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Proposed ordinance to codify emergency evacuation plan into city code

Waldo Canyon Fire
Posted at 7:40 PM, May 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-12 10:03:43-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Springs City Council will meet again Tuesday, July 12 to discuss an ordinance that would revise city code to create a written emergency evacuation plan for the entire city. The discussion is scheduled to start at 1:00 p.m.

Pikes Peak Regional Office of Emergency Management, Colorado Springs Fire Department, and Colorado Springs Police Department created the All Hazards Evacuation Plan to use in case of wildfire, tornadoes, and floods. Emergency planning, procedures, and evacuation operations would be within the plan.

It's been nearly a decade since the Waldo Canyon Fire, and the Mountain Shadows neighborhood continues to fight for better evacuation plans.

"2424 is right at the intersection of 30th and Garden of the Gods. It's a major choke-point, and people were backed up at that intersection. Currently, you have 425 apartments under litigation and have another application for 228 at the opposite corner. The third development is on 30th and Centennial. All of this construction which we've been talking about for over a year now, and city council is hearing an ordinance that doesn't even bother with clearance evacuation times," said Bill Wysong, President of the Mountain Shadows Community Association and Westside Watch.

He believes clearance evacuation times are key in emergency planning. It gives the city an idea of how long it takes for everyone who lives in a neighborhood to get out safely.

"They aren't looking at the bigger picture. If they knew it was going to take six or eight hours to evacuate a certain amount of people then that is going to give them a better idea of when to pull the evacuation trigger earlier. Look at the Broadmoor and Skyway, narrow roads or curbs and then you have the summer traffic. There is no fire season, it is throughout the year," said Wysong.

The proposed ordinance would divide the city into evacuation zones to help with evacuation zones, routes, and traffic. The evacuation zones would be developed by taking into consideration, natural topography, existing neighborhoods, and major roads. The fire department would notify the community of the existing boundaries of the evacuation zones and any changes to the evacuation zones.

"We have 72 right now, and with Zone Haven we've identified 201 zones so the entire city will be covered with 201 zones. We're in the process of reviewing those zones based on Zone Haven's data and making sure they are right where we want them and how we use them," said Chief Randy Royal, Colorado Springs Fire Department.

Zone Haven software will allow OEM, fire, and police departments to distribute information to specific neighborhoods. Royal says it will take eight weeks for the application to be implemented and for emergency officials to be trained. Residents can either sign up for the evacuation alerts or the system will automatically alert people by location.

"The ability for the citizens to hit a button and show their house is evacuated because a police officer going into a neighborhood may be looking at 1500 homes and if they're all green and he doesn't have to hit a door. It could save a lot of time," said Royal.

"You got a cell tower on this site where you may get one or two bars, it doesn't matter what the carrier is and that is because of the topography we're in," said Wysong.

The OEM, fire, and police department would review the All Hazards Evacuation Plan annually and undergo full review by the City Engineer, the Public Works Director, the Traffic Engineer, the Director of Planning and Community Development, and Colorado Springs Utilities every five years.

Colorado Springs City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance May 24, and again June 14. Ordinances require two votes to pass.