Latest News – September 12

* * BREAKING NEWS * *

Body Found at Half Moon Creek

Lisa Burke, Communications Supervisor from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office reported that on Tuesday, September 11 a body was found by a hiker in the Halfmoon Creek area.  A camper told law enforcement that his dog located the body.  Law enforcement is investigating and an autopsy is being conducted.  The person is a male, approximately 30 years old.  His name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Halfmoon Creek is located in the southern portion of Lake County, approximately 7 miles south of Leadville. 

Ribbon Cutting at West Park Tonight

Tonight at 6 p.m. West Park Elementary (WPE) School will host its Open House/Ribbon Cutting Ceremony to celebrate facility improvements.  School officials will be revealing the new West Park Elementary entrance sign designed, built, and donated by new WPE Principal Stephanie Gallegos and her husband Donald.

Panther Pride t-shirts will be given to each West Park student in their classroom. Hot dog, chips, cookies and a drink will be served from 6:30 – 6:45 p.m.


September is National Preparedness Month

This is a Test, This is Only a Test – Are You Ready?

You’ve heard the message countless times:

This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. The broadcasters of your area in voluntary cooperation with the FCC and other authorities have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. If this had been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed where to tune in your area for news and official information.

But for many Leadville and Lake County residents, the next thought is usually, where do I turn for LOCAL news and official information?

For some residents, first instincts may lead them to pick up the phone and dial the local police, fire or sheriff’s office. And while that’s not a bad idea, it’s important to note that most first responders (i.e. law enforcement and emergency personnel) would generally be out in the field, assisting with the emergency. In addition, it’s not reasonable to think that local dispatchers could handle a large volume of calls effectively, nor is that the most efficient way to disperse information.

Others may turn to their televisions with the hope that the Denver stations may be covering the story. And they might, depending on whatever else may be going on in the state that could supersede Leadville news.

But in today’s world, social media and the internet are generally most people’s go-to information tools. Even the Front Range television stations are breaking news online and primarily using social media to do so.

It’s probably no surprise to most that Facebook leads the way in the world-wide information exchange. And while reports from every-day citizens usually help to shake out the initial facts, posts from friends and family members should not always be construed as fact.

Case in point, this summer’s Treasure Wildfire in late June, found many residents asking: Where can I get accurate, up-to-date information about this urgent situation? How close is the fire? Do I need to start packing up the car? Are there evacuations in place?

June’s Treasure Fire was a big wake-up call for many Lake County resident’s emergency preparedness. Are you ready? Photo: Francine Quinn

Lake County Emergency Manager Mike McHargue has been working on strengthening communication with local residents. Before, during and after an emergency event, the timely and accurate distribution of information is essential in protecting and assisting the citizens of Lake County. People need to understand what is happening, what actions they should take, how urgent their actions are and what to expect. In Lake County, there are a variety of ways that emergency communications are provided to citizens, and Facebook is one of them.

“When I first started using Facebook, it was like I was talking to an empty room, a great abyss” said McHarge, describing the start up of the page. The initial LIKE numbers, were pretty measly, but McHargue stayed committed to regular, relevant posts.  Then the Treasure Wildfire hit north of Leadville on June 23 and local folks were searching for information. They found it on the Lake County Office of Emergency Management (LCOEM) Facebook page.

So, if you have not LIKED the LCOEM Facebook page, please stop reading this right now and go do that – CLICK. Bring it into your news feed. As far as immediate news goes, this is the primary way that Lake County is pushing out official emergency information.

During the Treasure Fire the Public Information Officer from the Forrest Service had admin privileges (fb!) to the LCOEM page and posted daily mid-morning updates. McHargue would supplement that information at the end of the day with updates from the field.

Lake County Emergency Manager Mike McHargue

It worked and to date, McHargue has built a growing audience of 410 (one shy of 411, could it be you?!) Of course, insights on this social media ebb and flow like everything else, but people know where to find it when it counts and ultimately that’s what matters when it comes to emergency situations.

Another way where McHargue is being pro-active is establishing a reverse 911 sign-up list. Those plans are in the final stages and Leadville Today will bring you the details about how you can participate in this voluntary program when they are available. Stay Tuned – for this is a test, this is only a test!

After The Storm: How to Prepare  

The next question that many residents ask once the imminent danger passes is Was I Ready? It’s usually these urgent situations that prompt many families to re-assess their plans and preparedness. Lake County Emergency Manager Mike McHarge wants to help Lake County residents with those plans as well.  

The Lake County Emergency Preparedness Safety Guide provide tips and tools for individuals and families to be prepared for emergency events and disasters at home, school, work and in public place. Please take the time to read this guide, develop your plans and pack emergency supply kits so you may be better prepared to respond to and cope with the aftermath of a disaster or crisis. The guide is intended to be a tool to assist individuals and families in making emergency preparedness a part of daily life.

Emergencies can occur quickly and without warning. There are simple steps that you and your loved one can take to be better prepared. The best way to keep yourself and your family safe is to be prepared before an emergency event or disaster happens. Citizens should be prepared to survive on their own for a minimum of three days in the event of an emergency. By using this guide, you will accomplish three vital steps toward individual and family emergency preparedness.

So log on, get informed and then make a plan. CLICK

The Biggest Emergency Threats to Lake County

Quick, name the top three threats to Leadville and Lake County. Catastrophic Dam Failure? Wildfire? Chemical Nerve Attack? Snowstorms? Tornado? Old Mine Shafts?

Lake County Emergency Manger Mike McHargue has spent the last year meeting with Leadville and Lake County residents to assess those threats to the local community. That information, known formally as Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA) has now been compiled and ready for review on the county’s website. It’s certainly worth review and could also affect Lake County’s eligibility for Federal emergency funds should a disaster occur.

The long and the short of HIRA – Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment – is for local officials (with assistance from residents) to identify possible hazards (i.e. wild fire, severe winter weather, old mining shafts).

Lake County Emergency Manager Mike McHargue (left) discusses risk assessment with residents of Twin Lakes last February.

The purpose of the hazard identification and risk assessment is to provide a factual basis for developing mitigation strategies; to prioritize those areas which most threaten and vulnerable to natural hazards.  Ultimately it’s the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) that requires areas at greatest risk to specific hazards should be identified, considering both the characteristics of the hazard and the jurisdictions degree of vulnerability. And – here’s the clincher – if those risks are not included in the report and a disaster befalls Lake County that isn’t on the list, it could possibly jeopardize eligibility for federal relief funds.

McHargue has been working with local Leadville and Lake County residents for the past year to develop this assessment – it’s available for review at CLICK. Most of the information is spot-on, but it’s a worthwhile read and speaks to what event(s) are most likely to threaten the local community. Oh, and you get to provide your feedback as well. Take advantage of this opportunity!

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