By Kristin Stephens
Larimer County faces emergencies every year, from wildfires to floods to winter storms. As we mark the first anniversary of the Cameron Peak Fire, we recall other recent disasters that are etched in our memory. We live in a beautiful environment with mountainous, rugged, rural areas, but with that beauty comes natural hazards. While Larimer County is known for the number and magnitude of disasters we are also known for our collaborative nature.
With a collaborative spirit in mind, we’re excited to announce the opening of our new Emergency Operations Center (EOC). On a warm, breezy day in late July, county staff and the Larimer County Commissioners cut the ribbon on the new facility located between Loveland and Fort Collins in Johnstown. Its proximity to I-25 allows quick access for federal, state, and local emergency personnel. We know that emergencies and disasters cannot be handled by one agency. It takes a collaborative effort among multiple partners to be successful. The EOC provides the facility and tools to make this happen.
During an emergency, local, state, federal partners, non-profits, and volunteer agencies all join together to try to meet the needs of the community. We also work to educate the public on their role during these events, a partnership that we take very seriously. We’re delighted that our new 25,000 square-foot facility will be shared by Larimer County, and two of our partners, the Larimer Emergency Telephone Authority (LETA), and the City of Loveland Emergency Management. The EOC also has space to accommodate other emergency management and incident personnel, too.
Unfortunately, with flooding and debris flows in burn-scarred areas this summer, we have already had an opportunity to use the new EOC. Luckily our new center allowed Larimer County Emergency Management personnel to respond quickly to flooding incidents at the Retreat in Glen Haven, and in the Black Hollow area of the Poudre Canyon. Sadly, several lives were tragically lost in the massive flooding and debris flow in Black Hollow. County staff from several departments are now working together to remove debris and find ways to mitigate the damage caused by these tragic events.
Lori Hodges, Larimer County Director of Emergency Management, and her staff are also directing recovery efforts at the EOC. Although we are still working through the aftermath of the Cameron Peak Fire, we are grateful to the many partners who are helping us with that effort. The Long-Term Recovery Group has mobilized dozens of volunteer and non-profit groups to help with recovery needs and post-fire impacts. These groups have addressed hazardous trees on private lands, erosion control, stream mitigation, structure and watershed protection, private land repairs, and more.
We know that we will encounter new emergency events due to our changing climate. Our new, larger EOC facility was designed for these events and will serve Larimer County for years to come while also improving our ability to respond and recover from any number of emergencies and hazards. For more information about our Emergency Management team and how to plan and prepare for emergencies, please visit https://www.larimer.org/emergency.
Kristin Stephens is a Larimer County commissioner representing all of Larimer County.