Forest fires, mudslides, floods and mass casualty events? Summit County Begins Comprehensive Risk Assessment

A police vehicle is stopped on Main Street in Breckenridge on August 31, 2020. Summit County plans to conduct an identified risk assessment for threats and hazards to determine the county’s ability to respond to originating threats human.
Photo by Liz Copan/Summit Daily News Archive

Local officials hope to better understand Summit County’s ability to respond to natural and man-made threats before the end of the year, and they want the public’s help.

On April 1, the county issued a request for proposals from contractors to conduct a threat and hazard identification and risk assessment and stakeholder readiness review to accompany it. The documents are part of a federal effort to ensure that every community across the country meets the national preparedness goal.

The goal describes a situation in which the United States is “a secure and resilient nation with the required capabilities across the community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from threats and hazards that present the greatest risk”, according to the Complete Preparedness Guide from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Until now, Summit County had a multi-hazard mitigation plan, which focuses on the county’s response to natural hazards such as wildfires, floods and earthquakes. The new plan will add man-made threats, such as mass casualties and terrorist incidents, to that list, said Summit County Emergency Management Director Brian Bovaird.

Bovaird said county officials along with a contractor will seek to answer three questions as they relate to the threats. What are the threats and hazards in Summit County that may affect the community? If they happened, what would be the impact on the community? And, based on those impacts, what capacity should the county have to respond to them?

County officials will assess everything from the capacity of the local 911 operator to the training of law enforcement officials to determine the county’s threat capabilities.

“Whether you’re in Summit County or New York, you never have enough money and you never have enough staff,” Bovaird said. “It’s really valuable for us, especially as a small jurisdiction, to really get some clarification.”

Once completed, the threat and hazard identification risk assessment will be reviewed every three years. To accompany it, the county will also produce a stakeholder readiness review, which will be updated annually.

The process will include the participation of stakeholders, including Homeland Security agents, local law enforcement officials, professional associations, schools, media, etc.

“We can’t prepare for this stuff in a vacuum,” Bovaird said.

Although the subject is serious, Bovaird said he was excited to begin the process of developing the document, which has been one of his goals since he started as director of emergency management.

Ideally, the county would have completed the risk assessment within the last few years, but the COVID-19 pandemic got in the way of that plan. However, the pandemic has demonstrated the value of having an “all-hazards approach” to emergency preparedness, Bovaird said.

“Now, even more, we are motivated to better integrate public health plans with emergency management plans and to continue to focus on training and all-hazards preparedness,” he said. “That’s also what (risk assessment) does. The key to this is getting the whole community involved.

The county has budgeted $50,000 to develop the risk assessment and stakeholder readiness review. This money will cover the cost of a contractor to help the county complete the process.

The county plans to hire the contractor by May 23. After that date, the county will establish a stakeholder committee to help develop the document.

Martin E. Berry