Disaster drills are often thought up at the local level by public safety and emergency services personnel that often have little experience with designing and running an exercise. As a result, exercises often leave participants feeling like they were too simulated, not realistic and do not contain enough real world components. In 2014, Eagle County partners were participating in their final exercise in preparation for the World Alpine Ski Championships (WASC) taking place in early 2015. This event was anticipated to bring 200,000 visitors to Eagle County with a normal population of about 50,000. Partners from outside the county (such as FBI, CIA, CIAC, etc.) wanted to participate to ensure that they could integrate into the day-to-day structure of “normal” Eagle County emergency services.
S3 Partnerships designed and facilitated a two-day, countywide exercise to test communications, interagency coordination and new protocols designed for venue security (i.e. bag checks). The scenario included a foodborne illness outbreak, suspicious items found at bag check and on a local bus, an active shooter event and a plane crash.
Participants commented afterwards that they felt like they had engaged in a real event and not just another “drill.” First responders felt better prepared to handle emergency incidents and to work through challenges that they will face in any real incident. One participant commented that “It was the best exercise I have ever participated in; it was very realistic. Stephanie raised the bar for emergency preparedness in Eagle County.”