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Incident Management Preparedness Pays Off

National Park News

For the staff of Rocky Mountain National Park, Thursday, September 12th, will be a day to remember.

Rain had been falling for days and that day it was particularly heavy. Flooding forced campground and employee evacuations; search and rescue operations, both in the park and local communities, were in full swing; Highways 34, 36, and 7 were closed and downtown Estes Park was flooding.  

Like their neighbors throughout the region, park employees were faced with damage to their houses, no way to get to work in some cases, and the trauma of the event.  The park’s Type III Incident Management Team was effectively dealing with the multitude of tasks thrown its way, but it was time to call in some help.  

Nearly two weeks later, on Tuesday, September 24th, the Intermountain Incident Management Team (Type II), having met the objectives outlined by Superintendent Vaughn Baker, returned command of the Rocky Mountain National Park Flood incident back to the park’s Type III team.  

“Rocky Mountain National Park’s proactive approach to emergency planning and training made the initial response to the natural disaster much safer and more effective,” said Mark Foust, the Intermountain IMT’s incident commander. “Promptly organizing the Type III team, and the actions they took, undoubtedly saved lives and protected park infrastructure and resources.”

Foust praised the park’s close working relationships with the local community, neighbors, and cooperating agencies.  “Those partnerships made their ability to provide mutual aid a true success story.”

The transition from the park team to the Intermountain IMT and back again was eased by park staff being integrated into the incident. Without their hard work, incident objectives would have been even more difficult to achieve. The park’s Type III team will continue to manage stabilization and recovery efforts for the foreseeable future.

Last February, over forty park employees and several park partners completed an advanced incident management course (H-337) called “Command and General Staff Functions for Local Incident Management Teams.”  The course, put on in conjunction with the Department of the Interior’s Office of Emergency Management, provides training for DOI employees who may serve on local incident management teams in command and general staff positions and which may involve a large number of local and/or mutual aid resources.   

This recent, shared experience helped the park and its partners safely and effectively coordinate a response to one of the worst disasters in recent Colorado history.  With consistent support from the Intermountain Regional Office, the Intermountain IMT trains and prepares for responses each year.  New members of the team attended H-337 in June of this year. 

Using the incident command system in training and planning for emergencies and other events is a must for successfully managing incidents such as the Rocky Mountain National Park flood of 2013.


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