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RBC | “In the event of an emergency…”
We’ve all heard those words, but who comes up with the plan and procedure that follows? Who determines the best way to respond to trouble? That’s the task of Rio Blanco County Emergency Manager Ty Gates: planning ahead so the county is prepared when trouble comes along.
“I have always been interested in helping people and love having this role in my hometown community. I like coordinating and helping all the agencies come together and work together toward one common goal,” Gates said via email.
Gates, a Meeker High School alumnus and graduate of John Brown University in Arkansas, is coming up on his second anniversary as the county’s emergency manager in January. Before taking on this role, he worked for the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office.
“As the county emergency manager, I am responsible for writing emergency plans, coordinating agencies in an emergency, planning and putting on various exercises for the first responders and for private industry,” Gates said via email.
These “exercises” could be compared to extremely complex fire drills. Many different groups and individuals work together on a simulated emergency event for the purpose of testing equipment, personnel and procedures—before an actual emergency occurs.
“I don’t think people really know what I do and I would like to reach out to the community and let them know I am here to support them, as well as including any special needs training or training in general for the public,” Gates said.
To prepare for his position, Gates attended the Homeland Security Office of Emergency Management (Colorado) EM Academy after completing the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Academy. He is currently training as a Type 3 Planning Section Chief for Incident Command, and has taken more than 20 Incident Command System classes, along with other training. In addition, Gates volunteers with Meeker Fire and Rescue, is a member of the search and rescue team, a reserve deputy with the sheriff’s office and is qualified to fight wildland fires on federal lands.
In the last two years he has been involved in a number of wildland firefighting missions, search and rescue operations, and the Strawberry Creek fire that threatened two houses and destroyed some outbuildings and vehicles.
He’s currently planning a “full-scale” exercise to be held in May that will involve the Sheriff’s Office, Meeker Fire and Rescue, BLM Fire and Law Enforcement, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado River Fire and Rescue out of Rifle, Classic Air Medical, CareFLIGHT, Enterprise Products, Meeker Gas Plant, Williams Willow Creek Plant and the Kinder Morgan Compressor station, as well as many others. There will be a functional exercise (like a practice run) to prepare for the full-scale exercise held at the Fairfield Center in Meeker on Dec. 6.
Gates, who is a sixth generation rancher, and his wife Rachel own and operate 5280 Meat and are the parents of two boys, ages 6 and 10.
“I enjoy my job and thank God every day I get to do what I do for my town and community,” Gates said.