By Chris Soliz
Cheyenne Mountain Fire and Emergency Services
CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. — Condor Crest exercises are familiar to most of us as a week full of trials, tribulations and closed facilities for emergency response exercises. What may not be so familiar are the trade-skills involved with managing those responses. For Cheyenne Mountain Fire and Emergency Services personnel, it’s more than just putting water on a fire — it is the ability to successfully leverage specialized skill sets of more than one agency, safely and simultaneously.
During the last Condor Crest, Cheyenne Mountain AFS hosted a multi-agency response exercise to a simulated attack on the natural gas infrastructure of the installation. Six agencies cooperated to resolve a five-hour scenario involving a life threatening injury, a natural gas fire and explosive devices. The CMFES incident management team controlled the movements of 62 responders through a Flight for Life operation, relocation of the incident command post, and the disarming of an explosive device. Agencies involved included CMFES, 721st Security Forces and Civil Engineer Squadrons, 21st Medical Group, Colorado Springs Utilities, Evans Army Community Hospital, Flight for Life, and Fort Carson explosive ordnance disposal teams. The successful event codified local Department of Defense and city relationships, logistics and communications.
Innovative relationships and the drive to cultivate, update and modernize existing connections are keys to being ready for the real-world events. “Everything we do is to foster the confidence of our customers and further our capabilities through partnerships. It takes all of us,” said David Arcilla, incident operations officer for the exercise.
CMFES has a long history of cultivating emergency response partnerships and striving for inter-operability at all levels. These emergency response partnerships must be creatively developed, nurtured and exercised. As seen from the Waldo Canyon fire a few weeks ago, these relationships will be tested.
An example of collaboration can be seen through a training exercise known as “Up in Smoke.” Colorado Springs and El Paso County led mutual-aid partners in a five-year effort to plan and practice response efforts to a major wildfire affecting the Highway 115 corridor. CMAFS supported this endeavor with key efforts in the planning and execution of training events. In 2011, this hard work culminated in the countywide full-scale exercise that simulated a fire burning through the CMAFS and the Broadmoor Bluffs neighborhood. As it turned out, this particular event proved critical to the Waldo Canyon fire response.
After the events of 9/11, President George W. Bush issued Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5. This initiative called for interoperability throughout the emergency response community. CMFES embraced and committed several years to this effort, which requires modernization of the traditional model of federal and civilian relationships. Sponsoring Front Range training events, such as the annual Pikes Peak Regional Wildfire Academy, has become a hallmark for the CMAFS fire department. Since 2009, it has sponsored and coordinated a training academy open to civilian and federal agencies. In partnership with Colorado Springs and Fort Carson Fire Departments and El Paso County Sherriff’s Office, CMFES has fostered a culture of cooperation. Nearly 300 Front Range firefighters have received wildfire training at this academy, and have validated local communications and relationships prior to completing the course.
Most recently, CMFES undertook the process to achieve certification from the Commission on Fire Accreditation International — the gold standard for quality in the fire service. The CFAI program is a comprehensive self-assessment and evaluation model that enables fire and emergency service organizations to examine past, current and future service levels and performance to compare them to industry best practices. This process leads to improved service delivery by helping fire departments determine community risk and safety needs, evaluate the performance of the department, and establish a method for achieving continuous organizational improvement.
CMFES has embraced customer service, professional development, and performance reliability as guide posts on the path of excellence. This reflects a comprehensive focus on relationships and innovation in conducting business. Through innovative involvement in the local and regional response community, Cheyenne Mountain Fire & Emergency Services has demonstrated their professional reputation and was recognized on a regional level as a tested and truly reliable resource. “We continually look for improvement opportunities,” said Chris Miller, CMFES fire chief. “While remaining grounded in the basics, this department always looks to the horizon.”