JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Last year’s deadly fire season in Colorado prompted a real-life fire drill in Jefferson County on Saturday.
Firefighters, residents and emergency personnel all participated in the dry run. Signs were placed near the Genesee neighborhood this week to alert residents about the disaster drill.
Genesee checkpoints were held for the fire drill. In the event of a real wildfire, resdients would use exit 254 and 256 to exit the area. Authorities estimate between 300 and 400 cars took part in Saturday’s fire drill.
“I got a text. ‘Exercise a Level 3 evacuation, Genesee area, leave now,’ ” Genesee resident Allison Schneider said.
It’s a first-of-its-kind message.
“I’m going to grab my paperwork … the computer, definitely,” Schneider said.
At exactly 9 a.m. Schneider was one of 1,500 families notified in the first-ever Jefferson County Level 3 evacuation drill.
“We’re supposed to have a box with; there is a whole list of preparedness things like water, prescriptions, clothes, things like that,” she said.
After grabbing her essentials, she headed towards a series of checkpoints.
“They wrote down their last time and we’ll use that data to tabulate it and look for ways to improve and kind of see what worked and what we can improve on,” Clint Fey with Jefferson County Emergency Management said.
The purpose of the drill was to practice evacuation through traffic management and how well authorities notify the public.
“We had never thought about it, so in that sense I think it’s a start,” a Genesee resident said.
But the system had some flaws.
“We never got a phone call or a text. We registered and everything,” a woman told CBS4. “We were just waiting and waiting and waiting.”
“That’s there reason we do this exercise, because if something is going to go wrong, we want to know about it now, not in a real emergency,” Fey said.
Since the deadly Lower North Fork Fire last March, Jefferson County authorities announced changes to evacuation procedures.
“Any event we have, nothing ever goes perfect, and we always want to look for improvement,” Fey said. “It’s a response to a lot of things we’ve seen.”
The simulated emergency is giving everyone a chance to be prepared.
“If we can effectively evacuate a neighborhood in a short period of time and get folks out of harm’s way, then we’ve done our job,” Fey said.
Despite the glitches in the system, officials said the vast majority of the residents did receive the emergency evacuation drill notice. They are already working on improving the system so it will be up and running in the event of a real fire evacuation emergency.
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