April 10, 2014 Vol. 13 No. 20
City leaders to residents: 'Be ready!'
Written by Larry Ferguson   

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Fire/flood forum spotlights emergency plans, procedures

041014_MERF1Mayor Marc Snyder opened the gathering with a critical message and an urgent warning.

“The truth is, there’s no way we’re out of the woods,” he told the crowd of about 150 people attending last Saturday’s forum on flood and fire preparedness. “We’ve done a lot in the last eight months and we’re spending millions of dollars on flood mitigation projects, but the threat is still there.

“And it’s not just floods. There’s also the threat of wildfire. The moisture content in this area is about the same as it was last year.

“So be prepared. Have a plan.”

The forum, sponsored by the Manitou Emergency Recovery Fund and staged at the Manitou Art Center, featured representatives from a host of emergency response groups, including the Manitou Springs fire and police departments, the Red Cross and the AspenPointe community support team, a Colorado Springs-based organization that provides assistance locating community resources.

Representatives from those agencies and others were on hand to pass out information sheets and brochures outlining steps residents could take in the event of an emergency.

Among the speakers was City Administrator Jack Benson, who explained some of the aspects of the flood mitigation program in Manitou, which is being completed in three phases along the Williams Canyon/Canon Avenue corridor. The current focus of the work is between the Cave of the Winds exit to the Highway 24 overpass, he said. Work on the middle and lower sections of Canon Avenue is expected to get under way this month with a completion target date of June 30.

Also planned are flood mitigation efforts on areas along Fountain Creek, including work to excavate sediment from the creek bed. The total cost of the city’s flood mitigation projects is expected to be more than $5 million and funding is coming in the form of grants from county, state and federal sources.

Also speaking at Saturday’s forum was Manitou Police Chief Joe Ribeiro who outlined some of the challenges facing emergency responders as they coordinate law enforcement and rescue efforts during an emergency.

041014_MERF3He began by reiterating Snyder’s message:

“It’s very much like last year,” Robeiro said. “Have a plan and give yourself enough time to implement it. Stay safe. Be careful. Watch for emergency equipment.

“When a flash flood warning is issued, you need to be prepared to quickly move to safety,” he continued. “We’ll open a command post and begin patrolling the creek. If a flash flood is observed, the sirens will sound.”

“Our top priority is protecting people. Next comes protecting property and then comes the clean-up phase. If there’s a delay in letting people back into the threatened areas it’s because we can’t immediately determine if the threat is past. We can’t always see what’s going on upstream. It could be dark. There could be continued search and rescue operations going on. There could be infrastructure damage to repair.

“In short, we’re asking people to be patient.”

Ribeiro went on to outline steps that potential volunteers could take in the aftermath of a flood or fire emergency.

“It’s a great help to us if you are connected with an emergency or relief agency beforehand,” he said. “That way, when you show up you are trained and ready for an assignment.”

Dan Stuart, a former Manitou mayor now working with the Manitou Emergency Recovery Fund, concluded the presentation with a call of volunteers and a request for donations.

MERF’s stated mission is to raise and strategically invest funds in support of Manitou’s emergency community needs resulting from natural disasters.