The City of Casper has adopted a Natrona County Emergency Operations Plan for 2024 to comply with mandates from the United States Office of Homeland Security to have systems in place for emergencies and disasters of all levels.

Casper city of council adopted the operations plan on April 16. At the council meeting tonight they are set to approve the revised version, which prioritizes lives, incident stabilization, and property conservation.

Because of the massive scope of potential emergencies, the plan does not go into specifics, but provides general guidelines for managing and coordinating the overall response and recovery operations during and after major disasters in Natrona County. It identifies legal authorities, planning assumptions and agency responsibilities along with public alerting and warnings.

The plan goes over the framework for a response to a Mass Casualty Incident, like the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. There is no definition of a Mass Casualty Incident. It is generally accepted as an incident where the number of casualties exceeds response resources and capabilities.

These could include multiple vehicle crashes at the same scene, airplane crashes, violent incidents at large public gatherings, hazardous material incidents, and natural disasters.

Due to the nature of these types of incidences, reporting parties and first responders often have limited perspectives, but the plan covers key functions for responsible agencies that go over scene management that should, ideally, help responders prepare for a critical incident.

Simulated Disaster Mortuary Area, Vigilant Guard Exercise 2023; City of Casper photo.
Simulated Disaster Mortuary Area, Vigilant Guard Exercise 2023; City of Casper photo.

A critical section of the plan details evacuations. The primary agency responsible is the Natrona County Sheriff's Office, supported by Natrona County Emergency Managmenet, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Casper-Natrona County Health Department along with Metro Animal Services.

Functions include road closures and having an evacuation team, a pets and livestock group, a reunification group, and groups for mass care and sheltering.

In responding to major emergencies and disasters, the Natrona County Emergency Management may issue, or request issuance of, a disaster declaration. When a disaster declaration has been issued, the Natrona County Board of Commission may use all available local government resources to respond to the disaster and temporarily suspend statutes and rules, including those relating to purchasing and contracting, if compliance would hinder or delay actions necessary to cope with the disaster.

Casper Mountain winter storm 2021; City of Casper photo
Casper Mountain winter storm 2021; City of Casper photo

In the event of damage to or destruction of utility systems, including electric, water/wastewater, teleophone, and natural gas services, utility operators are to restore service to their customers as quickly as possible.

Utilities are required to inform State officials of significant service outages and expected to keep their customers and local officials informed of the extent of utility outages and, if possible, provide estimates of when service will be restored.

Where utility service cannot be quickly restored, the Natrona County Commission or affected municipal government will have to take timely action to protect people, property, and the environment from the effects of a loss of service.

Jackson Canyon Fire 2006; City of Casper photo
Jackson Canyon Fire 2006; City of Casper photo

There are various types of responses outlined for wildfires depending on factors such as size. Wildfires are a common threat to Natrona County with a multitude of terrain and fuel types. The mountain landscapes with forest vegetative patterns and high desert areas within Natrona County have been influenced more by fire than any other source.

The primary responsibility for fire protection on private, state, and county lands lies within the jurisdiction of the Natrona County Fire Protection District. The BLM has primary fire responsibility for fire protection on public lands as well as the Medicine Bow - Routt National Forest area.

The Emergency Operation Plan expands on emergency support for mass care, housing, and human services as well as defining the differences in types of shelters, provides information on Victims services, and information on reunification processes due to emergencies. Responsible agencies include the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

COVID-19 Shelter 2020; city of Casper photo
COVID-19 Shelter 2020; city of Casper photo

Natrona County's tornado response includes a tornado watch, issuing a tornado warning and alerting the public, issuing a shelter-in-place or evacuation followed by post tornado damage assessment, search and rescue, possible road closures, debris clearing, inspections with potential condemnation and demolition.

Since 1950, tornadoes have killed four and injured 101 people in Wyoming, with the deadliest tornado occurring in the town of Wright in 2005 (two killed). Property damage in Wyoming due to tornadoes approaches $1 million annually.

Generally, most tornadoes will occur between May and August, with the maximum number in June. However, a few have been reported as late as September. Most tornadoes will travel on a generally westto-east path and occur during the afternoon and early evening hours (2pm through 8pm).

Further, the emergency plan anticipates protocols for earthquakes and flooding.

These often occur with little or no warning, so it is important operations can be activated quickly at any time of day or night, operate around the clock, and deal with incidences effectively to prevent catastrophic outcomes.

Intense storms may produce a flood in a few hours or even minutes for upstream locations, while areas downstream from heavy rains may have from 12 hours to several weeks to prepare. Flash floods occur within six hours of the beginning of heavy
rainfall, and dam failure may occur within hours of the first signs of breaching, but floods from snowmelt can take months to develop.

The 508-page plan also covers cyber attacks, hazardous materials responses, and terrorism.

Since terrorist acts may be violations of local, state, and federal law, the response to a significant local terrorism threat or actual incident will include state and federal response agencies. Local resources for combating terrorist attacks are somewhat limited. In the event of a significant terrorist threat or incident, it State and Federal resources will be requested in order to supplement local capabilities.

Read the full plan here.

Casper Area Sees Flooding Downtown

June 15, 203. Persistent rain in Casper causes flooding in some areas.

Gallery Credit: Tom Morton

Tornadoes Spotted North of Casper

June 23rd, 2023

Gallery Credit: Kolby Fedore, Townsquare Media

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