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  • Director Shane Pynes points out evacuation sites for Elbert County districts.
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  • The Emergency Operations Center is located in Kiowa, CO.

Elbert County Emergency Management Director Shane Pynes met with the Elbert County News recently to discuss county emergency protocols and talk about the county’s newly improved Emergency Operations Center.

The Elbert County Emergency Operations Center, located at 751 Ute Ave. in Kiowa, once served as the county’s 911 dispatch center. The space now houses designated stations for area specialists to occupy in the event of an emergency, all of which are outfitted with state-of-the-art computers, televisions, and communication technology to stay aware of growing emergency situations.

When an emergency takes place within the county — such as a large fire, a blizzard, etc. — the Emergency Management Department is first contacted by the Douglas County 911 dispatch center. Area specialists then quickly convene with Director Pynes and orchestrate a plan of action to tackle the emergency.

The biggest role for Pynes, however, is emergency preparedness. He works to put systems in place to help emergency situations run smoothly, like evacuation protocols and shelter locations. Pynes also builds and maintains relationships with nearby counties, outside organizations, and local community leaders to assist in the event of an emergency.

“Emergency response is all about preparedness, focusing on how the county can continue to do business from an operations standpoint,” said Pynes. “When an emergency happens, you can really see how well the preparedness and planning works. That’s when you can see all the community’s hard work come to fruition.”

Pynes has an extensive background in emergency management, first specializing in healthcare emergency management with Baylor, Scott, and White Health in Dallas, followed by working with a school district.

Pynes, who joined the Elbert County Emergency Management Department in August, has big goals for the Emergency Management Department.

“My hope is to advance the Emergency Management Department, create a more contemporary way of doing things, and use technology as a tool to leverage our abilities,” said Pynes. “My goal is to advance us to where we can become even more prepared.”

Pynes emphasized the use of their most important asset in the field of Emergency Management and preparedness: the CodeRED emergency alert notification system. CodeRED is designed for government agencies to deliver geo-targeted, urgent messages to their communities.

Those who sign up for the CodeRED alert system can receive emergency notifications of various threat levels. Users can tailor which notifications they wish to receive or silence. Emergency alerts can be sent through text, email or phone, depending on personal preference.

“We want to give members of the community the best chance possible to be aware of an emergency,” said Pynes. “CodeRED will give people guidance on how to deal with a particular emergency.”

Currently, Elbert County has roughly 27,000 residents, of whom only 5,000 are signed up for CodeRED alerts. “The more people who sign up for alerts, the more prepared our country can be,” said Pynes.

Lastly, Pynes stressed the necessity for Elbert County residents to stay prepared ahead of potential emergencies. “Please don’t put off emergency preparedness. Prepare ahead of storms by staying stocked on batteries, food and medication,” he said. “Generally, we have a pretty well-prepared community, but it is important to stay ahead of dangerous situations.”

The Elbert County Emergency Management Department is currently looking for tech-savvy volunteers with good communications skills to help with preparedness and potential emergency situations. To volunteer, please contact Pynes at Shane.Pynes@elbertcounty-co.gov.

To sign up for the CodeRED alerts, please visit tinyurl.com/ElbertCodeRed.