Disaster preparedness committee discusses recovery plan for Moffat County

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— What would happen to Craig if a disaster hit, whether it was natural, a flood or a school shooting? After the initial shock, how would the community recover?

A disaster preparedness committee met Monday for the third time to discuss how it could enact an aftermath recovery plan.

Craig City Council member Gene Bilodeau chairs the committee and said Craig needs more than just an emergency response plan.

“It appears to me we do a pretty good job, or we will do a pretty good job in our community to first respond to a critical or traumatic event,” he said. “What I don’t think we have mapped out yet is what do we do after the critical incident.”

The trauma afterward is what Tom Gangel, regional director for Mindsprings, particularly is concerned about.

“I think from the mental health standpoint, obviously we would have a role in this, in responding to anything of that nature,” he said.

If a community is left after a crisis without the necessary mental health resources, it could get ugly for the affected individuals, said Dan Bingham, disaster lead for the Red Cross of Moffat and Rio Blanco County. Many would turn to alcohol and drug abuse.

“If you leave them to their own devices, they will get very creative,” he said. “What you want to do is soften that event.”

Recovery is long lasting, Bilodeau said, and the negative impacts linger.

“There’s an increase in drug use. There’s an increase in suicide. There’s an increase rate of school dropout. There’s a spike in domestic violence. Work productivity tends to go down,” he said. “This period of time tends to last nine to 10 months.”

“Our goal is to be educational and to deal with those one or two people who are really having a difficult time functioning through that dramatic situation,” Gangel said.

He referenced an incident in which a person killed four others at a trailer park in Rifle.

“We responded from several different counties. We are able to respond. If we don’t have enough staff in the town, we can respond from" six counties, he said.

Bilodeau agreed that mental health was a crucial part of the recovery process from any disaster and said it could be a challenge for Craig because of limited resources.

“With our limited mental health services, that’s where we would have to plan and pull in outside resources,” he said.

It’s essential to the recovery process to prepare for the possibility of disaster, said Mark Brown, Craig Police Department school resource officer.

“I’ve been training all the schools in emergency response, and I think creating expectations of the trauma afterwards and preparing emotionally and mentally is huge,” he said.

Just knowing how to handle a potential disaster helps victims cope with the immediate incident and the trauma to come, he said.

“People in a catastrophic state don’t know how to move because they had no idea this would ever happen,” he said. “To plant the seed of the idea that it can happen and that these things will occur and it will be very extreme — I think helps out a lot to prepare them.”

Recovery is incorporated into different communities' first response plans, said Chuck Vale, regional field manager for the Colorado Department of Public Safety. But he said it was important for Craig to develop its own plan.

“I hate to hand (another community’s plan) to anyone in this group. Because what will I find tomorrow afternoon? You’ll scratch out that name, put in Moffat and say, ‘I got that baby done.’”

While Craig feels like a safe town, it is important to prepare, City Council member Ray Beck said.

“No community is immune. It’s not a matter of if it happens in Craig, America. It’s a question of when,” he said.

The committee will form a subcommittee to develop a recovery plan that will be chaired by Bilodeau.

Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-875-1794 or efenner@CraigDailyPress.com.

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