When two fires broke out last month in and near Pueblo County, the local Joint Information Center (JIC) responded quickly, and officials said the training volunteers received from the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) exercises helped prepare them.
“Because many of the volunteers have participated in CSEPP exercises, it was a smooth transition to fire response,” said Gayle Perez, public information officer, CSEPP. “Volunteers were able to get the JIC set up quickly, since many were familiar with the facility, the technology and their roles.”
The JIC was activated twice in October to provide information to the public and media related to two separate wildland fires, one which was in Pueblo County and another which started in Custer County but spread to Pueblo County.
“Due to the resources we have [in Pueblo County] as a result of CSEPP, Custer County officials asked us to set up our JIC to assist with the Junkins Fire,” Perez said.
Representatives from the American Red Cross, Pueblo City-County Health Department and the Pueblo Animal Shelter (PAS) could easily push out information regarding their services due to experience gained in the Pueblo County Emergency Operation Center during annual CSEPP exercises, Perez said.
“We have been participating in CSEPP exercises for four years,” said Julie Justman, director, PAS. “The Community Animal Response Team (CART) gets practice during exercises. During the recent fires, the Technical Animal Rescue Team of CART performed 75 field rescues from within the evacuated areas.”
During the October JIC activations, volunteers gained experience, and those who were new to the JIC are more prepared to help with future CSEPP exercises, Perez said.
The Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program and CSEPP share a common goal of protecting the public and environment during the safe storage and destruction of chemical weapons.