Summit Express owner honored with emergency management award for plan to evacuate in-home care facilities
FRISCO — A Summit County local is being recognized by the Colorado Emergency Management Association for his efforts to improve evacuation operations during major emergencies in the area.
Silverthorne resident Bob Roppel was honored with the 2019 Colorado Emergency Management Association Public/Private Partnership Award during the 2020 Colorado Emergency Management Conference on Wednesday evening in Loveland. The award was established to commemorate individuals around the state that have made considerable efforts to improve emergency operations through strong collaboration with government agencies.
“It’s a big deal,” said Brian Bovaird, Summit County’s emergency management director, who nominated Roppel for the award. “This is handed out by (the Colorado Emergency Management Association), which is different from the state’s emergency management department. This is a professional organization, and every year they have this conference with representatives from emergency management, public health and other disciplines. With 64 counties there, for this partnership to be recognized and showcased ahead of all the others is pretty special.”
Conversations between Roppel and Bovaird began soon after the Buffalo Mountain Fire that scorched 91 acres and crawled to within spitting distance of the Wildernest and Mesa Cortina neighborhoods near Silverthorne in June 2018. Roppel, who owns the Summit Express shuttle service, knew he had the resources to help but lacked the coordination and planning.
“The Summit Stage was assisting with that fire, and we wanted to help, too,” Roppel said. “We have lots of staff and vehicles in the area, but I just didn’t have the right contacts to assist. After the dust settled, I reached out and said I have a lot of resources in this county — a lot of drivers and dispatchers — and we’re ready to help evacuate. I wanted to make sure we were set up to help in the future, and that’s what teed things up.”
Roppel said his service maintains 36 vehicles and more than 100 employees, mostly in Summit County. But it wasn’t immediately obvious how to best put them to use in the event of another wildfire or some other emergency. Bovaird said it wasn’t until months after Roppel approached him, when he was meeting with local in-home child care providers, that he had a flash of insight.
Bovaird’s idea, which has since been established as a new protocol for the county’s evacuation plan, is to have Summit Express resources — including vehicles, drivers and dispatchers — in charge of evacuating children and staff from licensed in-home day care centers.
In the event of an evacuation, the day care’s owner would contact Summit Express directly, and the organization’s dispatchers would send a shuttle to take the kids and staff to a predetermined location. According to Bovaird, Summit Express dispatchers and day care staff around the county have been trained in the new policy.
“I was sitting down with some of the day care owners to hear about what their concerns are with emergencies and where they could use some help,” Bovaird said. “One of the things that they pointed to was evacuations. If there’s an evacuation, these in-home facilities don’t have a safe means to safely and efficiently get the kids out of that area. I reached out to Bob and he was completely on board. … It’s a simple solution that creates a great capability that wasn’t there before he stepped up. He’s helping to make our community more resilient. In the midst of a real emergency, it’s one less thing to worry about and one less thing that can fall through the cracks.”
Despite helping to fill a vital gap in the county’s emergency response policies, Roppel said being given the award was a complete surprise.
“I was shocked and honored,” Roppel said. “Just quite honestly, I’m shocked that someone would nominate me for something of this caliber. And I’m honored to be able to help Summit County in the event that they need us — to give back with the resources we’ve built over the last 10 years of being here.”
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