographic: 

https://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/11/29/with-drought-looming-colorado-river-basin-needs-solutions/

Within text photo courtesy of the NOAA Photo Library

Before

  • Choose appliances that are more energy and water efficient. 
  • Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers.
  • Try not to pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it (i.e. use it to water plants).
  • Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, shrubs, and trees. Once established, plants adapted to your local climate do not need water as frequently and usually will survive a dry period without watering. Small plants require less water to become established.
  • Avoid over-fertilizing your lawn. Applying fertilizer increases the need for water.
  • Raise the lawn mower blade to at least three inches or to its highest level. A higher cut encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system, and holds soil moisture.
  • Check sprinkler systems and timing devices regularly to be sure they operate properly. Set a timer to remind yourself to turn manual sprinklers off.  A garden hose can pour out 600 gallons in only a few hours!  You also have the option to invest in a weather-based irrigation controller—or a smart controller. These devices will automatically adjust the watering time and frequency based on soil moisture, rain, wind, and evaporation and transpiration rates. Check with your local water agency to see if there is a rebate available for the purchase of a smart controller.
  • Contact your local water provider for information and assistance.

During

  • Always observe state and local restrictions on water use during a drought. If restricted, for example, do not water your lawn, wash your car, or use water for any other non-essential uses. This helps ensure there is enough water for essential uses. 
  • Operate automatic dishwashers only when they are fully loaded. Use the “light wash” feature, if available, to use less water.
  • Operate automatic clothes washers only when they are fully loaded or set the water level for the size of your load.
  • Ensure irrigation systems are working efficiently so plants only get the water they need.
  • Water your lawn early in the morning or later in the evening, when temperatures are cooler. Also, water in several short sessions rather than one long one, in order for your lawn to better absorb moisture and avoid runoff.
  • Use a broom or blower instead of a hose to clean leaves and other debris from your driveway or sidewalk.

After

  • Where possible, maintain conservation practices that you have adopted during the drought even after restrictions have ended.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Ready.gov – Drought
  • Colorado Water Conservation Board
  • Red Cross – Drought Preparedness
  • NOAA Drought Information Center
  • National Drought Mitigation Center
  • Colorado Climate Center
  • U.S. Drought Portal
  • Colorado Drought Mitigation and Response Plan

It Happened Here

Colorado has experienced widespread, severe drought since the late 1800s.  As of 2013, the drought of 2002 is considered the worst single year drought on record in Colorado‘s history. Statewide snowpack was at or near all-time lows. What made 2002 so unusual was that the entire state was dry at the same time.  These conditions were rated exceptional by the U.S. Drought Monitor and were the most severe drought conditions experienced in the region since the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. During 2011-2013, some regions throughout southeastern Colorado have experienced persistent severe to exceptional drought conditions that are comparable to conditions seen during both the 2002 drought and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

Fast Facts:

  • Annual precipitation in Colorado averages only 17 inches statewide, with the majority of the State receiving only 12-16 inches.
  • Droughts can reduce air quality and compromise the health of people with certain conditions.
  • In addition to the drought, human farming techniques contributed to the catastrophic Dust Bowl.
  • A sink that drips about a drop per second will waste about 2,700 gallons of water a year.
  • Most of the year, lawns need only 1″ of water each week.
  • A heavy rain can eliminate the need for watering your yard for up to two weeks.
  • No major rivers flow into Colorado, only out.
  • Colorado gets new water supplies from only one source, which is precipitation.
  • Drought is a slow-onset natural hazard that is often referred to as a creeping phenomenon.

Wildfire

Do you know how to properly prepare and defend yourself, family and home from a wildfire?

Every year wildfires burn thousands of homes leaving homeowners devastated and wondering where and how to start rebuilding their lives. Often times, wildfires begin unnoticed. They spread quickly, leaving little time to pack and evacuate.

Furthermore, wildfire threats to lives and property increase as more people build homes, operate business and recreate in areas where wildlands border more urban areas. Over the past few decades, more people are moving into an area referred to as the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI). The WUI’s are where man-made improvements, such as homes, are built close to, or within, natural terrain and flammable vegetation with high potential for wildland fire. While residents in these areas enjoy the beauty of the environment around them, they also face the very real danger of wildfires.

In addition to the growth of people migrating to the WUI, frequent severe drought, record heat and insect infestations have contributed to higher fire danger in Colorado. Are you at risk? Check the Colorado Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal!

Despite the risk, everyone can take steps to prepare for wildfires. Explore the information below to learn more about what you can do!

Cover photo courtesy of Douglas County

Banner photo courtesy of FEMA/Andrea Booher

It Happened Here photo courtesy of the Colorado National Guard

Before

  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Know more than one exit route in case you have to evacuate.
  • Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees.
  • Remove leaves and other debris from the roof and gutters.
  • Inspect chimneys at least twice a year and clean them at least once a year.
  • Use 1/8-inch mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas, and the home itself to help keep embers out.
  • Install a dual-sensor smoke alarm on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.  Be sure to test the alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once each year.
  • Teach each family member how to use a fire extinguisher and show them where it’s located.
  • Keep a ladder that will reach the roof.
  • Consider installing protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes.
  • Clear items that will burn from around the house, including wood piles, wooden lawn furniture, barbecue grills, tarp coverings, etc. Move them outside of your defensible space.

