Locals helped coordinate response at Clear Creek plant fire | SummitDaily.com

Locals helped coordinate response at Clear Creek plant fire

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

CLEAR CREEK COUNTY ” Summit County emergency manager Joel Cochran and two Summit County Communications Center technicians helped support the emergency response to Tuesday’s fatal hydroelectric plant fire in Clear Creek County.

Clear Creek County officials summoned the group via mutual aid, a process by which counties request resources from neighboring areas during emergencies.

The technicians’ first task was to build a bridge extension to facilitate radio communication between the Henderson Mine safety team that entered the pipe where the workers were trapped Tuesday evening and emergency responders outside, said JoeBen Slivka, public safety administrator for Summit’s Communications Center.

The technology allowed the team inside the smoky tunnel to stay in contact with their counterparts on the ground, Slivka said.

The technicians also helped tackle the compatibility issues with the different communications equipment used by the numerous local, state and federal agencies that responded to the incident.

“None of their systems could talk to the other systems so what they ended up doing is creating a bridge that allowed everybody onscene to communicate with everyone else,” Slivka said.

Meanwhile Cochran, who returned to work at the Joint Information Center in Georgetown on Wednesday, said he was onscene to help Clear Creek County emergency manager Kathleen Gaubatz handle requests for technical resources to help with the rescue attempt.

He spent most of Tuesday on the phone with different agencies like the state’s mine safety division, OSHA, the state emergency management office and the Governor’s Office.

Because emergency management is such a specialized field, local emergency managers often rely on each other for backup, especially during large incidents like this week’s tragedy.

“This is a fairly unique and kind of a very specialized kind of response,” Cochran said. “I would ask for help with something like this. It’s not every day you have people 1,500 feet up in a pipe and a resulting fire.”

Slivka said every emergency response assignment is a learning opportunity for his department and affords his employees practical experience that can be used in the event of an incident in Summit County. He also sent technicians to help with the emergency response efforts in Baca County after a powerful blizzard hit the area last winter.

A crew from the Summit County Ambulance Service also responded to Clear Creek County on Tuesday.

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