February 19, 2007 By Jessica Jones
On Dec. 21, 2006, operations were smoother for the Colorado Army National Guard than they had been on Dec. 20, said Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Mason Whitney, adding that the National Guard works closely with the Colorado Division of Emergency Management in any state emergency. "Basically the state EOCs are tasking organizations -- they're our higher headquarters to speak of. So they task us with missions we need to go out and perform."
The National Guard's first job was search and rescue for those stranded and in danger, Epp said. The state Division of Emergency Management also used the National Guard to transport people with urgent medical needs -- delivering oxygen and getting dialysis patients to dialysis centers, for example. "The third-order mission for the National Guard was to assist with opening highways," he said. "They did a little bit of that, but mostly it was state and local law enforcement and the highway department."
A day after the storm hit, government officials were still urging people to stay inside and off the roads because the possibility of getting stuck remained. "And we still have emergency operations going on right now," Whitney said on Dec. 21. "We've got about 18 National Guard vehicles -- Humvees, SUSVs, which are snow cats, snow utility sustainment vehicles -- that are helping out throughout the state, most of it here in Denver, however."
Most stranded citizens call 911 on their cell phones to let emergency operations personnel in that county know where they are, what their conditions are and how fast they need to be rescued, Whitney said. Then the emergency operations personnel relay the information to the state EOC, which is tied directly to the joint operations center in the National Guard headquarters in Centennial, Colo.
The National Guard's SUSVs drove on side roads to help ambulances get through to people who required emergency medical support, and its Humvees and trucks took supplies to shelters throughout the Denver metro area, as well as resupplying Denver International Airport, where several thousand people were trapped because of runway closures, Whitney said, adding that all of these tasks are protocol during snow emergencies.
"We've had our plan in place for the last several days, and we knew there was going to be a pretty serious snowstorm," he said. "We weren't sure exactly how much snow we were going to get -- this is actually more than we anticipated -- but we had our guys prepared, and we had small mobility teams already set up and identified with the equipment and supplies they needed to perform those emergency operations throughout the state."
Rather than forcing reporters to dig for blizzard-related information, the JIC in Denver crafted messages for the media to send out to the public.
All city departments in Denver provide the JIC -- located within the EOC -- with a public information officer (PIO), DeMello said. "So all these departments craft the messages we need to get out there," he said. "And so, in this event, because we don't want anyone out there during a blizzard, police, fire and EMS would craft this very direct message to tell the public to stay out of harm's way."
The PIOs write news releases and call media representatives to convey the message. They also answer questions so reporters aren't searching for a message. "We're giving them the message," DeMello said. "So I think that was a good piece here. We are fortunate not to have a whole lot of stranded folks, so I think that early message and obviously the benefit of the EOC's close coordination
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