Preparing a Safety Zone for Your Home

Create a 30 to 100 foot safety zone around your home. Within this area, you can take steps to reduce potential exposure to flames and radiant heat. Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum safety zone of 100 feet. If your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not be enough – contact your local fire department or forestry office for specific information.

Within the zone, you will want to take the following steps:

  • Rake and remove leaves, dead limbs and twigs – clear all flammable vegetation.
  • Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures.
  • Thin a 15-foot space between tree tops and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
  • Remove dead branches that extend over the roof. 
  • Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
  • Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
  • Remove vines from the walls of the home.
  • Mow grass regularly.
  • Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue. Place a screen over the grill – use nonflammable material with mesh no coarser than one-quarter inch.
  • Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish at an approved site. Follow local burning regulations.
  • Place stove, fireplace and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for 2 days, then bury the cold ashes in mineral soil.
  • Store gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans. Place cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
  • Stack firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home. Clear combustible material within 20 feet of the wood pile.
  • Review your homeowner’s insurance policy and also prepare/update an inventory of your home’s contents.

During

Pre-evacuation

  • Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
  • If you haven’t received an evacuation notice, but your instincts are telling you that you should evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Listen to local radio and television stations for updated emergency information.
  • Always back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
  • Confine pets to one room so that you can find them if you need to evacuate quickly.
  • Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area in case you need to evacuate.
  • Wear protective clothing when outside – sturdy shoes, cotton or wool clothes, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.
  • Place valuable papers, mementos and anything “you can’t live without” inside the car, ready for quick departure. Any pets still with you should also be put in the car.
  • Close outside attic, eaves and basement vents, windows, doors, pet doors, etc. Remove flammable drapes and curtains. Close all shutters, blinds or heavy non-combustible window coverings to reduce radiant heat.
  • Close all doors inside the house to prevent draft. Open the damper on your fireplace, but close the fireplace screen.
  • Shut off any natural gas, propane or fuel oil supplies at the source.
  • Connect garden hoses to an outdoor water faucet and fill any pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs or other large containers with water.
  • Place valuables that will not be damaged by water in a pool or pond.
  • Place lawn sprinklers on the roof and near above-ground fuel tanks. Leave sprinklers on wetting these structures as long as possible.
  • If you have gas-powered pumps for water, make sure they are fueled and ready.
  • Disconnect any automatic garage door openers so that doors can still be opened by hand if the power goes out, but keep the door closed.
  • Move flammable furniture into the center of the residence away from the windows and sliding-glass doors.

Immediate Evacuation Required

  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Take your emergency kit, lock your home and choose a route away from the fire hazard. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of the fire and smoke. Inform someone of when you left and where you are going.
  • If you see a wildfire and haven’t received evacuation orders yet, call 9-1-1. Don’t assume that someone else has already called. Describe the location of the fire, speak slowly and clearly, and answer any questions asked by the dispatcher.
  • Go to a designated public shelter if you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home. Check COEmergency.com for shelter information or go to your local emergency management website.
  • If you are with burn victims, or are a burn victim yourself, call 9-1-1 or seek help immediately; cool and cover burns to reduce chance of further injury or infection.

After

  • Do not return to your home until fire officials say it is safe to do so.
  • Use caution when entering burned areas as hazards may still exist, including hot spots, which can flare up without warning.
  • For several hours after the fire, maintain a “fire watch.” Re-check for smoke and sparks throughout the house, including the attic.
  • If you detect heat or smoke when entering a damaged building, evacuate immediately.
  • Avoid damaged or fallen power lines, poles and downed wires.
  • Watch for ash pits and mark them for safety – warn family and neighbors to keep clear of the pits also.
  • Watch animals closely and keep them under your direct control. Hidden embers and hot spots could burn your pets’ paws or hooves.
  • Remain calm, pace yourself and listen carefully to what people are telling you, and deal with urgent situations first.
  • Contact your insurance company if there is any damage.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Ready.gov – Wildfires
  • Ready, Set, Go!
  • Surviving Wildfire
  • Colorado Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal
  • Colorado State Forest Service
  • National Interagency Fire Center
  • U.S. Fire Administration
  • US Forest Service
  • National Fire Protection Association
  • Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association
  • Firewise
  • Fire Adapted Communities
  • Red Cross – Wildfire Preparedness
  • InciWeb

It Happened Here

The Black Forest fire started on June 11, 2013 and would continue to burn until June 21, ultimately growing to 14,280 acres. Two deaths were confirmed on June 13, 2013. The Black Forest fire was the single most destructive fire in Colorado History in terms of properties lost. Estimated insured losses totaled $292.8 million resulting from approximately 3,630 homeowner and auto insurance claims filed so far. El Paso County reports 486 structures burned in the blaze.This was the second time in less than a year that a fire in El Paso County set such a record, the first being the Waldo Canyon fire.

Fast Facts:

  • Every wildfire is affected by the same three things: fuel, weather, and terrain.
  • A wildfire can run uphill four to five times faster than downhill.  Wind travels uphill, taking the fire along with it.
  • Wildfires are seven times more likely to be started by humans than by lightning.
  • Every wildfire is affected by the same three things: fuel, weather, and terrain.