DENVER — Coloradans will never have to evacuate due to a Hurricane, at least until Boulder becomes beachfront property, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be ready for the unknown.
Do you know what's expected of you if the city sounds the alarm telling you to get out?
Neither did we.
"We look at what's most consequential. "We would be looking at, for example, a train derailment. We also have about 230 facilities within Denver that use hazardous materials in great quantity," said Ryan Broughton, Executive Director of Denver's Office of Emergency Management. "Every day, hazardous materials go up and down the rail line, right next to the stadium, right next to Pepsi Center, right through Elitch Gardens."
Broughton doesn't mean to be a buzz kill, it's his job to be prepared for disasters that we all hope don't ever happen.
"We look at some of our largest hazards being disease outbreaks, hazardous materials, acts of terrorism, aviation incidents, utilities failure," said Broughton.
Unlike hurricane zones, we don't have "evacuation route" signs telling us where to go. That may change.
"That's a good long-term effort for us to make, is better signage, and we'll bring that up through the neighborhood planning initiative," said Broughton. "We want better signage. We want to make it intuitive for everybody to know how to evacuate."
Where will those evacuation route signs go?
We know where they'll be in Denver metro area.
"The best example is that Broadway and Colfax is the center of the city," said Broughton. "If you are northeast of Broadway and Colfax, you evacuate to the northeast through (Interstate) 76."
He said to picture the metro area like a clock and quadrants. Northeast takes the closest Interstate or state highway to the northeast; southeast takes I-70, Highway 83 or I-25 south; southwest should go Highway 85 or I-25 south; northwest should take U.S. 36, U.S. 287 or I-25 north.
"We do not evacuate through the mountains on a normal basis just because of the crowd limit and the capacity limitations," said Broughton.
Now that you know where to prepare to go, how long do you think it would take to evacuate a major metro area?
"The evacuation clearance time for our city is 18 or 19 hours, if we assume three of four people in every vehicle. A lot more if there's only one person in the vehicle, about 40 hours," said Broughton. "Our road capacity in our Denver area is about 34,400 cars per hour."
What about on a smaller scale? Like the Monday Night Football home opener for the Denver Broncos?
The Broncos wouldn't give specific emergency procedures citing security reasons, but said,
"Our security and management staff constantly works with local, state and federal officials as well as NFL Security to ensure the best possible emergency management practices. Our command center is staffed with representatives from all major public agencies, including Denver Police, Fire and EMS."
The Broncos also play this video for fans before the game and provide it online.
The city told Next it will alert you if you're at the game, no registration required.
"I can draw on a map, a circle around the Broncos stadium for example, identify that they should shelter in place or evacuate, and then provide that to every mobile device within that geographic area," said Broughton.
That system is identical to the Amber Alert system, when cell phones get notices based on location.
As for getting out of the stadium, if fans had to evacuate, leaving the property is probably not going to be any easier than when fans want to leave while sitting in hour-long traffic after the game.
"Can we move the cars as quick as possible? As quick as we need? That depends on the compliance of the population," said Broughton.
He said one in five people are prepared for an emergency, and that the worst-case scenario would be a failure of the Cherry Creek Dam because the entire Denver metro area would need to be evacuated ahead of a massive flood.