Whole Community Philosophy in NWAHEMR

Emergency Management requires the involvement of the whole community. Aligning plans for mitigation and response to a disaster with local businesses, hospitals, utility companies, schools, senior centers, other care centers, non-profit organizations, houses of worship, and more is imperative for saving lives and structures. It ensures essential services are protected and restored as quickly as possible. The whole community also includes all the County’s agencies utilized during a disaster. The NWAHEMR refers to these agencies as Functional Working Groups including:

  • Animal Control
  • Communication/911 dispatch
  • Coroners
  • Emergency Management
  • Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
  • Fire Services, including the GJ Bomb Squad
  • Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
  • Hazardous Materials Teams
  • Health Care
  • Information Sharing (IT)
  • Law Enforcement
  • Public Health
  • Public Works/Road & Bridge
  • Search and Rescue, including two HOIST teams for high altitude operations.

This information explains why collaboration and coordination is a necessity for all phases of a disaster.

Purpose & Process

Understanding the steps to emergency response illustrates the importance of Regional projects. The Region’s projects increase resources to contain a disaster early. The NWAHEMR shares SHGP grant-funded resources through agreements that exist for equipment and personnel sharing through a central site maintained by the State. Multi-jurisdiction training and joint exercises with agencies are on-going. The NWAHEMR has two primary benefits, first as a structure for funding necessary trainings or equipment and second as a forum to coordinate and collaborate on a regional basis prior to an incident.

Local and State governments are responsible for protecting their citizens and visitors from disasters and recovering when a disaster occurs. Each County’s Office of Emergency Management is responsible for all incidents/disasters occurring within its boundaries. Incidents or disasters often can be handled locally by a town or special districts or the County. Local Emergency Managers seek resources to increase their capacities from neighboring jurisdictions across the region, including access to resources acquired through the grant program. When an incident escalates beyond a local response capacity, the All Hazards Emergency Management regions will have strengthened relationships and increased capabilities available to that local jurisdiction. When a disaster response exceeds the County’s ability, the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management assists the County with State resources. Recent disasters within the region include wildland fires and flooding. To bring in Federal assistance, a local jurisdiction declares a disaster and then requests that the Governor submit a request to FEMA/EPR office. The President reviews the Governor’s declaration request and supporting documents. The President declares that a major disaster or emergency exists, thus activating an array of Federal programs, resources to assist in the response and recovery effort.

The NWAHEMR solicits project proposals from the Functional Working Groups (explained below) from within the NWAHEMR Region from one of the ten counties: Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Mesa, Moffat, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt, and Summit. The applicant presents their project proposal during an NWAHEMR meeting. The Executive Board scores and ranks the projects based on set criteria, the presentation, and comments. The Coordinator then submits to the state for funding and manages the procurement process through NWCCOG. The Coordinator is also responsible for the extensive recordkeeping required under the federal grant guidelines.

The NWAHEMR meetings also focus on the priorities identified in County, Regional, and the state strategic plans, and areas where improvement is needed. Working as a group allows the Counties to collaborate on best practices and sharing of information.