Nearly 2,000 people from state and community agencies took part in Colorado’s annual Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, or CSEPP, exercise May 8.
“The annual CSEPP exercise is a capstone to the daily coordination between the Pueblo Chemical Depot (PCD) and Pueblo County,” said Col. Christopher Grice, PCD commander. “This exercise validates Army support to emergency response units in the event of a chemical accident or incident on the Depot that could impact the local community.”
Multiple agencies from across Pueblo County participated in the exercise at the alternate Pueblo Community Joint Information Center (JIC) site, located at the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment. Communication professionals worked on monitoring, verifying and distributing reliable information to mock media and community members from the alternate JIC.
This year’s Colorado exercise involved an imaginary earthquake that shifted chemical munitions in storage igloos at PCD. Pretend aftershocks then toppled the projectiles as they were being replaced on pallets.
The makeshift location added a new layer of challenges that could arise in real situations.
“By using the alternate JIC, we demonstrated it is not the physical location but the members of the JIC that make the operations go smoothly,” said Gayle Perez, Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office public information officer. “Periodically exercising at an alternate location ensures Pueblo County can operate a robust JIC no matter where it is located.”
The exercises are more than practice runs. Federal observers evaluate the JIC players and provide feedback that can be applied to real incidents.
“This exercise gives us an opportunity to demonstrate those plans and procedures and make changes to them if needed,” said Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Services Bureau Chief Mark Mears. “We look forward to testing our plans and procedures as we work together with our community partners in responding to multiple incidents.”
CSEPP, a partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army, provides emergency preparedness assistance and resources to communities around chemical weapons stockpiles.