COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Council members received an hourlong presentation Monday from a representative of Zonehaven, the Oregon company that is providing software to help manage the city's new emergency evacuation plan.
That plan received final approval from the council two weeks ago and will divide the city into zones to be prioritized during a wildfire or other emergency; ideally, only several zones at a time would be evacuated and/or placed on standby to avoid long traffic jams -- as was the case during the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire.
Zonehaven's representative, Stephen Sickler, said that the company has worked with dozens of other communities to provide similar software as part of a "toolbox" that significantly reduces evacuation times without issuing maps, determining the length of evacuations or releasing evacuation routes in advance -- something that opponents have asked for.
"And I think that when you look at the body of all of this, it really kind of create a lot of confusion," Sickler said. "Let me try to straighten it out for you."
Opponents said that another software program -- Fleet -- offers many of the advantages they want that Zonehaven doesn't have, but question whether it's possible for the city to integrate both.
However, the possibility is being explored by Tom Strand, president of the Council.
Several Council members asked questions and raised concerns but were generally pleased with the information provided in the presentation.
"We still have, unfortunately, a lot of mistrust and anger from some (opponents) about the ordinance that we have," said Councilwoman Nancy Henjum. "One of the things I've actually heard them say or be concerned about, is connectivity challenges -- like a cell tower goes out because of a fire or whatever, and notifications can't be sent or received. So ,if you could speak to that?
Sickler said that Zonehaven has access to technology in which audio notifications could be sent through preinstalled speakers.
"(We) can put (out) these speakers, and they have a backup satellite connection, solar power, backup batteries," he explained. "So as long as that speaker is not on fire, you can broadcast messages through the speaker -- and they can go, depending on topography, up to a mile or two. Speakers are the only fall-back I can see for areas that have consistently unreliable cell service."
Bill Wysong, a member of Westside Watch and the Mountain Shadows Community Association, said that opponents are currently exploring a third option to the two software tools.
"We're working with another evacuation management company that will allow people -- there will be a fee involved -- and it will provide you with information that says it's going to take X number of hours to get out," he said.
For more information, visit: https://www.westsidewatch.org/.
The next step is for officials to start a "Know Your Zone" campaign to educate citizens about the new evacuation plan.