June 3, 2019 Op-Ed

Commissioner Beth BethMeltonMelton: Residents should play a role in safety

Routt County plays a critical role of ensuring the safety of residents and visitors. The most obvious and visible is law enforcement through the Routt County Sheriff’s Office.

The county also is responsible for the safety of residents in many other ways, including air and water quality monitoring, restaurant inspections, maintaining safe roads and bridges, coordinating emergency operations, supporting the well-being of children and the elderly through human services and providing 911 services, among many other critical safety functions.

Routt County provides public services to ensure public safety. It is also incumbent on each of us to exercise personal responsibilities for safety — whether it is driving at safe speeds, having the appropriate vehicle and tires for the roads we drive on, practicing safe biking activities, washing our hands, reporting child abuse or alerting law enforcement when there is a problem. Routt County is committed to educating our residents to make sure we can all do our part.

A great example of this important balance between personal responsibility and public services is wildfire. Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the Routt County Wildfire Mitigation Conference. This conference was an impressive collaborative effort between the U.S. Forest Service, Routt County Emergency Operations, Colorado Forest Service, Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors and many other community partners. It brought together hundreds of experts and residents to discuss both individual responsibility and public service actions related to wildfire.

As individuals, we have an important role to play in fire mitigation. After the tragic Camp Fire last summer, we have all seen the devastating effects that a wildfire can have. We all rely on the public services provided to respond to such an event. In addition, we should each take personal responsibility where we can.

First, we live in a fire-prone community, and we should all commit to creating defensible spaces in our community. This means that we landscape around our homes in a way that keeps fire away, we keep our decks, gutters and roofs clear of flammable debris, and (when possible) we choose fire resistant materials for our roofs, exterior walls and decks. Many insurance companies are starting to incentivize or require such mitigation strategies.

Second, we all have to be prepared for an emergency. That means having a “go kit” and knowing what you would do if you were told to evacuate your home.

Do you know what you would need to take with you? Do you have your important documents compiled and easy to grab and take with you? Do you know where you might go? Each of us has the responsibility to know the answers to these critical questions.

Third, each of us is responsible for ensuring that we are using safe practices when camping or otherwise enjoying the nearby wilderness. Research the fire restrictions in the area you will be visiting.

Then, once you’re there, make sure that a campfire is contained in a fire ring and that it is dead out before you go to bed or leave the campsite.

Finally, it is critical that everyone in our community be reachable in the event of an emergency. Routt County has an emergency alert system. If you are not already signed up, you should do so immediately at routtcountyalerts.com.

This is the best way for emergency operations and communications to provide critical information to the general population quickly in the event of a wildfire or any other emergency event.

When a wildfire happens, the Routt County emergency operations team responds quickly, professionally and in the best interest of the public. Professionals are quickly mobilized to control or fight the fire, send information to residents and other agencies, organize equipment and ensure the public’s safety.

We all count on these critical services. We should be grateful for the people who do this challenging work for the greater good. Routt County’s emergency operations office works in partnership with a host of other agencies — the Routt County Sheriff’s Office, fire districts from around the county, the forest service and many others.

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